The Jones Lane Kids
On the Friday the 2nd February of this year, artefact specialists from Dr. Vincent Clark & Associates and Christine Williamson Heritage presented their findings at the Victorian Archaeology Colloquium at La Trobe University.
Nadia Bajzelj and Dr Christine Williamson presented their interpretation of the finds associated with children from the excavation of the Wesley Church precinct in Melbourne’s CBD. This provides a snapshot into 19th century concepts of childhood.
The reputation of the Little Lonsdale area as the bawdy red light district of Melbourne reflects only a small percent of what the people living in the area experienced. The area was home to many families and the site of small shops and industry.
Finds associated with children included marbles, parts of dolls, a small toy cannon and elements of miniature tea sets. Although archaeologically children can be recognised by the presence of items such as these, children also used other everyday items such as plates or cups. The child’s use of these items can usually not be distinguished from that of other members of the household, making a complete interpretation of children at the site difficult.
Interestingly, not all miniature items found in archaeological excavations can be automatically determined as being for children, as they were often ornamental items made for adults.
Toys were often used as a way to occupy children and also to surround children with images of material achievement as a way to emphasise social position. They were also tools used to educate children both in the wider society’s views of what is normal and appropriate, such as gender roles and moral standards.
The diverse range of children’s items found at Jones Lane show us a snapshot, albeit incomplete, into 19th century childhood. This shows us that the people living there had access to a variety of children’s toys. In this there is an undertone of moulding children into the wider society’s views of what was normal and appropriate, as well as morally educating them.