“A healthy mind and human happiness”

Here in New Zealand, we like to think ourselves as a nation of outdoor enthusiasts, always off tramping, kayaking, mountain biking, etc. But it wasn’t always thus. Our love affair with the outdoors began in the mid-late 19th century and was part of a movement seen throughout much of the western world, as people began to use their increased leisure time – and the wonders of the railways – to explore the world around them. This isn’t the time to dwell on the other factors that led to this movement, but there were a number of spurs, including increasing industrialisation and urbanisation (both of which were linked to an increasing awareness that the natural environment was threatened by these processes), and the rise of the middle class.

Locke Stream Hut. Image: K. Watson.

Locke Stream Hut. Image: K. Watson.

This post continues the theme of exploring Christchurch’s hinterland and, somewhat more explicitly than the other posts in the series, documents some of the factors that led to New Zealand’s increasing engagement with the outdoors in the early-mid 20th century. The exploration, development and use of Aoraki and Kura Tāwhiti were both related to this theme but in many ways, Locke Stream Hut epitomises it. It’s also an intriguing example of attempted social engineering, and the development of our network of back country huts and tracks. The hut lies (as its name suggests) on Locke Stream, on the true left of the Taramakau River, just below Harper Pass.

Location map. Image: Google.

Location map. Image: Google.

Like Aoraki and Kura Tāwhiti, Māori were here long before Pākehā. The area was used particularly by Māori from Tai Poutini as a trail when travelling via Harper Pass with pounamu (Brailsford 1996: 99). Well-known 19th century Māori journeys across the pass include parties fleeing up the Hurunui River and over Harper Pass to Tai Poutini following the Ngāti Toa raid on Kaiapoi pā in 1832 (Pascoe 1955). And Māori were instrumental in the Pākehā ‘discovery’ of the route to the West Coast via Harper Pass. Many gold miners would subsequently use this route, until it was superseded by the Arthurs Pass route, after which it seems to have been little used by Pākehā. The route would return to prominence (of a sort) in the early-mid 20th century.

The kitchen/dining area, Locke Stream Hut. Image: K. Watson.

The kitchen/dining area, Locke Stream Hut. Image: K. Watson.

Pākehā exploration of the outdoors was initially led by the elite (as seen at Aoraki), as they had both the time and money to make the long journeys required. By the early-mid 20th century, New Zealand had developed to the point where tourism had spread beyond the preserve of the wealthy few. The development of the railway network had a significant part to play in this, as did legislation enshrining the 40 hour week, passed in 1936. Now not only were people able to reach the outdoors easily, they also had a weekend in which to be able to explore further afield. Histories of outdoor pursuits in New Zealand give a sense of the sheer unbridled joy that the young men and women who took advantage of these opportunities found in them – try the wonderful Shelter from the Storm or any of the histories of club ski-fields (I’m sure Tramping covers this too, but unfortunately I’ve not read it yet).

One of the wonderful spikes used in the construction of the hut. Image: K. Watson.

One of the wonderful spikes used in the construction of the hut. Image: K. Watson.

At the same time that weekends became real and official, one William Parry – known as Bill – was becoming increasingly concerned about the health and fitness of New Zealanders (he was also quite big on vegetarianism, too). Parry was a member of the Labour government during the Depression (as well as being one of the founding members of the Labour Party) and, from 1935, Minister of Internal Affairs (Gustafson 2012). He used this position to tackle his concerns about the nation’s health and well-being, arranging a conference in August 1937 to discuss ways “to judiciously guide the people in the wiser use of the increased leisure time at their disposal.” (AJHR 1938 H22). Amongst other things, the conference concluded that physical fitness and recreation were vital for “a healthy mind and human happiness” (AJHR 1938 H22). As a result, the Physical Welfare and Recreation Act was passed in November 1937, which led to the establishment of the Department of Internal Affairs’ Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch and the National Council of Physical Welfare and Recreation (AJHR 1938 H22).

The hand-adzed timber framework. Image: K. Watson.

The hand-adzed timber framework. Image: K. Watson.

The newly established Physical Welfare and Recreation Branch set about encouraging ‘group travel’ (which sounds a bit like my idea of hell) – which it defined as low-cost and low-stress recreational activity by groups in the natural environment, a policy that had apparently been very successful elsewhere in the world (AJHR 1939 H22). The Branch decided that mountain tracks – “quiet pathways into the country where people could rest from the noise and bustle of the modern city” (EP 28/12/1944) – were the ideal destination for group travel. But many existing tracks were deemed to be unsuitable for this low-cost low-stress travel, being overcrowded, too expensive and/or too arduous (none of which would be good for your stress levels). The Branch felt its duty was to “provide recreation for New Zealand people on the lower levels of income, people who would be pleased with a less luxurious and much less expensive track system that young workers can afford…to reduce the cost while easing the degree of exertion and increasing the comfort.” (EP 28/12/1944). And from this grew the Mountain Huts and Tracks programme, which led to the reopening of the Harper track, and the construction of Locke Stream Hut (along with several other huts). The other track opened up as a result of this programme was the Tararua track.

