For archaeologist Dr Ash Lenton, walls really can talk. And the walls of Blundell's Cottage, which has stood by the Molonglo River for more than 160 years, tell quite the story: a tale of upward social mobility and farmers keen to assert what they saw as their rightful place in the district. It is a history revealed in a paper published recently by Dr Lenton in the Australasian Historical Archaeology journal. Dr Lenton, who lectures at the Australian National University, said his first involvement with Blundell's Cottage was to give students some hands-on archaeology experience. "We don't get to do a great deal of excavation archaeology - under-the-dirt archaeology - but we do have little treasures like this that are still standing. So I brought some students around with tape measures and survey equipment and we had a look around it," Dr Lenton said. "From then on, it got my interest because you can, if you get enough information, interpret something like this by looking at the society at the time, and you can say something about the people who lived here. It's a good example of the early European settlement." The cottage was first built by the Campbell family, which owned the large Duntroon estate, in the late 1850s for the Ginn family. "[William Ginn] was a head stockman, so he was a bit better than all the others. So he had a bit of status. Everybody else lived in slab huts with timber posts and not much to speak about. He was the one who got the stone house built for him," Dr Lenton said. But for the Blundells, who first leased the cottage in 1874, it was not quite right. "They were a bit better off. They were tenant farmers, but they were planning to be successful tenant farmers. They were planning to be something in the local society. They were respectable, which means good Christians, it means showing your face at Church every Sunday, it means having the vicar for tea and it means having people around for dinner. It means engaging with social actions in society," he said. "You can't do that if all eight of you are living in one or two or three or even four rooms ... so what they did is double the size of the house." This is where the walls tell the real story. Previous archaeological excavations have revealed very little, likely because objects were seldom discarded around the property. The Blundells employed a local mason to construct their extension, which is of a higher grade than the original house - revealed in the structure of the walls. "If you look at the front of the house, it's got a wooden lintel. That's enough to hold it up. But if you want to be fancy, you get a bricklayer. They're paying out for this. They're making a financial investment," Dr Lenton said. It separated the agricultural activities from the family's social functions, allowing them to ascend the district's social hierarchy. The family stayed until 1933. "They separated the front of the house into the social bit, the bit the outside world comes to see, where they entertain, where they have dinner, where they might show off their best porcelain," he said. New chimneys helped display the family's increased standing and an extra fireplace created another room better suited to receiving visitors. The cottage, which has been maintained by the National Capital Authority as a museum since 1999 after it was recognised as an historical landmark in 1963, was home to boarders for much of the first half of the 20th century. A remarkable life for a small head stockman's cottage built with rough-hewn stone more than a century and a half ago.