Below the belt: part 2

Last week on the blog we introduced you to the 1881 South Belt sewer beneath Moorhouse Avenue: how it was built, how it got blocked, and how recently as part of SCIRT’s horizontal infrastructure rebuild program, their Downer delivery team and sub-contractors Donaldson Civil fixed the blockage. On this week’s blog installment, we look at what we found both above and below the sewer. Enjoy!

Whenever we dig down into the road to repair or replace damaged horizontal infrastructure we always find what I sometimes call ‘road trifle’ – but with layers of asphalt and aggregate instead of layers of custard and fruit. Actually probably more of a ‘road crème brulee’ – as out modern road surfaces, like fancy French desserts have a hard top we have to break through first. At the best of times it’s almost impossible for us to tell whether any such layers exposed in the side of such trenches are of the 19th century period – as we know that most city roads have been rebuilt many times in the past. This one had a layer of soft friable concrete below the asphalt, which was a bit different. Image: Hamish Williams

Whenever anyone digs down into a road to repair or replace damaged horizontal infrastructure we always find what I like to call ‘road trifle’ – but with layers of asphalt and aggregate instead of layers of custard and fruit. Actually probably more of a ‘road crème brulee’ – as our modern road surfaces (like fancy French desserts) have a hard top to break through first. At the best of times it’s almost impossible to tell whether any such layers exposed in the side of trenches are of the 19th century period, as we know that most city roads have been rebuilt many times in the past. This one had a layer of soft friable concrete below the asphalt, which was a bit different. Image: Hamish Williams.

They didn’t have any mechanical excavators back in 1881, which means that the Drainage Board contractors had to dig the sewer trench by hand, using pick, spade, and shovel. As well as digging, they also had to do cutting – we found mixed in with the clay as backfilled atop the sewer lots of monster sized tree stumps and tree roots with saw cut ends. You can see some of these bits of stumps at the left of this photo. It’s not uncommon for us to find evidence of prehistoric swamp vegetation well preserved in the anaerobic clay at great depth below the city. Image: Hamish Williams.

They didn’t have any mechanical excavators back in 1881, which means that the Drainage Board contractors had to dig the sewer trench by hand, using pick, spade, and shovel. As well as digging, they also had to do cutting – we found lots of monster-sized tree stumps and tree roots with saw-cut ends mixed in with clay that had been used to backfill the sewer after construction. You can see some of these bits of stumps at the left of this photo. It’s not uncommon for us to find evidence of prehistoric swamp vegetation well preserved in the anaerobic clay at great depth below the city. Image: Hamish Williams.

We didn’t find much by way of artefacts in the backfill atop the sewer, with the exception of broken taper bricks. These bricks had evidently fractured because of the large clinkerous inclusions contained within. Useless for construction, they had been left by the bricklayer aside the crown arch.  Image: Hamish Williams

We didn’t find much in the way of artefacts in the backfill atop the sewer, with the exception of broken taper bricks. These bricks had evidently fractured because of the large clinkerous inclusions contained within. Useless for construction, they were apparently left by the bricklayer beside the crown arch. Image: Hamish Williams.

Found in close association with these broken taper bricks was a small red pebble with an attractive white stripe. This is by definition not an artefact (it was not made or modified by humans) but is a manuport (it is a natural object transported from its original location and is otherwise unmodified). This pretty pebble I reckon must have been picked up somewhere by one of the sewer gang boys back in the day before it was lost on the job, maybe falling out a pocket.  I can’t think that such an awesome find would have been deliberately discarded, unless perhaps the peer pressure of a ‘manly man’ on the sewer gang who collects pretty pebbles in his spare time was a contributing factor? Archaeology can never answer such questions for us – but it’s nice to ponder them all the same. Image: Hamish Williams

Found in close association with these broken taper bricks was a small red pebble with an attractive white stripe. This is by definition not an artefact (it was not made or modified by humans) but is a manuport (it is a natural object transported from its original location and is otherwise unmodified). I reckon this pretty pebble must have been picked up somewhere by one of the sewer gang boys back in the day before it was lost on the job, maybe falling out of a pocket. I can’t think that such an awesome find would have been deliberately discarded, unless perhaps the peer pressure of a ‘manly man’ on the sewer gang who collects pretty pebbles in his spare time was a contributing factor? Archaeology can never answer such questions for us – but it’s nice to ponder them all the same. Image: Hamish Williams.