The Harper Pass track was re-cut in 1939-40, with the plan being that there were would be five huts on it. Huts No. 1 (Lake Taylor Hut) and 2 (Lake Sumner Hut) were extant by early 1940 (AJHR 1940 H22). Hut No. 4 – Locke Stream Hut – was built shortly afterwards, with some of the materials packed in by horse and the timbers cut on site. Which means that the hut has fabulous hand-adzed tōtara floor slabs, which are a thing of beauty. It’s also got a timber framework (kawaka and tōtara) and, respecting the sensibilities of the era, a central common area with two bunkrooms either side, one for men and one for women (no longer enforced!). As is typical of back country huts all over New Zealand, it’s clad in corrugated iron (original) – less typically, it’s lined with ply (not original). All in all, the hut is a wonderful example of the use of traditional construction methods and consequently, full of character. I highly recommend a visit!

The rather fabulous floorboards! Image: K. Watson.

The rather fabulous floorboards! Image: K. Watson.

If you do decide to visit the hut, stop and think for a moment about the social and political processes that led to its construction. And put aside thoughts about a paternalistic government to reflect on the freedom experienced by those who took advantage of these opportunities during the early-mid 20th century. Because, for many of those who did, it wasn’t just an opportunity to escape the city, it was also – in many cases – an opportunity to escape their elders, and some of the social norms of the day. I’m not suggesting that people went completely crazy (although I’m sure some must have), but there’s a wonderful sense of freedom that permeates social histories of outdoor activities during this period.

Katharine Watson & Rosie Geary Nichol

(& with thanks to the Department of Conservation, who funded this work)

References

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives. [online] Available at: www.atojs.natlib.govt.nz.

Brailsford, B., 1996. Greenstone Trails: The Maori and pounamu. Stoneprint Press, Hamilton.

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

Gustafson, B., 2012. Parry, William Edward – Parry, William Edward. [online] Available at: www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/3p12/parry-william-edward.

Pascoe, J., 1955. The Maori and the mountains. Te Ao Hou: The New World No.12. Held in DOC file on Locke Stream Hut.

The heady nature of pseudo-science

One of the most interesting things about being an archaeologist or a historian is seeing the development of ideas and knowledge throughout the ages. We are reminded, time and time again, that the ideas and theories that we consider primitive or even ridiculous in hindsight were the cutting edge of scientific enquiry or social theory at the time. It follows that at least some of the things we consider to be cutting edge here and now will be primitive or ridiculous to our children and grandchildren in the decades to come.

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Comparative physiognomy. One of the more, uh, interesting theories humans have come up with. Image: J. Redfield 1852, Public Domain Review.

At the same time, it is easy to see the foundations of our current knowledge base and thinking in those same primitive or ridiculous ideas. Every theory or discovery that was later proven to be wrong or misapplied was still, in fact, part of a conversation – a social, philosophical and scientific discourse – that came to inform our understanding of the world in the present day. They either provided the building blocks for the development of an idea (the four humours of the body to miasma theory to germ theory, for example); a point of contention which forced the development of a more accurate theory; or used approaches and ideas that later proved to be useful, even if they were misapplied at the time. From geocentrism, the four elements of all matter (earth, fire, wind, water…heart! Oh wait…) and Copernican astronomy to the miraculous cough curing properties of heroin, our history is littered with theories and ideas that were wrong, but without which our current knowledge base would not be what it is.

One such subject – and the thing that got me thinking about this in the first place – is the now much maligned science of phrenology, a subject brought to our attention a while back by the discovery of a crumpled up poster inside the walls of a 19th century house in Christchurch. The poster depicted the head of a man in profile, with the skull divided into a quilt of small images, numbered and labelled with various character traits, including sublimity (“conception of the grand, awful and endless”), mirthfulness (“wit”), causality (“desire to know the why and wherefore of things”) and alimentiveness (“appetite”). Above this arresting image, a headline read “Phrenological Head of Charles Peace, The Burglar.”

The Phrenological Head of Charles Peace. Image: J. Garland.

The Phrenological Head of Charles Peace, The Burglar, 1879. Image: J. Garland.

As it turns out, Charles Peace was quite the well-known figure in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a sort of combination of Sherlock Holmes’ master of disguise and Catwoman (this is not at all an accurate description, but it amuses me). His fame – or infamy – was on par with what we now attribute to Jack the Ripper or Bonnie and Clyde and his story has all the elements of a great melodrama (which, indeed, it became later on). A cat burglar with a limp who “could scale a wall like a fly”, the “man with many faces”, a master of disguise who “could change his face in a moment”, the “prince of housebreakers”, betrayed by his mistress after a daring near-escape from the police, having evaded the police as a wanted man for years. It’s a blockbuster in the making. Probably starring Peter Sellers (or the current equivalent – Steve Carrell?).

