Everything’s coming up roses (and lilies and jasmine and violets)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man or woman in possession of natural body odour is most definitely in want of something to cover it up. At least, in today’s society, it certainly seems to be considered unacceptable to smell like unadulterated human in polite company (except in sporting situations or extreme, unavoidable situations – running from Godzilla comes to mind). In day to day life, we are expected to smell nice, or at least neutral, necessitating the application of a lot of perfume and deodorant in a never-ending crusade against the social iniquity of body odour.

It should come as no surprise to realise that this is not a new phenomenon, even if the use and popularity of perfume and deodorant has grown significantly in the past century. In the 19th century, certainly, the fragrance industry was a flourishing one. One (English) set of statistics from 1881, for example, claimed that Europe and British India consumed approximately 150,000 gallons of handkerchief perfume yearly (for something usually measured in drops, that is a LOT). Furthermore, English revenue from Eau de Cologne cashed in at around £8000 annually and the total English revenue from other imported perfumes at £40,000 per year, a fairly significant amount by the standards of the time (New Zealand Herald 27/08/1881: 7).

Perfume illustration and rhyme. Image:

Perfume illustration and rhyme. Image: Auckland Star 21/12/1929: 10.

The wonderfully named ‘scent farms’ on which the floral foundations of these perfumes were grown offer similarly substantial statistics on the provision of hundreds of thousands of pounds of flowers and blossoms to perfume distilleries throughout the world. One single distillery in France used approximately 100,000 pounds of acacia flowers, 140,000 pounds of rare flower leaves, 32,000 pounds of jasmine blossoms and 20,000 of tuberose blossoms in one year (Wairarapa Daily Times 26/03/1884: 2). I know, rationally, that these quantities must have been delivered and used over the course of the whole year, but I really can’t help imagining what that many flowers would look like delivered on the doorstep all at once (utterly delightful and horribly, traumatically allergy inducing, I think).

All of this perfume was eagerly and, in some cases, insanely, devoured by the bromidrophobic Victorian public (apparently, bromidrophobia is the fear of body odour – the things you learn in archaeology!). Contemporary accounts range from the faintly disparaging description of “the ballroom where the frou-frou of smart femininity exhales a violet fragrance” to tales of insane fads like the injection of artificial fragrance beneath the skin. To take it even further, one report on the “perfumes which ruin lives” recounts the stories of several people who inhaled or consumed perfume to the point of addiction, ill-health and death (Otago Witness 4/02/1897: 49).

Article on the popular fad of injecting perfumes subcutaneously. Image:

Article on the popular fad of injecting perfumes subcutaneously. Image: Auckland Star 11/03/1899: 2.

People didn’t just use artificial fragrance on themselves, however. Perfume was used to improve the smell of all manner of things, from clothing and handkerchiefs to notepaper and, memorably, butter. There were even perfume pills, made to be carried around in handbags and pockets as a neat and tidy repository of pleasant aromas. We’ve talked about the smells of life in the Victorian era here before on the blog, both inside and outside the house: in the perfumed accoutrements of daily life, there’s another smell to be considered (perhaps a response to some of the more unsavoury aromas people suffered through in the past).

Description of perfumed butter from 1894.

Description of perfumed butter from 1894. Image: Bruce Herald 19/10/1894: 3.

It’s interesting, then, considering the obvious popularity of fragrances amongst the Victorian population, to learn that we find comparatively few perfume bottles on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. They’re not rare, but they’re not common either. Those that we do find tend to be predominantly the products of European or English manufacturers, such as J. M. Farina, Eugene Rimmel and Piesse & Lubin. The one exception seems to be Murray & Lanman’s Florida Water, made in America.

Piesse & Lubin perfume bottle found in Christchurch.

Piesse & Lubin perfume bottle found in Christchurch. Piesse & Lubin were established in London in 1855 and continued to manufacture perfumes and related products into the 20th century. Image: G. Jackson.

Eugene Rimmel and Jean Maria Farina were both titans of the perfume (and cosmetics, in Rimmel’s case) industry during the 19th century. Rimmel was the son of a French perfumer, who moved to London in 1820 to manage a perfumery on Bond Street, before opening his own establishment in 1834 with his son (aged 14 at the time). The company became hugely successful, expanding from perfumes to sell a range of cosmetics, hair products and personal hygiene items: they’re still one of the biggest cosmetic manufacturers in Britain today (Rimmel 2015). As far as perfumes went, Rimmel sold a range of fragrances and related products, from perfume vaporisers and fountains to lavender water and “toilet vinegar”, advertised as a “tonic and refreshing adjunct to the Toilet or Bath, a reviving perfume and a powerful disinfectant” (Nelson Evening Mail 28/02/1884: 1). He secured a royal warrant for his efforts, being named as the official perfumer to both Queen Victoria and the Princess of Wales (Wellington Independent 10/04/1866: 3).

Rimmel bottle base found in Christchurch. Image: G. Jackson.