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I thought that perhaps at depth we would find in situ 19th century trench shoring timbers, which would have had to have had to have been put in place to stop the sides of the trench collapsing (today we mostly use steel trench shields, but if we have to go super deep, sometimes interlocking sheet piles). This was not to be however, but we did find in the outer faces of the concrete sewer invert the casts from where these would have once been. 200 mm x 100mm timber set some 200 mm apart were evidently used to support the walls of the trench. These had been pulled out and presumably used to line the next stretch while the concrete was still wet. Images: Hamish Williams.

I thought that perhaps at depth we would find in situ 19th century trench shoring timbers, which would have been put in place to stop the sides of the trench collapsing (today we mostly use steel trench shields, but the work has to go super deep, sometimes interlocking sheet piles). This was not to be, but we did find the casts from where these would have once been in the outer faces of the concrete sewer invert. Pieces of 200 mm x 100 mm timber set some 200 mm apart were evidently used to support the walls of the trench. These had been pulled out and presumably used to line the next stretch while the concrete was still wet. Images: Hamish Williams.

Working in an area with a high water table was a challenge while we were working on fixing the sewer, even though we had dewatering system of pumps set up to make our subterranean works area as dry as possible. How did they manage this back in the day when they built the sewer? Evidently with some difficulty – at the start of construction, the Drainage Board reported that the [sewer] works on the South Belt are in very troublesome ground, with much water and running sand, and the progress is consequently slow (Press 22.2.1881:3). They had pumps, yes, but these coal powered steam driven pumping devices were probably not as effective as the diesel powered pumps we have available today. They were clever however – first installing a line of earthenware pipes within a smaller gravel filled trench, which we hope would have removed a great deal of the water away from where they were pouring concrete and laying bricks – presumably to a pumping collection point further down the trench line. You can just make out this 19th century dewatering system in place below the concrete invert in this photo. Image: Pieter White.

Working in an area with a high water table was a challenge while working on fixing the sewer, even though there was a dewatering system of pumps set up to make the subterranean works area as dry as possible. How did they manage this back in the day when they built the sewer? Evidently with some difficulty – at the start of construction, the Drainage Board reported that “the [sewer] works on the South Belt are in very troublesome ground, with much water and running sand, and the progress is consequently slow” (Press 22/2/1881:3). They had pumps, yes, but these coal-powered steam-driven pumping devices were probably not as effective as the diesel powered pumps we have available today. They were clever, however – first installing a line of earthenware pipes within a smaller gravel filled trench, which we hope would have removed a great deal of the water away from where they were pouring concrete and laying bricks – presumably to a pumping collection point further down the trench line. You can just make out this 19th century dewatering system in place below the concrete invert in this photo. Image: Pieter White.

Not surprisingly, when we removed one of these pipes it was choked with liquefaction silt. Image: Hamish Williams.

Not surprisingly, when one of these pipes was removed SCIRT found that it was choked with liquefaction silt. Image: Hamish Williams.

A very happy Ty Laskey from Donaldson Civil with one of these earthenware dewatering pipes we managed to recover intact. Unlike earthenware pipes for sewerage applications which are always glazed, these particular pipes were unglazed, and had been laid dry; that is to say without any cement mortar between the individual pipes to allow for the free infiltration of water. Image: Hamish Williams.

A very happy Ty Laskey from Donaldson Civil with one of these earthenware dewatering pipes that was recovered intact. Unlike earthenware pipes for sewerage applications, which are always glazed, these particular pipes were unglazed, and had been laid dry; that is to say without any cement mortar between the individual pipes to allow for the free infiltration of water. Image: Hamish Williams.

Many thanks to SCIRT,  Downer and Donaldson Civil for a job well done, and especially to Moorhouse Avenue businesses and motorists for their patience while SCIRT has been working on fixing this and other damaged horizontal infrastructure in the area.

Hamish Williams

Below the belt: part 1

This week on the blog we take you on a journey down the South Belt sewer, one of Christchurch’s many 19th century wastewater sewers. Located deep below the east-bound lane of Moorhouse Avenue and more than a kilometre in length, construction of this sewer began in 1881 and was completed in early 1882. Recently, as part of SCIRT’s horizontal infrastructure rebuild program, their Downer delivery team and sub-contractors Donaldson Civil replaced a 30 metre long upstream section of this sewer where a blockage had occurred. In this part 1 of a 2 part sewer archaeology special – we look at how this sewer was built, how it got blocked, and how it got fixed. Enjoy!