Peace was a Sheffield-born criminal executed in 1879 for two murders and a long, long list of burglaries committed during his adult life. Having plied his thieving trade in Sheffield and its environs during the 1860s and 1870s, he shot the husband of a couple that he had befriended and fled to Peckham, London. There, he continued to rob the houses of the wealthy, while living under a pseudonym (and under the very noses of Scotland Yard). He was arrested in 1878 after an altercation with police during a robbery, and eventually hanged (Auckland Star 14/05/1932: 3).

charles peace joke

Image: Cromwell Argus 20/05/1918: 7.

Contemporary and later newspapers described him as the “cleverest burglar that ever lived”, a figure so famous that “even Dick Turpin could not hold a candle to him” (Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette 4/12/1929:1). He became the subject of waxworks, of crime fiction, a stage play (which outraged society by depicting his hanging on stage, carried out by an actual retired executioner) and increasingly outrageous and dramatised depictions and characterisations in popular culture. One 1930s newspaper, for example, said of him “Peace is shown as he was, a dwarf of phenomenal strength, a colossal braggart, repulsive in mind and body and a perfect burglar.” Another went even further and called him “almost a monkey of a man…an unrestrained savage.” More interestingly, from the perspective of our phrenological head, is an article that equates his prominent ears and “head of enormous size”, with his criminal proclivities.

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“Peace’s greatest asset…was an immense lower jaw which he could manipulate at will.” Image: Dunstan Times 14/03/1927: 7.

And this is the thing. It is no wonder that, notorious as he was, Charles Peace became the subject of phrenological investigation. The science of phrenology, particularly in its heyday, was often associated with criminals and criminal behaviours, used in an attempt to make sense of why certain people did such unreasonable things – and perhaps, to impose an order on a world that didn’t always seem to make a whole lot of sense.

The ‘science’ was first ‘discovered’ in the late 18th century, by Franz Joseph Gall, a German neuroanatomist and physiologist. It was based on the premise that the various personality traits of a person corresponded to different parts of their brains, the size and shape of which could be ‘read’ in the bumps and indents of their skull. While ultimately discredited, Gall’s theories influenced the development of neurological science as we know it today, particularly when it comes to different parts of the brain being used for different functions (not a neuroscientist – am hoping I’ve paraphrased this correctly!).

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A description of the science of phrenology, as told in a lecture in 1865. Image: North Otago Times 20/07/1865: 3.

(On a side note, I had great plans to apply the phrenological model to our office full of archaeologists in an attempt to determine the most criminal amongst us. However, as it turns out, practicing the science of phrenology involves feeling for the bumps and cavities of a person’s skull with your palms and fingertips, which seemed like it would cross a boundary from which there is no going back. We’re all friends here, but there’s a line, right?)

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The various phrenological organs and how to find them. A full how-to of phrenology is available here, if you feel like trying it out on yourself/someone whose scalp you’re comfortable exploring. Image: Wikimedia Commons. 

Phrenology was most popular during the mid-19th century, but continued to be given credence by a small fringe of society through into the early 20th century. During the height of its popularity in various parts of the world, it was applied to criminal proceedings – both to understand the criminal defendant and to be assured of the character of the jurors, recommended to ladies as a subject of study that would ensure happiness in marriage and suggested as a way to “determine what should be restrained, what cultivated and the pursuit of in life best adapted” in children. One account even has it used to determine which of a lady’s suitors she ought to marry. It was also, in its most infamous applications, used to reinforce racial stereotypes, equating negative cultural and behavioural traits with physical – and racial – appearance. Essentially reducing human people, cultures and personalities to bumps on a skull.

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This one cracks me up. Image: Vaught’s Practical Character Reader (1902).

In New Zealand, phrenology makes an appearance here and there throughout the 19th century, with varying degrees of sincerity and skepticism. French naturalist and phrenologist, Pierre-Marie Dumoutier, for example, took four casts of Māori heads during his travels with Durmont d’Urville around the country in 1840, adding them to a collection of phrenological busts of indigenous peoples that he later displayed in Paris (photographic portraits of two of those busts, of rangatira Takatahara and Piuraki, are currently on display in the Christchurch Art Gallery). Several phrenological professors and consultants were active throughout the country, including in Christchurch, throughout the latter half of the century (sometimes these consultants also offered palmistry readings and séances, for what it’s worth). Demonstrations using “a large collection of the sculls of murderers, bushrangers, Maoris and notorious and eminent characters” were incredibly popular. And phrenological assessments of criminals and famous figures continued to turn up in popular culture well into the early 20th century.

