Fascinating Finds from 1880s Unearthed at the Cross River Rail Project

Archeologists digging for possible artefacts in Albert Street, the site of the city’s Cross River Rail project, have unearthed some fascinating finds from the 1880s that once belonged to Chinese traders. 

In the lower part of the area near the botanical gardens, diggers have discovered key items that supported the existence of The Nine Holes, allegedly Brisbane’s first Chinatown.

Found among the artefacts were ceramics, late 1800s coins, horseshoes, pairs of intact leather boots and cut-offs, bottles and crockery, old books, perfume containers, and beautifully decorated opium pipes. 

Also among the discoveries was a part of a cellar with a concrete floor that had a set of puppy or small dog paw print.

In his interview with ABC Radio Brisbane, the heritage consultant for the Cross River Rail project, Dr Kevin Rains of the Niche Environment and Heritage, said that the discovery showed the “very ethnically diverse population” where The Nine Holes stood.  There were regular people doing their ordinary, domestic, day-to-day activities in a neighborhood that actually had a bad reputation. 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Nine Holes was a row of eateries, leather goods stores, grocers and hotels in Frog’s Hollow, the district named after the abundance of frogs that lived in the low-lying swampland. Mostly occupied by Chinese immigrants, the building with nine “holes” were actually shops-cum-houses combined for the working class.

Frog’s Hollow was also known for its opium and gambling dens, sly grog shops, and prostitution. It was the red light district at that time and was regarded as the “poorest and dilapidated” neighborhood in Brisbane.

Dr Rains is in the midst of analysing the artefacts and preparing the report for the state government. The discoveries could eventually be housed at the Queensland Museum. 

Meanwhile, the Cross River Rail project will see a new rail line below the Brisbane River to ease congestion and improve accessibility. The Albert Street station will be able to service 67,000 passengers every day when the project is completed.