Rimmel bottle base found in Christchurch. Image: G. Jackson.

J. M. Farina, on the other hand, was famous as the name behind the ubiquitous Eau de Cologne, the fragrance that took its name from Cologne, Germany, the town in which the Farina family had been based since the early 18th century (Farina 2015). As it happens, one of the Farina bottles found in Christchurch, despite being associated with the family name, was in fact produced and named after the establishment of another Cologne based perfumery run by the Mulhens family. The famous 4711 eau de cologne was first made by Wilhelm Mulhens at the end of the 18th century and named for the building in which it was produced. However, before the 4711 brand was adopted in the 1880s, Mulhens marketed his fragrance under the Farina name, leading to some confusion and a lengthy battle with the Farina family (Newton 2013).

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Bottle of Mulhens 4711 cologne (left) and the Farina Eau de Cologne (right) found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Interestingly, both the 4711 and the Farina Eau de Cologne seem to have had slightly more masculine overtones, with advertisements making note that – in contrast to Rimmel’s products – “the Prince of Wales has appointed, under Royal Warrant, Johann Maria Farina… to be manufacturer of Eau de Cologne for the Prince of Wales and his Royal Highness’s household” (Wellington Independent 19/11/1873: 3). The notion of perfume and fragrances as ‘gendered’ is a particularly interesting one, and something that I’ll talk about in more detail in next week’s post.

Contemporary descriptions of Eau de Cologne suggest that it had a strong citrus and bergamot fragrance, with one account listing the ingredients as “twelve drops each of essential oils neroli, citron, bergamot, orange and rosemary, along with one drachm of Malabar cardamoms and a gallon of rectified spirit” (Press 23/12/1887: 5). It seems likely that the 4711 had a similar fragrance, although the only description I could find just emphasised the particularly alcoholic base with which the cologne was made (Auckland Star 14/06/1890: 1).

Unfortunately, as far as the other perfumes go, unless the name of the fragrance is embossed on the bottle, we don’t know which ‘flavours’ of perfume were contained within them. Contemporary sources indicate that floral scents were popular, as they are today, with many manufacturers advertising fragrances like jasmine, rose, heliotrope, lily, etc. Others seem to have been specific to the 19th century, with one French company advertising a fragrance with the scent of ‘freshly mown hay.’ There’s even an advertisement for a ‘Geisha’ perfume.

A recipe for the 'celebrated lily of the valley perfume', one of the popular scents of the 19th century. Image:

A recipe for the “celebrated lily of the valley perfume”, one of the popular scents of the 19th century. Image: Lake Wakatip Mail 26/05/1893: 3.

Certain scents were frowned upon: musk was not well liked, with one 1891 article going so far as to suggest that “the King of Holland got a divorce from his wife because she used musk as a perfume. There are many people who think this sufficient cause…” (Oamaru Mail 1/08/1891: 3). And, amusing as that anecdote is, it’s symptomatic of a broader trend in contemporary (and modern) writing on the subject of perfume and the people who wear it. Several of the commentators that I came across talked of individual perfumes as an indication of a person’s character, particularly when it came to women. Even more than a sign of good or bad taste, a person’s perfume seems to have been seen (or sniffed, I suppose) as a manifestation of that person’s personality and place in life.

There’s something really interesting to be untangled here, in terms of how we – now and in the past – use personal fragrance as a way to define, maintain and reinforce individual and collective identity. Just think about how much your perfume says about you (or others): is it feminine, masculine, modern, old fashioned, cheap, expensive, designer, celebrity, professional, flirty, playful, down to earth, clean or any one of the other identity markers we use to describe the way we smell? It’s a really fascinating aspect of social behaviour but, for the sake of space and our attention spans, one that we’ll save for next week’s post.

Jessie Garland


 Auckland Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Farina, 2015. Farina: the birthplace of Eau de Cologne. [online] Available at www.farina1709.de.

Nelson Evening Mail. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Newton, D., 2013. Trademarked: A History of Well-Known Brands, from Airtex to Wrights Coal Tar. The History Press, Gloucestershire.

Oamaru Mail. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Otago Witness. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Rimmel, 2015. About Rimmel. [online] Available at www.us.rimmellondon.com.

Wairarapa Daily Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Wellington Independent. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Of all the gin joints.

Picture this. A summer’s day: clear blue skies and the heat of the afternoon sunshine, just the hint of a breeze. You might be in a garden, sheltering from the sun in the shade of the tree or under a verandah, relaxing, maybe to music, maybe to the sound of the cicadas in the trees. And in your hand, there’s a cool, tall, oh-so-refreshing glass of gin and tonic.

