Childhood at Susannah Place

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 Museums of History NSW 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 (now Museums of History NSW) as part of the exhibition Toys Through Time at the Museum of Sydney, 28 March 2015 - 9 August 2015.

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Gary Crockett

Gary Crockett

Former curator

It was the dog-eared world of Rouse Hill House, back in 1991, that inspired Gary Crockett to become a curator. Gary produced exhibitions on convict, immigration and legal history at the Hyde Park Barracks, studied spatial history at the Museum of Sydney, collaborated with artists and tenants at Susannah Place, architects and engineers at Elizabeth Farm, designers at Rose Seidler House, curated Surf City, an ode to Sydney surf culture, along with a string of video, audioguide and interactive museum projects.

Ellen Marshall’s kitchen dresser

(Re)making a home

An evocative collection of household items belonging to the last tenants of Susannah Place

View of a bedroom with faded and torn wallpaper with an old map of the world on one wall, a single bed, dressing table and view through a door to the top of a staircase, with faded and damaged paintwork.

A House In The Making

After 162 years of being continuously occupied 62 Gloucester Street was opened to the public for the first time in 2006

Plant your history

A mossy analogy for Susannah Place: small but mighty

Mosses are everywhere! They are small, mighty, unsung and inhabit the most unusual places. They can be found in all our museum outdoor spaces if one looks closely enough