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An 1891 phrenological chart of Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand. Image: Auckland Libraries.

At the same time, in the 1840s and 1850s, jokes about the empty skulls of those who believed in phrenology and long arguments over the merits of the ‘science’ were being published in New Zealand newspapers. The lectures of a vocal and eminent phrenologist, Mr A. S. Hamilton, were treated and reviewed with a healthy degree of skepticism (and an appreciation for the appeal of spectacle) in the 1860s. In the 1870s, demonstrations of phrenology also included lectures on mesmerism, palmistry and electrical psychology. By the 1890s and early 1900s – both in New Zealand and throughout the rest of the world – it seems to have been more of a novelty than a science.

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Image: New Zealand Colonist and Port Nicholson Advertiser 31/03/1843: 3.

There’s this great argument printed in the letters to the editor of the Colonist in the 1850s about the merits of phrenology as a science that really brings home the weird juxtaposition of ideas that it encapsulated in the subject. Because the arguments made in favour of it ring just as true to a modern scientific mind as those made against.

For example: “Phrenology depends neither on speculation nor on theory…it is essentially the science of observation, like chemistry and botany. It was discovered by observing facts, was perfected by comparison and induction, and every man with sufficient capacity may with his own eyes, test and verify its truth.” – Colonist 9/02/1858: 3.

It’s just that as far as the application of phrenology went, those arguments simply weren’t true. Rather than being a ‘science of observation, like chemistry and botany’, it was actually a system of flawed assumptions and correlations, used to perpetuate a very narrow perspective of character and personality that failed to account for the effects of experience, cultural background, social upbringing and any of the other myriad factors that make a person who they are. Whoops, got a bit ranty there.

Enough said. Image:

Enough said. Image: Colonist 29/01/1858: 3.

The truth is, as an anthropologist and an archaeologist, phrenology both intrigues and terrifies me. Intrigues, because it is ultimately about understanding people, about trying to understand why and how people work. Because the analytical approach that it incorporates also forms the foundation of much of what I do as an artefact analyst, what so many analysts and scientists do (even little social scientists like us). But terrifies, because it is also so narrow, so rigid, so structural that it fails to employ the holistic approach necessary to truly understand a person – or, in our case, a culture or society. It sees correlation as cause, takes something – character – that is the result of a myriad of factors and experiences and distills it down to a series of boxes to check.

But it is, ultimately, part of that progression of ideas and knowledge that I talked about at the beginning of the post (remember that, doesn’t that seem like ages ago?). Call it a pathway, a tree, a foundation, whichever analogy or metaphor suits – however much of a misstep it was (and it really, really was), phrenology had its part to play in this ongoing human struggle to – and, ironically, I believe the definition of phrenological causality sums it up best – “understand the why and wherefore of things.”

Jessie Garland

References and Acknowledgements

Jeremy Habberfield-Short, for excavating and sharing his excellent discoveries.

The Langlois Eteveneaux cottage, Akaroa

The Langlois Etevenaux cottage, built in c. 1843, as it stands in 2016. The cottage is one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury and the only building constructed by French colonists that still stands in Akaroa. Image: L. Tremlett.

The Langlois Eteveneaux cottage, built in c. 1843, as it stands today. The cottage is one of the oldest buildings in Canterbury and the only building constructed by French colonists that still stands in Akaroa. Image: L. Tremlett.

The front door to the cottage. Note the ventilation grate partly hidden behind the front step and the arrow decoration in the transom above the door. Image: L. Tremlett.

The front door to the cottage. Note the ventilation grate partly hidden behind the front step and the arrow decoration in the transom above the door. Image: L. Tremlett.

Langlois Etevenaux cottage

A close up of the arrow detail in the transom. “Enter here”, perhaps? Image: L. Tremlett.

One of the two original exterior windows, with an inward opening casement. In our humble opinion, this is a superior example of a casement window. Again, note the arrow motif above the window itself. Image: L. Tremlett.

One of the two original exterior windows, with an inward opening casement. In our humble opinion, this is a superior example of a casement window. Again, note the arrow motif above the window itself. Image: L. Tremlett.

Close up of the arrows above the window. Look at the detail in the fletching! Image: L. Tremlett.

Close up of the arrows above the window. Look at the detail in the fletching! Image: L. Tremlett.

A close up of the decorative lion’s head found above the window. Image: L. Tremlett.

A close up of the decorative lion’s head found above the window. Image: L. Tremlett.

Decorative corbels beneath the sill of the same exterior window. Image: L. Tremlett.

Decorative corbels beneath the sill of the same exterior window. Image: L. Tremlett.

The window from the interior, set off by floral wallpaper and a shining autumn day. Image: L. Tremlett.

The window from the interior, set off by floral wallpaper and a shining autumn day. Image: L. Tremlett.