It’s summer time, and the living is easy…

In the modern day, gin seems to me evocative of exactly this: the sights, sounds and heat of the summer. It’s a drink, now almost invariably paired with tonic, that exudes refreshment, breeziness and just a hint of class. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

It’s funny then, that in the 19th century, it brought to mind a whole host of other things – good and bad. While the reputation of gin had improved slightly from the days when it was referred to as ‘mother’s ruin’, a nickname derived from William Hogarth’s depiction of ‘Gin Alley’ and the gin craze of 18th century Britain, it still inspired many tirades among contemporaries regarding the evils of drink. This is especially true of the flourishing temperance movement of the late 19th century, who took great pains to relate numerous accounts of the spirit causing death and disruption in society (Wellington Independent 17/03/1847: 4). It does seem, though, from some of the accounts of gin drinking in the newspapers that they may have had a point. Drinking gin and petrol every day, for example, can’t have been good for a person.

Left: an account of a man drinking a petroleum & gin cocktail. Right: a description of gin palaces and drinkers, that seems particularly harsh to the Scottish. Images:

Left: an account of a man drinking a petroleum & gin cocktail. Right: a description of gin palaces and drinkers, that seems particularly harsh. Images: Bay of Plenty Times 15/06/1888: 4Wellington Independent 17/04/1847: 4.

Interestingly enough, though, gin was also marketed as a medicinal remedy and ‘health drink’ during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. We’ve mentioned aromatic schnapps here on the blog before, a type of gin primarily advertised as a medicine, but there were many varieties of gin marketed as beneficial beverages (Evening Post 24/06/1926: 24Press 2/10/1924: 6Wairarapa Age 4/10/1913: 5). Copious amounts of alcohol were often offered to patients in hospitals during this time, as well (Colonist 12/02/1910: 4).

Gin seems to have been advertised as a remedy for everything from kidney problems to the more vague “toning up the nerves” (Evening Post 24/06/1926: 15). There were even ‘gin pills’, containing “in a concentrated form all the curative properties of a pint of the finest gin” and recommended for ailments of the “kidneys and allied organs” (Wairarapa Age 4/10/1913: 5). It was also associated with the prevention of malaria, due to the common combination of gin and tonic water – the latter was invented in the mid-19th century for the express purpose of administering quinine, an anti-malarial.

Gin as medicine. Preventing us all from ruining our health with tea and cakes! Image:

Gin as medicine. Preventing us all from ruining our health with tea and cakes! Image: Evening Post 24/06/1926: 15.

From an archaeological perspective, unfortunately (as is the case with many of the beverages consumed in the 19th century), it can be difficult to identify gin bottles among the material culture we recover, especially if the labels haven’t survived. Certain bottles, such as the ‘case gin’ shape, are known to have contained gin and are easily identifiable. However, especially towards the end of the 19th century, gin was bottled in several types of bottle, often indistinguishable from those used to hold other spirits or alcoholic beverages. In these cases, we have to rely on paper labels and metal capsule bottle seals, neither of which are prone to survival in the archaeological record.

Nevertheless, the following are some of the brands and types of gin we’ve come across so far during our work here in Christchurch.

Van Dulken Weiland & Co., gin manufacturers from Rotterdam, Holland. Dutch gin – or ‘genever’/jenever – is famous as the drink from which all other ‘gins’ are essentially derived. The Dutch were producing gin from at least the 16th century onwards (maybe earlier): the drink was embraced by Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries (due in no small part to the influence of William of Orange), before being adapted over the centuries to form the spirit as we know it now (i.e. ‘London’ dry gin, etc; Van Acker – Beittel 2013). Despite the popularity of British gins in the 19th century, genever continued to be advertised and sold as a separate beverage in contemporary newspapers (Lyttelton Times 27/09/1851: 2New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator 30/01/1841: 1Otago Witness 15/09/1860: 2). We don’t know much about this particular Dutch manufacturer, but it seems likely that the bottle would have contained the genever style of gin, which often has a strong malt flavour, rather than the anglicised version.

A pig snout gin bottle with a prunt or blob seal on the shoulder.

A pig snout gin bottle with a prunt or blob seal on the shoulder, bearing the mark of Van Dulken Weiland & Co., Rotterdam. Image: J. Garland.

Plymouth Gin, on the other hand, is – as the name suggests – quintessentially English. It’s actually geographically locked, in that it could only be manufactured in the town of Plymouth: unlike other gin styles – like Old Tom gin, for example (I’ll come to this one in a second) – other manufacturers were forbidden from using the name for their own products. It was first produced by Coates & Co. at the famous Black Friars distillery, in the late 18th century, after one Thomas Coates joined the already established Plymouth distillery of Fox & Williamson in 1793 (Plymouth Gin Company 2015). It quickly became one of the most popular gin brands in the 19th century and, to this day, remains a distinctive and hugely popular brand. It’s also one that had strong medical associations – several advertisements found in contemporary newspapers claim it to be “the healthiest drink ever put into a bottle” (Press 2/10/1924: 6).

Plymouth gin

Advertisement for Plymouth Gin, “the healthiest drink ever put into a bottle.” Image: Press 2/10/1924: 6.