Before we got digging, we put a sewer inspection robot down into the sewer, the footage it recorded helped us to determine the location of the blockage, and thus where to dig. Image: Hamish Williams.

Before the digging started, the crew put a sewer inspection robot down into the sewer. The footage it recorded helped to determine the location of the blockage, and thus where to dig. Image: Hamish Williams.

We dug down more than 2.5 metres to reach the brick crown arch, downstream of the blockage location. It was neat to see a thin smear of cement mortar had been applied to the top of the arch – where the bricklayer more than 130 years ago had cleaned off his trowel. Image: Hamish Williams.

The team dug down more than 2.5 metres to reach the brick crown arch, downstream of the blockage location. It was neat to see a thin smear of cement mortar had been applied to the top of the arch – where the bricklayer more than 130 years ago had cleaned off his trowel. Image: Hamish Williams.

Using a concrete saw, we cut through the crown arch...Image: Hamish Williams.

Using a concrete saw, they cut through the crown arch…

...and were most surprised to find a 30+ metre long sewer snake trapped inside! This snake (actually a high pressure sewer cleaning jet) had got stuck some time ago while trying to swim upstream. There was no flow in the sewer at all, only 60 mm of stinky sewage water. Images: Hamish Williams.

…and were most surprised to find a 30+ metre long sewer snake trapped inside! This snake (actually a high pressure sewer cleaning jet) had got stuck some time ago while trying to swim upstream. There was no flow in the sewer at all, only 60 mm of stinky sewage water. Images: Hamish Williams.

Of an oviform or ‘egg’ shape, the base of the sewer (that’s what the invert is called in pipelaying speak) was made of unreinforced concrete. The upper crown arch was formed of specially shaped taper bricks, 13 of which were required to span the arch. In the photo on the left you can see the resin impregnated fabric liner that was installed inside the sewer circa 2009, and at right one of engineer William Clark’s original 1878 oviform sewer design drawings. The sewerage system that he designed for the Christchurch Drainage Board became fully operational in early September 1882, and many parts of this system are still in use today. Images: (at left) Hamish Williams and at right, after Clark (1878) Drainage Scheme for Christchurch and the Suburbs.

Of an oviform or ‘egg’ shape, the base of the sewer (that’s what the invert is called in pipelaying speak) was made of unreinforced concrete. The upper crown arch was formed of specially shaped taper bricks, 13 of which were required to span the arch. In the photo on the left you can see the resin impregnated fabric liner that was installed inside the sewer circa 2009, and at right one of engineer William Clark’s original 1878 oviform sewer design drawings. The sewerage system that he designed for the Christchurch Drainage Board became fully operational in early September 1882, and many parts of this system are still in use today. Images: (left) Hamish Williams, (right) after Clark (1878) Drainage Scheme for Christchurch and the Suburbs.

A section of this liner was cut out and used as a mould to custom make two PVC plastic transition pieces, as we were replacing the damaged section of sewer with pipe of a circular shape. Image: Hamish Williams.

A section of this liner was cut out and used as a mould to custom make two PVC plastic transition pieces, as the damaged section of sewer was replaced with pipe of a circular shape. Image: Hamish Williams.

A special wire cutting saw was brought in to make a clean cut through the sewer, so we could firmly fix the downstream transition piece to it, before this join was encased in reinforced concrete. Future archaeologists should have no issues determining when this concrete was poured! Images: Kane Reihana (at left) and Hamish Williams (at right).

A special wire cutting saw was brought in to make a clean cut through the sewer, so the downstream transition piece could be firmly fixed to it, before this join was encased in reinforced concrete. Future archaeologists should have no issues determining when this concrete was poured! Images: (left) Kane Reihana and (right) Hamish Williams.

When we got to the blockage, our suspicions about the cause of the blockage were confirmed. Although the sewer itself had not suffered any form of structural collapse, liquefaction silt had entered the sewer through cracks in the brickwork and had constricted the liner, blocking the flow of sewage. Images: Kane Reihana (at left) and Hamish Williams (at right).

When the blockage was reached, suspicions about the cause of the blockage were confirmed. Although the sewer itself had not suffered any form of structural collapse, liquefaction silt had entered the sewer through cracks in the brickwork and had constricted the liner, blocking the flow of sewage. Images: (left) Kane Reihana  and (right) Hamish Williams.

Ben McConochie fits the upstream transition piece in place with epoxy mortar before the concrete is poured. Image: Hamish Williams.

Ben McConochie fits the upstream transition piece in place with epoxy mortar before the concrete is poured. Image: Hamish Williams.

