Eating in Early Pyrmont

A great deal of beer was drunk, but people also ate – in smaller quantities. After the gold rushes, and as pastoral exports boomed, Australia had a thriving economy – but living conditions for urban industrial workers did not reflect this.

People lived near their work, in polluted precincts with few services. Until the 1870s and even later however, the Pyrmont Ultimo peninsula was still semi-rural, so that some people could keep animals, and all children spent most of their days – apart from school and Sunday school hours – out of doors.

Compared to residents in other industrial suburbs, Pyrmont people had some access to meat from the Glebe Island abattoir. Many residents were abattoir workers, and it is possible that poor people could obtain unwanted cuts cheaply and informally.

Rabbits were available from town markets and the prices were low. However, most of the rabbits available in Pyrmont seem to have been wild, so it is quite likely that people were doing their own rabbit hutching.

The arrival of CSR made a great difference to population density and reduced the amount of open land. Even then families kept pigs, rabbits, chickens and goats, to eat rubbish but also to be eaten by the family.

Universally, mothers prepared meals, which the family ate together, usually in the same room where the meal had been prepared. It is not entirely clear how bachelors and widowers ate.

Further Reading

  • C.F. Torres, Meat Supply and Social Conditions in Sydney and Pyrmont