We’ve only found one artefact associated with Plymouth Gin here in Christchurch, in the form of a metal capsule, originally used to seal the bottle at the top. Sadly, intact and/or legible capsules like these are rare finds, due to their fragility.

Plymouth Gin bottle capsule found in Christchurch. Image: K. Bone.

Plymouth Gin bottle capsule found in Christchurch. Image: K. Bone.

Probably the most common type of gin found in on archaeological sites here in the city is Old Tom gin, a sweeter variety that was extremely popular during the late 19th century. It declined in popularity during the early decades of the 20th century but has since enjoyed something of a revival, apparently. As the story goes, it takes its name from cat (‘old toms’) shaped signs used during gin prohibition/restrictions to provide gin to the masses. Supposedly, there would be a tube under a slot in the wall: you put money in the slot and received a shot of gin through the tube. Which would be ingenious, if it’s true.

Pun-tastic poem about Old Tom Gin (and other forms of alcohol). Image:

Pun-tastic poem about Old Tom Gin (and other forms of alcohol). Image: Waikato Times 13/01/1855: 2.

Here in Christchurch we usually find Old Tom labels and seals in association with Sir Robert Burnett, a manufacturer and/or distributor of various alcohols and foodstuffs, operating out of London during the second half of the 19th century (Campbell et al. 2009). Old Tom was, however, made by a variety of manufacturers during this period and distributed throughout the world. One of the more entertaining and slightly horrifying articles I came across during my research features Old Tom – or at least, a drink pretending to be Old Tom. In an 1855 edition of the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle, there’s an account of how a quantity of gin, “disposed of to the public as the very best Old Tom”, was in fact an un-named variety of gin that had been used to preserve the body of a Dutch captain in a barrel during a sea voyage (Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle 8/12/1855: 3). I’m betting it probably didn’t taste like Old Tom in the end.

Labelled bottle of Sir Robert Burnett's Old Tom gin, found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Labelled bottle of Sir Robert Burnett’s Old Tom gin, found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Finally, in the interests of improving everybody’s weekends, here are some of the 19th and early 20th century recipes I found for gin cocktails in the course of researching this post. I recommend avoiding the petrol one (above).

Perfect Lady
½ gin
½ peach brandy
¼ fresh lemon juice
Dash of egg white

Gin Puff
Old Tom gin
Plain Soda

Gin Fizz
Crushed ice
Half a lemon
Tsp sugar
Egg white / egg yolk

“A wineglass of gin is put into a long thin glass, known all over America as a fizz glass. A tumbler is then filled up to the brim with crushed ice, half a lemon squeezed upon it, and about a teaspoonful of pulverized sugar. Pulverised sugar is what is always used for American drinks. This is all whisked up until thoroughly cold, and the tumbler is then filled up with soda water…By straining it of the ice, adding the white of an egg and whisking it all up together, we make a ‘silver fizz’. By substituting the yolk for the white and going through the same process the ‘golden fizz’ is made.”

And, for those of you with problems cleaning silk, here’s an alternative use for gin…

Mix well together ¼ lb of honey, the white of one egg, 3oz. of soft soap, one wineglass of gin and one pint of hot water. Lay the pieces of silk separately on a deal board or table and using a small brush, which must be neither too hard not too soft, scrub them on both sides with the above mixture. Have ready two pails of cold water and as soon as each breadth of silk has been well scrubbed, dip in into both pails successively and shake it about so that as much as possible the mixture shall be rinsed out. Then hang it out to dry.”

Jessie Garland


Campbell, M., Gumbley, W. and Hudson, B., 2009. Archaeological Investigations at the Bamber House and Wanganui Hotel sites (Town Sections 79 and 77), UCOL Whanganui Converge Redevelopment, Wanganui. Unpublished report to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust and the Universal College of Learning.

Colonist. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Evening Post. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Nelson Examiner and Wellington Chronicle. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Otago Witness. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Plymouth Gin Company, 2015. [online] Available at www.plymouthgin.com.

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Van Acker – Beittel, V., 2013. Genever: 500 Years of History in a Bottle. Flemish Lion, LLC.

Wairarapa Age. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Wellington Independent. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

2014. What a year!

As another year comes to an end, we present you with a selection of our favourite sites, discoveries and archaeology moments from 2014. It’s been a good year.

We did a lot of digging….


So much mud. Image: H. Williams.


Our biggest site of the year, this excavation yielded over a hundred boxes of artefacts and almost two hundred archaeological features, including the industrial complex being excavated in this photo. Image: H. Williams.


In July, we got to spend a weekend out in Akaroa working on the French Farm homestead, built in the 1840s by French settlers. You can read more about the history of the house and our initial impressions of the archaeology here and here. Image: K. Watson.

Digging, digging, digging. So much digging.

Digging, digging, digging. So much digging. Image: K. Bone.

…and recording.


Drawing and recording a brick floor excavated in Christchurch’s central city. Image: H. Williams.


