14 July 2017

People visiting the Old Bridge Inn archaeological dig site in Mernda

Approximately 400 people braved the cold and windy conditions on Saturday 8 July to learn more about Mernda's history, visiting the site of the original Old Bridge Inn in Plenty Gorge Park.

A team of dedicated archaeologists offered guided tours of the site and answered questions about artefacts from curious locals and Melburnians from further afield.

Starting on 13 June, archaeology consultancy Dr Vincent Clark & Associates conducted the dig, which ran for around three weeks.

The team found some very interesting items dating back to the 1840s throughout the dig, including bottles, cutlery, crockery, marbles and the original hearth of the Old Bridge Inn.

Many Indigenous artefacts were found, including spear heads and cutting implements.

Some visitors on the day had more than just a passing interest in local history, with several descendants of Moses Thomas attending the Open Day. Mr Thomas was one of Mernda's first European settlers and owned the Bridge Inn in the 1850s.

Families who lived in Mernda last century and remembered the old rail line to Whittlesea shared their experiences with young families who have just moved to the area.

This week the site will be covered with Geofabric and backfilled with soil to protect it from the elements.

European artefacts will be catalogued and stored securely by Heritage Victoria, while Indigenous artefacts will be returned to the Wurundjeri.

The archaeological dig has grown out of the historical investigations as part of the Mernda Rail project that will see eight kilometres of new duplicated train line built between South Morang and Mernda.

The Mernda Rail Extension team will work closely with Heritage Victoria to organise a public display of these fascinating artefacts in coming months.