Looking out, with Akaroa beautifully framed in the background – the view from this cottage for at least the last century. Image: L. Tremlett.

Looking out, with Akaroa beautifully framed in the background – the view from this cottage for at least the last century. Image: L. Tremlett.

Hinges! This is a barrel door hinge from a door in the southern part of the cottage – it’s a type of hinge rarely seen in other Canterbury cottages, especially with the shaped ends. Image: L. Tremlett.

Hinges! This is a barrel door hinge from a door in the southern part of the cottage – it’s a type of hinge rarely seen in other Canterbury cottages, especially with the shaped ends. Image: L. Tremlett.

Another rare hinge! This one is known as an ‘HL’ hinge, with plain ends – also unusual in Canterbury cottages we’ve seen to date. Image: L. Tremlett.

Another rare hinge! This one is known as an ‘HL’ hinge, with plain ends – also unusual in Canterbury cottages we’ve seen to date. Image: L. Tremlett.

So, this is particularly cool. It’s the front door lock to the cottage, but if you look closely you’ll see that the door lock, key hole and escutcheon are upside down. On top of this, the hinge strike plate is shaped like a key, just to keep it all in theme. Image: L. Tremlett.

So, this is particularly cool. It’s the front door lock to the cottage, but if you look closely you’ll see that the door lock, key hole and escutcheon are upside down. On top of this, the hinge strike plate is shaped like a key, just to keep it all in theme. Image: L. Tremlett.

The maker’s mark on the front door lock. It reads “No. 60, Jas. Carpenter, Patentee” on the lower half with the British crest on the upper half. James Carpenter was a well-known locksmith based in Willenhall, England, from the late 18th century until his death in 1844 (his business continued after his death under the name of Carpenter and Tildesley). The No. 60 was a famous patent of Carpenter’s, patented in 1830 and popular around the world, including in the United States. Such locks are often found on buildings constructed in the 1830s and 1840s (Garvin 2001: 84), so that fits! Image: L. Tremlett.

The maker’s mark on the front door lock. It reads “No. 60, Jas. Carpenter, Patentee” on the lower half with the British crest on the upper half. James Carpenter was a well-known locksmith based in Willenhall, England, from the late 18th century until his death in 1844 (his business continued after his death under the name of Carpenter and Tildesley). The No. 60 was a famous patent of Carpenter’s, patented in 1830 and popular around the world, including in the United States. Such locks are often found on buildings constructed in the 1830s and 1840s (Garvin 2001: 84), so that fits! Image: L. Tremlett.

Lastly, an image of the cottage in the 1960s, before it was repainted. The timber pilasters which frame the door and windows are an interesting stylistic feature originating from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture – a nice compliment to the Louis-Phillipe style of furniture with which the cottage was furnished. Image: L. Tremlett.

Lastly, an image of the cottage in the 1960s, before it was repainted. The timber pilasters which frame the door and windows are an interesting stylistic feature originating from Ancient Greek and Roman architecture – a nice compliment to the Louis-Phillippe style of furniture with which the cottage was furnished. Image: L. Tremlett.

Jessie Garland and Luke Tremlett

References and acknowledgements

Christchurch City Council.

Garvin, J., 2001. A Building History of Northern New England. University Press of New England, New Hampshire.

Insight Unlimited.

Kura Tāwhiti

Today we’re going back to Christchurch’s hinterland, this time to Kura Tāwhiti/Castle Hill, a place that’s still an important and valued part of the city’s surrounds. But in the interests of full disclosure, I feel like I should let you know that, well, I don’t love it in the way that a lot of people do. I can see that it’s beautiful and those rocks are amazing and the archaeology and history’s pretty cool, too (read on for more of that), but it doesn’t move me in the way that it moves other people. I think it’s the lack of water – I need a lake or, better still, a river, to go with my mountains and tussocks. Now that I’ve got that off my chest…

Kura Tāwhiti. Image: K. Watson.

Kura Tāwhiti. Image: K. Watson.

The occupants of Otautahi/Christchurch have been visiting Kura Tāwhiti/Castle Hill for centuries. In fact, like Aoraki/Mt Cook, Kura Tāwhiti has Tōpuni status under the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998. Kura Tāwhiti translates as “the treasure from a distant land”, which is a reference to the kumara. For tangata whenua, Kura Tāwhiti was an important mahinga kai, particularly for those living at Kaiapoi. It was a source of kākāpō, kiore (Polynesian rat), kiwi, tuna (eel) and weka. And it was closely associated with the Ngāi Tahu trails through the Southern Alps, because of the kai and the shelter it could provide. Ngāi Tahu left evidence of their presence here in the form of rock art.