Kirsa recording the French Farm site, using a theodolite to create a survey plan, while the rest of us drew elevations of the building itself. Image: K. Watson.

One of the elevation drawings of the French Farm building.  Image: L. Tremlett.

One of the elevation drawings of the French Farm building. Image: L. Tremlett.

While recording this Lyttelton house, built in the 1850s, we found this handwritten note fragment on one of the interior wall boards. We're not entirely sure what it says, but it's something about Hokitika. Image: K. Webb.

While recording this Lyttelton house, built in the 1850s, we found this handwritten note fragment on one of the interior wall boards. We’re not entirely sure what it says (something about Hokitika), but it’s pretty fantastic. Image: K. Webb.

We found some cool things…


An industrial complex on Lichfield Street, constructed from 19th century bricks. It’s pretty rare for us to find such substantial floors and foundations from long demolished buildings, so this was a pretty cool find. Image: H. Williams.


The floor and foundations of an 1850s business, found on Cashel Street, another rare find for us. During our research on this site, we found a story about the owner opening a bar on the section, which he named ‘The Blighted Cabbage’ in response to the Mr William ‘Cabbage’ Wilson’s strenuous objections to the very same establishment. An excellent name for a bar. Image: K. Bone.


This epic barrel-lined well was one of the more notable ones we excavated this year. It’s also the deepest, extending down to 3.8 metres below the ground surface. You can just make out the barrel timbers at the base of the feature, where two barrels were stacked on top of each other, with a length of iron pipe extending down through them into the water bearing alluvial gravel strata below. A limestone block was also found at the base, evidently functioning as a filter for the water. Image: H. Williams.


We found this hundred and thirty five year old footprint in concrete foundations (poured in 1879). We worked out that it’s the equivalent of a modern men’s size 9 (American): it probably belonged to one of the workers on the site. Image: L. Tremlett.

10270828_725870430807876_2352858826434568202_n (1)

One of the absolute coolest finds of the year, a clay smoking pipe shaped like a skull and complete with bright blue glass eyes. The pipe resembles a style of decoration that was particularly popular in France in the latter half of the 19th century. Image: C. Dickson.


A (very) small selection of some of the exciting things we’ve found this year, including an immense number of shoes and hats, lovely transfer printed ceramics, children’s artefacts, books, bottles and clay pipes. Image: J. Garland.

During analysis of a time capsule that we found last year, we discovered this beautifully preserved

During analysis of a time capsule that we found last year, we discovered this beautifully preserved notice detailing the laying of the very foundation stone in which we found the capsule. It certainly doesn’t look 120 years old! Image: J. Garland.

Definitely the oldest thing we've found this year, this 1825 Georgian shilling was found at an 1850s house site on Cashel Street. Image: J. Garland.

Definitely the oldest thing we’ve found this year, this 1825 Georgian shilling was found at an 1850s business site on Cashel Street. Image: J. Garland.

Some of us also mucked about in boats…


One of our team was lucky enough to complete an archaeological survey of the Lyttelton Port, finding over sixty archaeological sites and getting to spend some time out on the water. Image: M. Carter.

…built the occasional box-fort…


As it happens, the box-fort around my desk functions as an excellent defensive fortress in the nerf-gun wars that frequently take hold of the office. Image: J. Garland.


This is actually more of a box-maze, constructed from all the boxes of artefacts we’ve found and/or analysed this year, but it’s still impressive (and a little terrifying, if you’re the artefact analyst!). It also provides an excellent defensive position from which to leap out and startle people. Image: J. Garland.

… and made friends with some animals.


Chelsea having a conversation with a feline visitor to one of our sites. Honestly, the cat doesn’t look that impressed with whatever it is that she’s saying. Image: J. Hughes.


Cows! Also not looking impressed. Image: K. Bone.


This curious chicken followed Kim around site one day. Image: K. Bone.

All things considered, it’s been a busy year. Frankly, we’re exhausted.

photo 1

See? Totally shattered. Image: C. Dickson.

Thank goodness it’s the holidays. Merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all!

We’ll see you again in February 2015.

The Underground Overground team

  The team at Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd

Raining soda water in Christchurch!

In 1861, the city of Christchurch would have been virtually unrecognisable to a 21st century resident. Buildings were scattered sparsely throughout what is now the central business district and dirt roads and low fences traversed a landscape that was more grassland than city. Twenty, or even ten, years later, that landscape would change so much as to be unrecognisable, with substantial buildings filling the empty paddocks and replacing many of the early, more ramshackle, wooden structures of the 1850s and 1860s. During these ‘frontier’ years of Christchurch’s existence, a number of small businesses sprang up around the place, some of which didn’t last much past the settlement’s transition from frontier to something more permanent. One such business was the soda water manufactory of Thomas ‘Gingerpop’ Raine, an early Christchurch entrepreneur whose soda bottles we often find on archaeological sites throughout the city.

Thomas Raine's premises on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace in the 1860s. Image: Andersen 1949, p. 305.

