Bottles, crockery and the original hearth of the Old Bridge Inn are just some of the items found by archaeologists at Plenty Gorge Park as part of the Mernda Rail Extension Project over the past three weeks.
The team has been digging near the bank of the Plenty River, south of Bridge Inn Road, in an area long suspected – and now confirmed – to be the location of the Old Bridge Inn, built in the 1840s.
Since beginning the dig in mid-June, archaeologists have confirmed the inn’s location and discovered pottery, decorative figurines and jewellery dating back to the 1840s.
They have also exposed the bluestone walls and hearth of the inn where weary goldfields-bound hopefuls would have warmed themselves.
Aboriginal stone tools were also found in the dig, with historical records showing that ‘mia-mia’, or temporary shelters, were built in the area.
The dig has been supervised by Wurundjeri Elders, who will preserve any Aboriginal artefacts found.
Archaeology consultancy, Dr Vincent Clark and Associates, has led the successful dig with support from Wurundjeri Tribe Land and Compensation Council, Heritage Victoria, Parks Victoria, Whittlesea Council and the Mernda Rail Extension Project.
The dig has stemmed from the historical investigations as part of the Mernda Rail Project, which will build eight kilometres of new duplicated train line built between South Morang and Mernda to meet demand for public transport in Melbourne’s growing northern suburbs.
Works are underway on Mernda Rail with construction now started between South Morang and Mernda. The first trains will run to Mernda in 2019.
Local residents can get a closer look at the artefacts and chat with archaeologists and Mernda Rail representatives, at the community Open Day will on Saturday 8 July at Plenty Gorge Park, just off Bridge Inn Road from 10am-2pm.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Suburban Development and Member for Mill Park Lily D’Ambrosio MP
“The land here at Mernda has a rich history and has been used in many different ways for more than 40,000 years. This dig shows us how people lived in years gone by.”
“These wonderful artefacts will be catalogued by archaeologists on site, then handed over to Heritage Victoria or the Wurundjeri Tribe.”
Quotes attributable to Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green
“The Old Bridge Inn was one of the first commercial buildings constructed in the region, and is historically significant.”
“These building remains and artefacts will give the community a new understanding of what life was like on the Plenty River.”