The people who called Susannah Place home

Closeup of carved stone wall plaque with words 'Susannah Place Anno Domini 1840' inscribed.
Susannah Place plaque, Susannah Place Museum, The Rocks, Sydney. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums

Who owned Susannah Place?

The four houses now known as Susannah Place were owned by Edward and Mary Riley.  They lived in No 62 and rented the other three out. In 1853 when Edward died, Mary became the owner and continued living in No 62 until her death in 1874.  As an owner and resident for nearly 30 years Mary Riley provided a constant and stable presence, unlike the common practice in The Rocks of absentee landlords.  In her will Mary left houses 62 and 64 to her granddaughter Mary Ann Finnigan and the other two houses 58 and 60 to the Church of England.  Mary Ann and husband John ran the grocer’s shop at No 64 briefly but by 1886 they had moved to Granville.

The ownership of Susannah Place did not change again until 1901 when the state government resumed The Rocks, Millers Point and areas of Darling Harbour following the outbreak of bubonic plague in Sydney. The area was placed under the control of the Sydney Harbour Trust (SHT). Although the Harbour Trust was primarily established to modernise the wharves of the Port of Sydney, the results were more far reaching with hundreds of ‘slum’ buildings demolished, streets realigned and new model-workers tenements constructed for waterfront workers. The SHT also became the landlord of the thousands of tenants who lived in the area, including the Susannah Place tenants. In 1936 the Sydney Harbour Trust was replaced by the Maritime Services Board (MSB). Many of the Susannah Place tenants recalled the MSB as good landlords who maintained the houses well and regularly repainted and renewed the wallpaper throughout the houses.

Black and white photograph of Gloucester Street showing Susannah Place terraces; The Youngein grocer shop has a stripped curtain hanging over the window.
Taken before the level of Gloucester Street was altered, this photograph shows some of the rubble from the demolition of buildings across the road from Susannah Place. The corner shop (No 64) has a striped curtain hanging over the window and painted above the front door is the name of the shopkeeper ‘H. Youngein’ and a Siren soap advertisement.
Photo: Gloucester Street, near Cumberland Place, 15 Oct 1910. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW: PXE921 Vol2 No20

In 1970 the Sydney Cove Redevelopment Authority (SCRA) became the landlord of 25 hectares of The Rocks. Its charter was to redevelop the area with offices, shops, hotels and high and low-rise housing. This development scheme was strongly opposed by local residents who formed the Rocks Residents Action Group. Faced with higher rents, increased pressure from SCRA to vacate their homes and poor property maintenance, the residents enlisted the support of the NSW Builders’ Labourers’ Federation (BLF). A ‘green ban’ was declared by the BLF on all demolition and new construction work in the area. In 1973 an alternative ‘People’s Plan’ was proposed that advocated the preservation of the historic buildings in the area. By the end of 1973 a compromise had been reached and the green ban was lifted. However, while the historic buildings were saved the strong community was weakened as more and more tenants left the area.

By the mid 1970s Ellen and Dennis Marshall in No 62 were the only tenants left at Susannah Place. They became the unofficial caretakers of the four houses, spending their own modest income on repairs to halt the progress of what Ellen called ‘demolition by neglect’. To deter squatters and vandalism Ellen made curtains for the empty houses, put pot plants out the front and kept the gardens tidy.

In 1988, signifying a change of direction from development to the preservation of the areas’ historic buildings, SCRA dropped the word redevelopment from its title, becoming the Sydney Cove Authority. In 1987 a joint conservation project between the owners Sydney Cove Authority (now the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority) and the Historic Houses Trust was established. Susannah Place Museum opened to the public in 1993.

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Jack Andersen took this photograph of his parents Martin and Girlie Andersen in the backyard of No 58. Four generations of the Andersen family called Susannah Place home. Courtesy Jack Andersen

Who lived at 58, 60, 62 and 64 Gloucester Street?

Between 1844 and 1990 over 100 families lived at 58 – 64 Gloucester Street, The Rocks. Some people lived in the houses for many years, others stayed only a few years before moving on. People were constantly moving in and out of houses in The Rocks area – across the road, around the corner or just a few doors down. Connections between the tight-knit working class community are many: families are related through marriage, children went to school together, men worked alongside each other on the wharves. From 1845 to 1935 a grocer shop operated from the front room of No 64 supplying household groceries to the local neighbourhood.