Thomas Raine’s premises on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace in the 1860s. Image: Andersen 1949: 305.

Thomas Raine arrived in Christchurch in the 1850s and promptly set himself up in business as a manufacturer of soda water, ginger beer and lemonade. His first business appears to have been on the corner of Peterborough and Gloucester streets where, drawing on his prior experience as a soda water manufacturer in England, he operated from 1859 until 1860 in partnership with Walter Gee (Lyttelton Times 17/10/1860: 7). One interesting advertisement in the newspaper notes that the duo used the Samson Barnett Soda Water Engine, an apparatus invented by engineer Samson Barnett (otherwise known for his development of diving equipment; Lyttelton Times 15/09/1860: 8). The partnership ended with some animosity (or at least, that’s what the papers suggest; Lyttelton Times 7/10/1860: 7, 5/03/1862: 6, Press 8/03/1862: 8).

1862 drawing of the Samson Barnett Soda Water Engine.

1862 drawing of the Samson Barnett Soda Water Engine. Image: International Exhibition of 1862: 3.

After continuing on his own, Thomas Raine handed the business down to his son, Thomas Raine Jr., in 1866 (Lyttelton Times 9/01/1866: 1). Things deteriorated rather rapidly after this, as Raine Jr. appears to have been a terrible businessman, eventually declaring himself bankrupt (for which he was later confined to prison and tried in court) in 1869 (Press 26/10/1869: 3Star 11/01/1870: 2). Thomas Raine Jr. seems to have had quite the troubled life, actually: his father took his business partner to court in 1872, he himself was taken to court by his wife for being a ‘habitual’ drunkard in 1874 and he eventually died after drinking almost an entire bottle of ‘spirits of wine’ (equivalent to two bottles of whisky) in 1886 (Star 20/08/1874: 2Timaru Herald 5/03/1872: 2, 5/06/1886: 3).

We find Thomas Raine soda water bottles relatively frequently on sites in Christchurch, usually embossed with “T. RAINE, SODA WATER MANUFACTURER, CHRISTCHURCH NZ.” This mark is found exclusively on ‘torpedo’ shaped bottles, due to the early date of Raine’s business: other, more elaborate, forms of soda water bottle (such as the Codd patent) weren’t invented until the early – mid 1870s, after Raine went out of business. As such, they can be quite useful dating tools for us, depending on the context in which they were found (i.e. discrete undisturbed deposits vs rubbish scatters): as you’d expect, they’re often found on sites in association with households or businesses dating to the 1860s and 1870s.

Thomas Raine embossed torpedo bottle found on a residential site on Armagh Street this year. Image: J. Garland.

Thomas Raine embossed torpedo bottle found on a residential site on Armagh Street this year. Image: J. Garland.

So far, we’ve found T. Raine bottles all over the city, from residential sites to hotels to commercial sites. There doesn’t appear to be any discrimination in the types of households or businesses buying Raine’s products: we’ve found them on the sites of affluent households and in association with less obviously wealthy assemblages. They would have originally contained a variety of soda waters: Raine was known for manufacturing gingerade, lemonade and ‘raspberryade’, the first of which likely led to his ‘Gingerpop’ nickname (Lyttelton Times 3/09/1859: 8).  Interestingly, one account of Raine’s business suggests that he “did not confine himself to beverages of his own manufacture”, which implies – true or not, I have no idea – that he passed other people’s soda off as his own (alternatively, he may simply have contracted others to brew for him; Andersen 1949: 305).

Advertisemet for Thomas Raine's soda water business. Image:

Advertisemet for Thomas Raine’s soda water business. Image: Lyttelton Times 3/09/1859: 8.

Thomas Raine’s story is also of interest to those of you curious about the way Christchurch evolved over the early decades, from a spatial and nomenclature perspective (this has been a recurring theme here on the blog recently). He was a resident of New Brighton for much of the 1860s and 1870s and owned large amounts of the land out there, including the land on which QEII park is now built (Christchurch City Libraries Blog 2011). During those early decades, it seems, the suburb was somewhat sparsely settled and – like Oxford Terrace – would have been unrecognisable to the modern Christchurch resident. The area was split into two ‘neighbourhoods’, named Oramstown (after George Oram, proprietor of the Clarendon Hotel) and Rainestown, after the Raine family (Christchurch City Libraries Blog 2011,Star 8/05/1896:2). There are several advertisements in the local newspaper during the 1870s, in which Thomas Raine offers large sections of land for sale (Press 28/02/1874:1). It wasn’t until after these sections were sold and more people began to settle out there, that the area began to take on the shape of the New Brighton that we recognise today.

Thomas Raine died in 1907, surviving his wife by two months. He is buried in the Barbadoes Street cemetery, where he shares his rest with many of Christchurch’s other early residents and entrepreneurs. And, although ‘Rainestown’ has long since faded from our collective memory, the legacy of ‘Gingerpop’ Raine lives on in the torpedo bottles we now find in the ground all over the city.