All done! Image: Hamish Williams.

All done! Image: Hamish Williams.

Many thanks to SCIRT, Downer and Donaldson Civil for a job well done, and especially to Moorhouse Avenue businesses and motorists for their patience while SCIRT has been working on fixing this and other damaged horizontal infrastructure in the area.

Hamish Williams.

The dilapidatedly grand villa

This week we are treating you to a photographic tale of the life of a Cantabrian abode. Come with us now on a journey through time and space, to the wonderful world of dilapidated Victorian villas…

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Between 1904 and 1905 Mr. Andrew McNeil Paterson, a salesman, built this rather grand residence. In its former glory the house had a total of eight rooms, including a scullery, pantry and bathroom. Image: Kirsa Webb.

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Mr. Paterson’s dining room with faceted bay windows. Image: Kirsa Webb.

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Detail of decorative cornice in the dining room. Image: Kirsa Webb.

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The perforated ceiling rose in the dining room. Perforated ceiling roses helped ventilate rooms with fireplaces. This one was the most decorative ceiling rose that remained in the villa. Image: Peter Mitchell.

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The turret bay window of the drawing room. The door on the left led to the modern addition of a bathroom, where the original verandah would have run. Image: Kirsa Webb.

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Detail of unperforated ceiling rose in drawing room. Image: Peter Mitchell.

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Original perforated ceiling rose in the hallway. Image: Peter Mitchell.

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Ornate cornice detail of the original hallway. Image: Kirsa Webb.

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Detail of a perforated ceiling rose in a bedroom, which was significantly smaller than the other remaining ceiling roses in the house. Image: Peter Mitchell.

Despite its grandiose design, Mr. Paterson soon grew tired of the villa and sold the house just four years later. Over the next couple of decades the dwelling was home to a collection of different occupants. However, as was common practice in Christchurch during the Depression, this ornate villa was eventually divided up into a jigsaw puzzle of single bedroom flats.

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2011 plan of Mr. Paterson’s former residence divided into four flats. Image: Francesca Bradley.

And it was this jigsaw of four derelict flats Underground Overground Archaeology had to piece together to bring you the story of Mr. Andrew McNeil Paterson and his once grandiose residence.

Francesca Bradley

A local Lyttelton landmark lives on

This week on the blog, we look at what we found beneath a local landmark in the community of Lyttelton: the newly refurbished Albion Square.

Refurbished Albion Square, Lyttelton. Image: Christchurch City Council.

Refurbished Albion Square, Lyttelton. Image: Christchurch City Council.

The Albion Square, on the corner of London and Canterbury streets, is home of the Lyttelton War Memorial Cenotaph. It also acts as a community focal point, and is a testament to the recovery of the port town. However, the longer-standing residents of Lyttelton may recall that this was also once the site of the square’s namesake: the historic Albion Hotel.

We can trace the establishment of the first hotel at this site to 1858, when local merchant John Collier was granted a liquor licence, transforming his grocery store into the Albion Hotel. A year later he added a saddle horses for hire business to the rear of the hotel. An 1862 advertisement in the Lyttelton Times, for the lease of the hotel provides the first known description of Collier’s hotel:

The premises consist of a commodious bar, bar parlour, dining and sitting rooms, with 15 bedrooms, making up 24 beds; also skittle ground and outhouses. This establishment has for the last three years, been favoured with the support of the settlers of the Peninsula particularly.

Lyttelton Times 1/11/1862: 6.

A map of Lyttelton drawn in the 1860s shows the Albion Hotel fronting London Street. Two smaller buildings are shown to the rear of the hotel. These probably represent the outhouses and stables mentioned in newspaper sources (Lyttelton Times 8/1/1859: 5, 1/11/1862: 2).

Detail of an 1860s map of Lyttelton showing structures extant along London Street at the time. Albion  Hotel section outlined in red. Image: Rice 2004: 28.

Detail of an 1860s map of Lyttelton showing structures extant along London Street at the time. Albion Hotel section outlined in red. Image: Rice 2004: 28.

Collier was fortunate that his hotel survived the Lyttelton fire of 1870, which destroyed much of the Lyttelton central business district. In 1881, the original building was sold and removed from the site (Press 14/1/1881: 4). The sale advertisement described the old building as:

Covered with slates, and contains a large quantity of timber and bricks while the intended replacement was a stylish brick edifice to be substituted in its place, whenever the ancient hostelry is removed.

Press 21/1/1881: 2.

Later in 1881 the stables behind the hotel caught fire (Press 22/8/1881: 2). Little damage was done, but the resulting newspaper item indicates the stables were constructed from galvanised iron. The new Albion Hotel continued operating into the 20th century and can be seen in a photograph taken in 1911.  In 1943 a new façade was added to the building (Burgess 2009).

A 1911 photograph showing the Albion Hotel on the corner of London Street and Canterbury Street. Image: Burgess 2009.

A 1911 photograph showing the Albion Hotel on the corner of London Street and Canterbury Street. Image: Burgess 2009.

Over the course of the 19th century, the Albion Hotel and horse for hire business had at least 17 proprietors between them, and more still after the turn of the century. This high turnover complicated the task of attributing the artefacts recovered from the site to a specific individual. The dateable artefacts that were recovered from the site all post-date 1857, confirming that the assemblage was associated with the Albion Hotel. However, serval discreet archaeological features may have been deposited at different times.  The deposition dates of these features range from 1861 to the late 19th century. It is possible that the piece of salvaged roofing slate may have been part of the original Albion Hotel which was removed from the site in 1881 (Press 21/1/1881: 2).

An aerated water bottle manufactured by T. Raine between 1861 and 1871. Image: C. Dickson.

An aerated water bottle manufactured by T. Raine between 1861 and 1871. Image: C. Dickson.

The archaeological material that was recovered was found in a series of rubbish pits, located mainly toward the rear of the hotel site. From this evidence it is apparent that the back of the section was seen as a convenient location to dispose of the breakages and detritus associated with the day-to-day operation of the Albion Hotel. It is possible that the proprietors of the hotel may have deposited waste into these rubbish pits to avoid rubbish collection costs.

The rubbish pits contained combinations of artefacts that are signatures of 19th century hotel sites, such as alcohol bottles, matching serving ware sets and food remains. The alcohol bottles consisted mainly of black beers, though wine bottles, case gin bottles, spirit-shaped bottles and matching glass tumblers were also present. The contents of these bottles cannot be confirmed, as specific alcohol bottle shapes were commonly re-used for alternative purposes. However, it is probable that beer, wine, gin and other spirits were being served at the Albion Hotel. These vessels are also likely to only represent a fraction of the alcohol that was served. The presence of disposable clay pipes with use-wear indicates that the hotel patrons were also smoking at this site.

Rubbish pit feature consisting largely of broken 19th century alcohol bottles. Scale is in 200 mm increments. Image: M. Carter.

Rubbish pit feature consisting largely of broken 19th century alcohol bottles. Scale is in 200 mm increments. Image: M. Carter.

Stem of a clay smoking pipe manufactured by Charles Crop, London between 1856 to c.1891. Image: C. Dickson.

Stem of a clay smoking pipe manufactured by Charles Crop, London between 1856 to c.1891. Image: C. Dickson.

The matching decorative patterns that were found on ceramic tableware and servingware sets are representative of a standardised material culture, and this fashion can be associated with the Victorian idea of social respectability (Samford 1997). It is possible that this servingware is an indication that food was served at the hotel. However, there was a notable absence of condiment bottles from this site. This is unusual, as condiment bottles are typically abundant in 19th century hotel sites.

Fragments of platter and dinner plate set decorated with under-graze transfer print technique. Image C. Dickson.

Fragments of platter and dinner plate set decorated with under-graze transfer print technique. Image C. Dickson.

A number of animal bones with butchery marks were also recovered, the most common of which were cuts of lamb and mutton leg. It is probable that these cuts were being served to the patrons of the Albion Hotel. Shellfish, including oyster, rock oyster, cockle and cat’s eye were also recovered. These are all species that were locally available. There is a notable absence of fish and bird remains from the faunal assemblage. This is unusual, as 19th century hotels have been found to be more likely to serve fish and bird than private houses (Watson 2000).

A newspaper advertisement indicates that the Albion Hotel had rooms at the back that were for the owner’s family (Press 9/5/1882: 3). While both commercial and domestic items were recovered from this site, there appears to be a lack of domestic items that are typically associated with family homes. With the exception of chamber pots, this may be because hotel guests would bring these personal items with them during their visits, and would be unlikely to leave them at the hotel to be discarded.