The following tenants list has been compiled from public records such as electoral rolls and City of Sydney Council Rate Assessment Books. Most of these official records usually list the chief tenant; most commonly a male. Children were not listed and women do not appear on electoral roles until 1902 when they achieved the right to vote. Sometimes names remained on electoral rolls after residents had moved out.

Other records such as birth, death and marriage records as well as newspaper notices have given us additional information. Since the museum opened in 1993 former tenants and their descendants have generously shared their family histories with us including the extended family arrangements that were common throughout both the 19th and 20th centuries. Some tenants like the Hughes family in No 58 took in lodgers; mostly waterside workers, to help pay the rent. For nearly six years Alfred Henry Miller and his wife Eliza ran a boarding house at No 62.

This list is continually being updated and corrected by further research. If you are a former resident or a descendant (or think you might be) we would love to hear from you at: citycurators@sydneylivingmuseums.com.au

Black and white portrait of woman with hair in bun.
Amelia Stewart, c1900, Sydney Living Museums collection. Amelia Stewart and husband Peter ran the grocer shop at No 64 from 1901 to 1903.

A note:

The street numbers have changed multiple times since Susannah Place was built in 1844. In 1890 the house numbers changed to the current numbers: 58, 60, 62 and 64.

  • 1853 house numbers change to 17, 19, 21 and 23
  • 1858 house numbers change to 64, 66, 68 and 70
  • 1881 house numbers change to 38, 40, 42 and 44
Map.
'A new and complete wharf, street and building plan directory of the city of Sydney', 1880. Nos 38-44 at top left, to right of Cribbs Lane, show the location of Susannah Place. Sydney Living Museums

No. 58

The number 58 on a faded green-painted surface with door bell below.
Front door number of 58 Gloucester Street. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
1845–55
James & Mary Hill + 7 children
1857
Thomas Martin
1858
William Murray (Licenced lodging house)
1861
John Rule
1865–66
William & Mary McCarthy
1867
Mary McCarthy
1868
Hugh McCarthy
1870- 1871
Eugene McCarthy
1873–82
John and Mary Rule + 3 children
1883
Henry Moorehausen (Moorehouse)
1884-85
John Rule & Mary Rule (nee Deegan) + 3 children
1886
Mary Rule
1887–91
George & Martha Lindon (nee Rule) + children George, Martha, Mary
1891- 1899
George Lindon + children George, Martha & Mary
1901
William Rule
1902
John Moran
1904
John McCarthy
1906–14
William & Mary Akehurst + 2 children
1913
John Henry Mullen
1915–28
Thomas & Lena Pearl Hughes +children Charles, Frederick, Bertha & Iris
1916–17
Christian Swanson (lodger)
1915–16 & 1925–30
John Eric Johnson (lodger)
1915, 1917
Robert John Brunyee
1915–17
Annie O’Toole
1925–26
William Jones
1926
Annie & Sydney White
1931
Jane E Aubin
1931–32
Mrs Rene McSherry
1932
John Gallagher
1933
Mrs Edmondson
1934–49
John and Adelaide ‘Ada’ Gallagher
1944
Leslie & Florence Gallagher & 1 child
1949–51, 1953
Emily Curtis
1949–64
Arnt ‘Martin’ & Mary ‘Girlie’ Andersen + 2 sons
1950–54
Jack & Shirly Andersen
1963
Gordon Gallagher
1964–74
Ernie Andersen
1968
Ernie & Pamela Andersen + 1 child
1974
Last tenants Ernie Andersen & son David

No. 60

The number 60 on a green door.
Front door number, 60 Gloucester Street, Susannah Place Museum Photo © Haley Richardson and Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums
1845–46
Francis & Ellen Cunninghame+ 4 children
1847–48
Bridget Norton
1848–51
Robert Grace & Matilda Grace (nee Watts)+ 2 children
1853–55
Joseph Hume
1857
Henry Whitehall
1858
John Jones
1861
Denis Baragray
1865
William Thomas Merchant (Lodging house)
1867–68
James Hogan
1870
Mrs Parsonage
1871
John Rule
1873
James and Mary Ann Warlow
1875–84
William & Bridget Merchant + 6 children
1884
William Marsh
1885–93
Robert Bell & Mary Jane Bell (nee Merchant) + 5 children
1894
Alfred H Miller
1895–96
James Moodie
1897–1904
Denis & Mary McClafferty + 5 children
1906–08
David & Alice Hogan
1906
Charles Smith
1908–09
Henry & Mary Clark
1909, 1913–17
Alice Herbert
1909–13
William & Mary Sharp
1909–10
George and Lizzie Sayce (sublet from William & Mary Sharp)
1910–17
Mary Herbert
1913
Sydney James, Caroline Morton
1919
John Jenkins
1920–22
Elizabeth Ritchie, Annie Poynter + sons Leslie and Cyril
1922–31
Margaret Doyle, Thomas McNamara
1935–46
Peter Theodor (lease in name only) tenants were Rose, Emmanuel & Athas ‘Arthur’ Sarantides
1947
Dimitrios & Maria Passaris
1949–50
Robert Bede Craig, Bessie Naylor & son Raymond Naylor
1951–52
Raymond & Joan Naylor (nee Sutton
1953–68
Esther Maud Moran & son Walter
1955
Raymond & Ken Hunt
1968
Last tenant Walter Moran
1970 -1974
Des Howard uses the yard to manufacture pottery

No. 62

The number 62 on a peeling green painted door with letter slot below.
Front door number of 62 Gloucester Street. Photo © Haley Richardson and Stuart Miller for Sydney Living Museums
1845
Thomas Hall
1846–74
Edward and Mary Riley (owners of all 4 houses)
1876–77
George Hill
1879–80
Edward & Janet Dudgeon
1882
William Detuerner
1883–86
John & Margaret White
1886-1887
John White
1889–93
Alfred Henry Miller & Eliza Miller (nee Lewis) (Boarding house)
1894
Mrs McClafferty
1897–98
Mrs Fanny Dawes
1900
John Lester
1901–02
Bernard Fisher
1904–06
Richard & Mary Fauld
1908–09
Michael Curran
1908
Chas Pack
1909–15
Arthur William Smith & Elizabeth Smith (nee McKinley) + 6 children
1915- 1931
Elizabeth Smith + 4 children & her brother-in-law Sydney Smith
1921
William Boshell
1921
Alexander Simula
1931–33
Lucy Mary Clayson
1931–33
Rosina & William Howard
1933–42
James & Margaret Thompson
& children Patricia, Mercia, Colleen and Ronald
1942 – 1949
James Thompson
1949–52
Albert Thompson & Maureen Thompson (nee Banfield) & son Garry
1952 – 1961
Albert Thompson & Maureen Thompson (nee Banfield) + daughter Gail
1958–62
Noel Banfield
1962–90
Ellen and Dennis Marshall & daughter Jenni
1990
Last tenants Ellen & Dennis Marshall
1990 - 2006
museum caretakers

No. 64

The number 62 on a wooden gate.
House number on the back gate of 64 Gloucester Street. Photo © James Horan for Sydney Living Museums
1845
John Munro & Priscilla Munro (nee Kelly)
1847–48
Patrick Ryan
1851–55
Joseph Musgrave & Sarah Musgrave (nee Cooper) (grocers)+ 6 children
1857
John Taylor (grocer)
1858–70
Croft Fulstow Hall & Mary Ann Hall (nee Chilcott) (grocers) + 6 children
1871–74
George & Mary Ann McIntyre (grocers) + daughter Cecilia
1875
John Thames [James Thomas] (grocer)
1876–77
John and Mary Anne Finnegan (grocers)
1879–98
George & Sarah Hill (grocers)
1899–1900
James Gallagher (grocer)
1901–03
Peter Stewart & Amelia Stewart (nee Shorter) (grocers) + children Grace, Herbert & Mildred
1904–19
Hugo & Clara Youngein (grocers) children Dolly, James, John and Herbert
1908
Sarah McKinley
1919- 1930
Hugo Youngein (grocer)
1931–35
Robert Snedden & Eliza Snedden (nee Johnstone)(grocers)
1933–34
Robert McMorran
1936
Maude Lillian Hickey
1937–49
Arnt ‘Martin’ & Mary ‘Girlie’ Andersen (nee Gallagher) children Jack and Ernie
1939–46
Leo Francis Brown
1949–54
Mary Carmichael + 7 children
1951–54
John Sneddon Peace
1954–55
Margaret & Maurice Toppenberg
1956–65
Ronald Smith & Beryl Smith (nee Kidd) + children Raymond, Jeffery, Kristine
1959–63
Donald Kidd
1965–70
Norman Philpott & Jean Philpott (nee Kidd)
1976
Last tenant Ronald Smith

About the Author

Sydney Living Museums Image
Anna Cossu
Curator
Susannah Place Museum, Museum of Sydney, Justice and Police Museum
Inspired by wonderful and slightly eccentric history teachers and after her own foray as a teacher, Anna found herself drawn to the world of museums.
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