 “ You’ve a Taylor for a brewer!
For that he’s none the worse;
And if you want a vehicle
You go unto a Nurse!
You’ve a Fisher for a grocer
Residing in this quarter!
And strange as it may seem, from Raine
We get good soda water.”
- R. Thatcher, cited in Andersen 1949: 308

Jessie Garland


Andersen, J. C., 1949. Old Christchurch in Picture and Story. Simpson and Williams Ltd., Christchurch.

Christchurch City Libraries Blog, 2011. [online] Available at www.cclblog.wordpress.com

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Timaru Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Coffee: nemesis of tea, friend to chicory, moral downfall of sheep and lifeblood of archaeologists

It must be said that, here at Underground Overground Archaeology, we have something of a coffee problem. With a (very) few exceptions we’re an office of hardened coffee drinkers, ranging from one-cup-a-day habits to the occasional and somewhat obscene four-or-five-cups-a-day problem. We frequent our local coffee shop (the fantastic Vivace on Tuam Street) so much that the staff sort of just laugh kindly at us when we come in and order more coffee (and muffins!) than one office should reasonably be expected to consume. On the rare and terrible mornings when someone discovers that the coffee is, in fact, all gone, the discovery is met with a chorus of despair and rapid scramble to “get coffee, get coffee, get coffee”, lest we release the ravening caffeine deprived beast lurking within us all.

Everyday is a job for coffee.

Everyday is a job for coffee in this office. Image: Imgarcade

It’s a problem. Not an uncommon one in modern society, though, is it? A caffeine addiction seems almost par for the course in today’s bustling workplaces and busy lives. Coffee drinking is everywhere and with it comes the rise of coffee cultures, from the social and economic ubiquity of Starbucks to the hordes of hipsters congregating in fair trade organic coffee houses.

It’s not, however, an exclusively modern phenomenon, as many might assume. We tend, I think, to imagine tea as the hot beverage of choice in Victorian society and it was, just not exclusively so. Coffee, and the ritual of coffee drinking, was also a well-established part of 19th century life. Coffee houses (or ‘palaces’) were not uncommon establishments in major cities: in Christchurch over the years the city saw the Victoria Coffee House and Reading Room in Lyttelton, the Avon Bank Coffee House, the Old Post Office Coffee House and Uncle Tom’s Coffee House on High Street, among others. There were even coffee carts! Interestingly, as an aside, most of these houses appear to have offered food and sometimes lodging as well, with a notable number also involved in the temperance movement of the late 19th century (Lyttelton Times 19/12/1860: 6, 14/12/1861: 1, 21/12/1861: 1).

Coffee jacket and advertisement for the Victoria Coffee House in Lyttelton. Image

Coffee jacket and advertisement for the Victoria Coffee House in Lyttelton. Image: New Zealand Herald 13/06/1903: 6 and Lyttelton Times 8/07/1857: 8.

Along with the coffee houses, numerous articles can be found in contemporary newspapers on the subject of coffee drinking in 19th century society. Some discuss the proper preparations for a cup of coffee, the best culinary accompaniments and how to distinguish the good coffee from the bad. Others mention the names of famous people who swore by the drink, from Voltaire to Frederick the Great, in addition to numerous accounts of the benefits and the dangers of coffee consumption. In fact, in some sources, discussions and accounts of coffee and those who drank it are all but indistinguishable from similar discussions in the modern media (including an article on guarana as a rival to coffee, for all you V & Red Bull drinkers out there).

A selection of historical articles on coffee. Images:

A selection of historical articles on coffee. Images: Auckland Star 28/06/1916: 8Bruce Herald 8/11/1889: 5, 1/08/1899: 2Star 1/04/1905: 3, Taranaki Herald 29/05/1891: 4

Coffee, the moral downfall of Abyssinian sheep. Image:

Coffee, the moral downfall of Abyssinian sheep. Image: Evening Post 23/06/1923: 23.

On the other hand, the article suggesting that the ingestion of coffee plants led to the moral downfall of previously sober and well-conducted Abyssian sheep is perhaps more obviously a product of its time (I could not make that up, I swear). The same goes for the article discussing coffee as a substitute afternoon drink for the “once common absinthe”, or the one comparing the “muddy and yellowish” skin of coffee drinkers to the “withered, dried up and old look” given to tea drinkers. Another description of coffee drinkers employed the terminology of ‘coffee drunkeness’ and ended with a statement many modern coffee dependents may identify with:  “the victims suffered so seriously they dared not abandon the drinking of coffee for fear of death” (Mataura Ensign 8/10/1896: 4).

Article on 'coffee drunkenness' from 1896. Image:

Article on ‘coffee drunkenness’ from 1896. Image: Mataura Ensign 8/10/1896: 4.