Pākehā followed Māori in 1858, when the Porter brothers took up what would become Castle Hill station. The Porter brothers may have lived in a stone hut near the quarry on the road into what is now Porters ski field, and I believe that the remains of this hut can still be seen today. Six years later, some more brothers took over the station – the Enys brothers, who were in this farming business for the long haul (Acland 1975). Shortly after the Enys brothers came the gold miners, seeking a route to the West Coast (some hardy souls travelled over the Coleridge pass trail, at the head of the Porters ski area, following an old Māori trail), but then along came Arthur Dobson and now we have Arthurs Pass. (Side note: one other archaeological site near Porters that you should be aware of is the old coaching stop. There’s very little to see today, just some old fence posts and fencing wire, but it’s nice to know it’s there.)

The remains of the hut near the Porters ski area. Image: K. Watson.

The remains of the hut near the Porters ski area. Image: K. Watson.

So, yes, the Enys brothers. There were two of them, John and Charles, and it was John who had most to do with the station and was a regular Renaissance man, being heavily involved in scientific pursuits. And the science he was particularly interested in was that of butterflies (the name of which I will leave as a challenge for you, dear reader), but was also intrigued by plants and geology. Which was fortuitous for him. He is known to have collected fossils from Kura Tāwhiti (now held at Canterbury Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa). And it is perhaps John Enys who is responsible for having brought Kura Tāwhiti to the attention of the wider scientific world – Julius von Haast (director of the Canterbury Museum) visited in 1865 and 1873 and James Hector (director of the Colonial Museum) visited in 1869 and 1872. Enys’s interest in science led him to be the first to identify Ranunculus paucifolius at Kura Tāwhiti (although someone else may have described it earlier) – this is a rare native buttercup (Richards 1951).

The rocks were not just of interest for scientists – capitalists were interested too, because these rocks are limestone, a stone that’s easy to carve and has a beautiful colour that looks fantastic on Gothic buildings. Builders and the like were interested in the stone from at least 1863 (Press 3/5/1863: 2). Fortunately, transporting this heavy material was just too difficult in the absence of rail. Enys quarried some stone for his station buildings, and the Castle Hill hotel (built in 1871, near the modern Castle Hill village) was built from Castle Hill stone (Richards 1951: 6, Taylor 2005: 39). But perhaps the most prominent use of this stone is in our cathedral, Cathedral Church of Christ, Christchurch, where it was used for the font, in the western entranceway and the finial on the spire (Press 20/4/1877: 3, Star 3/6/1881: 3, 23/12/1881: 3). The stone is believed to have been carved by a mason named Davies (Richards 1951: 29). Frustratingly, this has been impossible to prove.

It is reputed that the stone for the cathedral font was cut from this stone. It's now fenced off to preserve the names carved in it. Image: K. Watson.

It is reputed that the stone for the cathedral font was cut from this stone. It’s now fenced off to preserve the names carved in it. Image: K. Watson.

Davie's signature carved into a shelter at Kura Tāwhiti. Image: K. Watson.

The signature of William Davis, carved into a shelter at Kura Tāwhiti. Image: K. Watson.

Enys used the rocks for another practical purpose, establishing yards on the north side of the rocks. Now, the important thing about these from my point of view is that there’s no direct historical record of them: they only survive in the archaeological record. And you too can go and discover them for yourselves today. Just be careful not to turn your ankle in the giant holes left by the posts that have rotted away. Yes, wooden posts. Who knows where the wood came from, but a good distance away.

The remains of a hopper associated with processing lime at Kura Tāwhiti. Image: K. Watson.

The remains of a hopper associated with processing lime at Kura Tāwhiti. Image: K. Watson.

Good heavens, so many words and we’ve not even reached the tourists. And it’s the tourism I find particularly fascinating – in the 1890s, Kura Tāwhiti was a popular health resort, believed to be very good for you because of that bracing mountain air and the spectacular scenery (Press 19/3/1890: 4, Star 25/6/1894: 4). No mention of the hellish coach ride, which would surely have taken several days to recover from. For a while, Kura Tāwhiti was even touted as the ideal location for a sanatorium. But it was the distance – and no doubt the coach ride – from Christchurch that saw Cashmere selected as a more accessible alternative (Press 22/7/1905: 11, 31/8/1905: 2; Star 5/2/1909: 1). The the idea didn’t go away: in the 1930s, the Sunlight League wanted to establish a solarium for tuberculosis sufferers at Kura Tāwhiti (Press 29/6/1934: 12, 6/4/1935: 2). And then there were just the general visitors, seeking to take in the beauty of the area and – as the outdoor recreation movement grew – the walks and other activities. Which leads us straight to rock climbing, and the somewhat more friendly-to-limestone pursuit of bouldering.

