On January 20, 1900 the first death from the Bubonic Plague occurred in Sydney. It created mass hysteria and resulted in the demolition of much of The Rocks historic sites as the authorities attempted to stop the spread. By August, 103 people had died in Sydney from the outbreak. Considerably low compared to other nations, but deaths nonetheless. As a result there was a mass exodus of the middle class from the area.
Despite this, Susannah Place survived. Named after the original owners niece, the site consisted of a terrace of four houses which were built in 1844. For just under 150 years they were the home of over 100 different residents. A trip to the Susannah Place Museum – sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/susannah-place-museum provides an opportunity to learn the oral history of each house and a little about each room. Love photography? You may be disappointed to hear that you can not take images inside the museum.
So what did we learn? Let me step you through some of the new knowledge the kids acquired. Firstly, the kids were able to see a wooden ice chest and learn how it was used. They discovered that ice was delivered by the ice man who would bring it inside and put it into the top of the box, opening the lid and slotting it in. In the morning the ice tray (found at the bottom) would need to be emptied or the room would have a puddle.
We learned about the movement from gas lights to electricity which was very expensive and even spotted a penny in the slot gas meter. (You can see one here via the Powerhouse Museum). This little contraption was like a prepaid phone. Residents would put a penny in the slot and receive gas for a period of time. More and more pennies were needed to ensure that the gas continued.
We saw the bomb shelter under the shop which was run by Hugo and Clara Youngein between 1904 and 1930 and touched gas masks for the first time. We learned how washing was done and how beds were warmed with ceramic warmers. Of course there was much more we discovered BUT we want you to visit and learn too – so won’t reveal everything.
Susannah Place is open every day from 2.00 – 5.00 pm every hour with a limit of 10 people per tour. Like all Living Museums, a family ticket will cost you $17.00. Watch out for the lollies in the Susannah Place shop. They are hard to resist!