In all seriousness, though, it’s clear from historical sources that coffee drinking was a common habit in 19th century Christchurch, and one not so far removed from modern culture as we might think. It’s interesting, then, to see how it is represented in the archaeological record (and to think about how it might be represented today). As with so many other consumables, coffee is only visible indirectly through the various objects used to store, prepare and drink it in the past, and the places (specifically, coffee houses) at which it was consumed. We haven’t yet excavated the site of any coffee houses in the city, so in Christchurch, our evidence seems to come down to two types of objects: coffee cups, or ‘cans’ as they are known, and coffee and chicory bottles.

Coffee cans are mug-like ceramic drinking vessels, with straight sides and lower, flatter bases than teacups, made from porcelain or earthenware. They’re predominantly associated with coffee drinking from the late 18th century onwards (Brooks 2005): advertisements from the Victorian era make special reference to coffee cups as an item distinct from tea cups and saucers (Lyttelton Times 14/11/1857: 7, Observer 22/08/1885: 4). Here in Christchurch, we find them in a variety of sizes, although they have a tendency to be larger than tea wares. They’re often decorated with transfer prints, sponged decoration or gilt banding, although they’re less likely to be found as part of an identically patterned set than teacups (this may be in part because coffee cans don’t seem to have had accompanying saucers).

A ceramic coffee can found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

A ceramic coffee can found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

When viewed from a broad perspective, coffee cans indicate a very clear delineation between the rituals of tea drinking and the ritual of coffee drinking. They suggest (through the quantities found on sites) that, however popular it was, coffee drinking remained less common than tea drinking in the 19th century. They may, eventually, be able to provide us with some indication of the types of people drinking coffee: whether they were predominantly male or female, if age or national origin was a factor or if class and social status played a part. As individual objects, however, coffee cans don’t actually tell us a whole lot, other than indicating the probable presence of a coffee drinker in a household. They certainly don’t tell us much about the ways in coffee was prepared or drunk (i.e. at breakfast, in social gatherings), or the types of coffee consumed by people in 19th century Christchurch.

In fact, there’s little in the way of archaeological information on the types of coffee available to the 19th century consumer, although there’s a surfeit of brands and types listed and advertised in the historical record. Historical examples include beans and grounds, sold by brands like Crease’s A1 Coffee, Webster’s Coffee, Dragon Coffee or Brown, Barrett & Co’s Excelsior Coffee. By contrast, the only archaeological evidence for the coffee itself comes from the coffee and chicory bottles occasionally found in Christchurch (and elsewhere).

Symington's coffee & chicory bottle found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Symington’ & Co’s coffee & chicory bottle found in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Coffee and chicory was an essence, sold as thick syrup and used as a form of instant coffee during the 19th and early 20th centuries (Christchurch City Libraries 2014). The chicory, a plant root, was used to augment the bitter ‘coffee’ taste of the syrup, and the concoction appears to have been relatively popular in its time. Chicory was not always easy to come by in New Zealand: most of it was actually grown here in Canterbury and supplied to the rest of the country (Thames Star 25/01/1893: 4). Interestingly, most of the coffee and chicory bottles we find on Christchurch sites were produced by Symington & Co, an Edinburgh based company, rather than local chicory farmers such as Mr. W. Roberts, who owned the Canterbury Chicory Works in Lincoln, or Edwin Trent, based in Templeton (of Trent Brothers fame). As it turns out, people in other parts of the country turned to other ingredients when they couldn’t get their hands on chicory, local or international: unfortunately, in one case, the substitute used turned out to be turnip (Thames Star 25/01/1893: 4). Coffee and turnip? Mmm, no thanks.

Workers on Mr W. Roberts' chicory farm, Spreydon, 1905. Image: Christchurch City Libraries

Workers on Mr W. Roberts’ chicory farm, Spreydon, 1905. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, File Reference: PhotoCD 10, IMG0037 

All things considered, it seems that despite the use of such unconventional flavour supplements (and the apparent Victorian concern with the moral welfare of sheep), it’s not difficult to find parallels between the culture of coffee drinking in 19th century Christchurch and that of the present day. In fact, there’s far more of them than I was expecting when I first started looking into this. Coffee houses are a common and integral part of our everyday lives here and now and we regularly see headlines and articles debating the health benefits of coffee, the best techniques for its preparation and the characteristics of a good flat white or cappuccino. We still have specific cups from which to sip our delicious caffeinated beverages and, while chicory is no longer a common addition, some of us still take great delight in adding various flavoured syrups to our coffee. And, no doubt, much of the information available on the subject in the modern media will be as entertaining to future archaeologists and historians as the Victorian newspapers have been for me.

Jessie Garland


Ashburton Guardian. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Auckland Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Brooks, A., 2005. An Archaeological Guide to British Ceramics in Australia: 1788-1901.  The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology, Sydney.

Bruce Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Christchurch City Libraries, 2014. Chicory: an early Christchurch industry. [online] Available at www.christchurchcitylibraries.com

Evening Post. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Mataura Ensign. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Observer. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz