Not only did generations of Aboriginal people traverse this peninsula on their (bare) feet: so did most of the new population. Pyrmont’s early industries employed large numbers for long hours, and rather little pay. Commuting was not an option: until 1900 there was no public transport and the Pyrmont bridge charged a toll on pedestrians, so workers and their families crowded into small houses in narrow streets, within sight and sound and walking distance of their work. A parliamentary committee in 1860 was shocked that a working man would rent a whole house, then “live in one room himself with his family – perhaps carrying on a trade… and underlet the other three rooms to separate families.”
A witness regretted that “it would be utterly impossible for a housewife to keep a bad [i.e. badly built] house tidy. When she is placed in such a house, she soon ceases to strive to preserve order and cleanliness…the husband does not care about coming home to his wife; she becomes careless and neglects her children; their diet is also neglected.”