When you think about it, Kura Tāwhiti has a number of elements of the New Zealand story wrapped up in one beautiful package: Māori and Pākehā connections (and very likely, the restriction of Māori access to their mahinga kai following the Pākehā take up of land), pastoralism, science, nature, beauty, intriguing geology, tourism and sport. There’s art, too, which I’ve not had to time to mention. And preserving that story is archaeology. All of what I’ve related here can be seen in the physical fabric of the place – and more besides. We’ve only told you half the story.

Katharine Watson

Acknowledgements

Research by Christine Whybrew, & the Department of Conservation, who commissioned the work that led to this blog.

References

Acland, L. G. D., 1975. The Early Canterbury Runs. 4th ed. Christchurch: Whitcoulls.

Press [online]. Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Richards, E. C. (ed.), 1951. Castle Hill. Christchurch: Simpson and Williams Ltd.

Star [online]. Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Taylor, I. D., 2005. The Road to the West Coast: A history of the road over Arthur’s Pass. Heritage Press Ltd.

 

 

Death and Taxes

Link

He is bed maker to the dead. The pillows which he lays never rumple. The day of interment is the theatre in which he displays the mysteries of this art.

Thomas Lamb 1811.

 

Nothing in this would can be certain except for death and taxes. Benjamin Franklin’s proverb was never more true than in the case of John C. Felton, a cabinet maker/undertaker from Rangiora who went bankrupt just before the turn of the 20th century. In fact, a site that I was working on recently was occupied by a string of undertakers who moonlighted as carpenters of some description during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The men in question – George Dale, John C. Felton, and J. M’Auliffe – left little evidence of their macabre craft behind, save a chisel and a few nails and bolts. But this was not unexpected – it isn’t often that we find artefacts which form an obvious link to a more ephemeral business like undertaking (we do find the odd ‘mummified’ cat underneath demolished houses, but that’s a bit different). In cases like these, we rely heavily on historic records of land ownership and newspaper reports to connect archaeological assemblages to their 19th century owners.

New Zealand Tablet 2/2/1894: 32

New Zealand Tablet  2/2/1894: 32

Despite the fact that humans have been dying for as long as they have been alive, ‘the undertaker’ is a relatively new profession. Before the mid-19th century the term ‘undertaker’ referred to anyone who undertook a task or enterprise, and the ‘laying out’ of a corpse in preparation for burial was a task generally carried out by female family members of the deceased, or by individuals with other nurturing roles, such as mid-wives. This role eventually transitioned into a male dominated one, in conjunction with the rise of the ideas of feminine sensibility and Victorian female respectability (Burrell 1998).

 

The profession developed as a part-time industry, associated largely with cabinet makers and carpenters, who used their skills to build coffins on the side – Dale and Felton were also both cabinet makers/carpenters – and because of the early undertaker’s associations with furniture dealing, these individuals were probably more familiar to their clients and neighbours as handymen rather than being associated exclusively with death. This early picture of the undertaker developed as populations and commercial specialisation grew – as a result, undertakers were able to dedicate all of their time and effort to the one profession (Burrell 1998). As mourners required evermore elaborate funerary displays, as characterised by the mourning obsessed Victorian era, livery men joined the funerary procession. This group of merchants acted as the suppliers of the horses and carriages to transport the deceased. This in turn gave rise to the hearse bearing undertaker (Polites 2011).

Typical turn of the century Brisbane undertaker (1902).

Typical turn of the century Brisbane undertaker (1902). Image: Polites 2011

All of this sounds relatively profitable, right?  Multifaceted business ventures in an industry which theoretically had a steady and very reliable stream of potential clientele – particularly as the world was still coming to grips with the concept of germ theory (Tremlett 2016)… But alas, John Courtney Felton went bankrupt nonetheless (Star 20/11/1899: 2). One can only speculate as to why his business was unsuccessful.

Figure 3. Hard times for the undertaker (New Zealand Herald 15/09/1923: 3)

Hard times for the undertaker (New Zealand Herald 15/09/1923: 3)

 

The same fate was not met by another notable 19th century Christchurch undertaker – a prosperous business man: Herman Franz Fuhrmann, who was German. We have met Herman Franz Fuhrmann on the blog before, and it’s possible that his business success could be related to the catchiness of his name – it sounds like it was just made for a jingle! – but regardless, he managed to expand his own undertaking and cabinet making business to include a saddler, branched out into insurance, and made a killing in the sale of the Molesworth station in Marlborough.

 

Figure 4. Rhyming makes ads cooler (Free Lance 29/03/1902: 21 ) - Is it just me or do the finials on this hearse look like shrunken heads on spikes to anyone else? Creepy!

Rhyming makes ads cooler (Free Lance 29/03/1902: 21 ) – Is it just me or do the finials on this hearse look like shrunken heads on spikes to anyone else? Creepy!

This more capitalist version of undertaking brings us a little closer to some of the more recent attitudes toward modern funerary directors. Exposés starting in the 1960s tackled the controversy of the idea of the modern undertaking and funeral industry as a profit-driven empire – making a commodity out of death, and manipulating mourning people at their most vulnerable (Mitford, 1983). This is a large and complex debate that won’t be covered here. No price lists were found for any of the undertaking services of Felton, Dale or M’Auliffe, and their advertisements and others like them from this era seemed to focus more on being sanitary, speedy and available on short notice.

 

M’Auliffe is the only one of the three undertakers in question who also advertises an embalming service (Press 3/07/1903: 8). The idea of embalming corpses (the science of preserving human remains intact, for the sanitation, presentation and preservation), can be traced to at least 5000-6000 BC and the Chinchorro culture in present day Chile and Peru (Brenner 2014). Modern embalming began in the 17th century but really didn’t take off until the American Civil War, which saw soldiers dying far from home and their families wishing their bodies to be returned home for burial. The long journeys presented the need to slow down decomposition, and led to injecting various solutions into arteries of a corpse to prevent this natural process (Chiappelli, 2008). During the 19th century, arsenic was the most favoured embalming fluid, although it was eventually replaced with less toxic chemicals in the 1900s. This occurred in order to alleviate growing concerns about ground contamination from buried embalmed bodies seeping into local water supplies – not to mention the possibility of homicide cover-ups in which any evidence of arsenic poisoning could be disguised by embalming fluid (Mettler 1890). Formaldehyde eventually replaced arsenic as the favourite solution and is still used today.

 

M’Auliffe’s multifaceted service also appeared to have run more successfully than his predecessor Felton’s, although he also had his share of hiccups. M’Auliffe may have been a funerary director who harboured a death wish, as he was charged with riding bicycle in the street in the dead of night without a light, and a mysterious fire broke out at his premises in 1912 (also in the middle of the night), destroying his house and workshop. Luckily, the property was insured (Star 21/10/1902: 3, North Otago Times 16/10/1912: 3). Dazzling reports described a scantily-clad Mrs M’Auliffe having to make her way to the ground by a rope fire escape, “with a three-year-old child clinging to her neck. Fortunately, before making her descent she had the presence of mind to throw down a mattress, otherwise the child, who let go its hold when eight or ten feet from the ground, might have met with injury” (Star 15/10/1912: 3). I can only imagine how creepy it would have been to witness the local funeral home or mortuary burning down at the start of the 20th century!

Here’s a picture of another enterprising dame escaping from a building via bedsheet rope- not the same incident, but you get the idea.

Here’s a picture of another enterprising dame escaping from a building via bedsheet rope- not the same incident, but you get the idea. Image: The Amateur Examiner

But even without the burning building, why do we generally find the concept of an undertaker creepy, particularly one from ‘olden times’? When I hear the word ‘undertaker’ or ‘mortician’, the picture of a solitary guy in black and white, with a bit of a mad scientist vibe comes to mind. Pop culture, through the horror novel and film industry, is probably largely to blame for the demonisation of the profession, but the concept of ostracising those who handle the dead is not a new one. It can also be explained by human desire and the need to survive by disassociating one’s self with dead bodies and death. The idea has been explored by acclaimed social anthropologists such as Bronislaw Malinowski, making reference to the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793, where the townsmen charged free blacks with the responsibility for picking up the dead and then “shunned them as infected, vilified them as predatory” (Burrell 1998).

 

Well that brings me to the end of this undertaking… Until next time…

 

                                                                                                                                                                Chelsea Dickson.

 

 

References

 

Burrell, D. 1998. Origins of Undertaking: How antebellum merchants made death their business. Seminar in Early American History.

Brenner, E. 2014. “Human body preservation – old and new techniques.” Journal of Anatomy. Vol. 224: 316-344.

Chiappelli, J. 2008. “The Problem of Embalming”. Journal of Environmental Health 71 (5): 24.

Lamb. T. 1811. “On Burial Societies, and the Character of an Undertaker.” The Reflector: A Collection of Essays on Miscellaneous Subjects of Literature and Politics. Vol. 2. London: 1812. 143.

Free Lance. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed June 2016].

Mettler, L. Harrison. “The Importance, from tire Medico-Legal Standpoint, of Distinguishing Between Somatic and Molecular Death.” Medico-Legal Journal 8 (1890): 172-79.

Mitford, J. 1983. American Way of Death. Fawcett.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed June 2016].

New Zealand Tablet. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed June 2016].

North Otago Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed June 2016].

Polites, T., M. 2011. The Undertaker Undertakes [online] Available at: http://taylorpolites.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/undertaker-undertakes.html. [Accessed June 2016].

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed June 2016].

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed June 2016].

Tremlett, L. (2016). Medical Buildings and Medical Theory: An Archaeological Investigation of Ashburton Hospital, New Zealand. MA Thesis, University of Otago.