Growing up in a small inner-city house in mid 20th century Sydney involved being outdoors pretty much most of the time. Find out about the 'huge tribe' of kids who roamed the streets, back lanes and alley ways of the Rocks, Sydney's most famous waterfront community.

Susannah Place is weather-beaten row of working class terraces in the heart of Sydney's historic Rocks area. Through carefully conserved and partly furnished rooms this unusual house museum tells touching stories of ordinary lives, lived in an extraordinary place.

For the children of Susannah Place, according to SLM curator Anna Cossu, home was a place to merely eat and sleep in. All the fun stuff like games, scuffles and sport happened elsewhere. 'They used to have these really lovely sayings about, you know, always going round the back - and that was their play area and some of them didn't even know what the name of that street was. So for the children in particular, it was really life lived outdoors.'

Since its construction in 1844, the four terraces of Susannah Place have been home to around different 100 families. Incredibly tiny, with two upstairs bedrooms, two ground floor living areas and basements below, there was almost no room for kids to spread out and play, without getting under the feet of parents, grand parents, older brothers and sisters or anyone else living in the terraces.

As Anna explains, it was the backyards, laneways and neighbourhood streets where the real action happened. 'So childhood here at Susannah Place would have been about adventure. You can just imagine children roaming this area - they used to go swimming in the harbour, fishing in the harbour, being outdoors pretty much until the sun went down and then in for dinner, off to bed.'

This video was originally produced by Sydney Living Museums as part of the exhibition Toys Through Time at the Museum of Sydney, 28 March 2015 - 9 August 2015.

About the Author

smiling man seated on the back of a boat wearing cap and sunglasses with red ensign flag waving, with blue water and Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background, under blue sky.
Gary Crockett
Curator, Interpretation
Curatorial and Exhibitions
It was the dog‐eared world of Rouse Hill House, back in 1991, that inspired Gary Crockett to become a curator.