The Albion Hotel artefact assemblage is comparable to other 19th hotel assemblages in Christchurch, such as the Oxford-on-Avon Hotel and the Zetland Arms/Parkers Hotel. All three sites yielded large quantities of alcohol bottles, with black beer bottles being the most prominent. Glass servingware and matching decorative ceramic servingware sets were also present at all sites: the Asiatic Pheasants pattern was dominant at the Oxford-on-Avon, and Willow pattern was well represented at the Zetland Arms/Parkers Hotel, while the Albion Hotel appears to have had sets of Willow and unidentified sponged and leaf tableware sets. Unlike Zetland Arms/Parkers Hotel, no evidence that could be associated with the neighbouring stables (such as horseshoes) was recovered from this site, despite the fact that the saddled horse for hire business appears to have been long-running at this address.

Matching sponged teacup and saucer set. Image: C. Dickson.

Matching sponged teacup and saucer set. Image: C. Dickson.

By combining the historical and archaeological information from the Albion Hotel site, the activities of those who lived there was revealed to show the use and modification of the section over time. This assemblage has shed light on the operation of a 19th century hotel in Lyttelton, and the provision of food and drink in this context. This site is also comparable to other 19th century hotels within Christchurch, and has the potential to add to our general understanding of similar establishments in the area. This analysis has salvaged a snapshot of one of Lyttelton’s historic watering holes, adding to the charisma of the vibrant entertainment hub of modern Lyttelton.

 Chelsea Dickson

References

Burgess, R., 2009. Registration Report for Historic a Area: Lyttelton Township Historic Area (Vol. 2). Unpublished report for New Zealand Historic Places trust Pouhere Toanga.

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed July 2014].

Press. [online] Available at: www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed July 2014].

Rice, G., 2004. Lyttelton: Port and town. An illustrated history. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Samford, Patricia M., 1997. Response to a market: Dating English underglaze transfer‐printed wares. Historical Archaeology 31 (2): 1‐30.

Watson, K., 2000. A land of plenty? Unpublished Masters thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of Otago.

Blowing smoke: clay pipes, advertising and other things in the 19th century

As the study of human history, it comes as no surprise that archaeology can be an exercise in contradictions. Humans are, after all, complex and paradoxical creatures. From a material culture perspective, one of the most obvious and frustrating incongruities lies in the dissonance between a profession with classification at the heart of its investigative method and a subject – a world – that defies easy classification. People, and the things we create, the objects we use, are not easy to put into tidy little boxes, however much we might like to do so.

This is particularly obvious when it comes to understanding the role of objects in the past, specifically, the different ways in which we have used them. Many of the artefacts we find in the archaeological record are likely to have had more than one function during their ‘uselife’. Sometimes this is a result of re-use: a teacup repurposed as a measuring cup, a beer bottle base used as a preserving jar, a coin turned into jewellery. Sometimes an artefact can have several different purposes, depending on how you look at them and why they are being used: ointments with both medical and cosmetic qualities, for example, or coffee cans that are as much souvenirs as they are objects for drinking out of. Children’s ceramics that were simultaneously intended to be vessels for children to eat off and objects which reinforced educational and social ideals.

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Artefacts with more than one use. Left: souvenir cups, functioning as both drinking vessels and mementos. Right: alcohol bottles with the tops cut off to turn them into preserving jars. Image: J. Garland & G. Jackson, K. Bone.

Another good example of this is the humble clay pipe, an object which, on the surface, has a fairly definitive and obvious purpose – smoking tobacco (or flammable substance of your choice, I suppose). Yet there are numerous recorded instances in the past of clay pipes being used for activities that have nothing to do with smoking. Archaeological investigations in the United States have discovered clay pipe stems converted into penny whistles through the addition of drilled holes, while other accounts describe the use of stems as hair curlers (when warmed, of course), gardening aids (for killing bugs in carnations, specifically) and even murder weapons (Walker 1976). One record recounted the use of clay pipes as a prop in dancing, “where about a dozen pipes were laid close together on the floor and the dancer placed the toe of his boot between them while keeping time to the music” (Walker 1976: 125). Our own New Zealand newspapers advertise their use as bubble-blowing instruments for children and the occasional adult (Observer 17/05/1902: 7). There’s even an excellent and somewhat disturbing illustration of their use in the application of horse enemas for the treatment of ‘lilac passion’ in the 17th century (I kid you not).

A selection of alternative uses for clay smoking pipes. The expression on the horse's face is priceless. Images:

A selection of alternative uses for clay smoking pipes (the expression on the horse’s face is priceless). Images: Auckland Star  19/11/1936: 26,Observer 17/05/1902: 7, Society for Clay Pipe Research 1984.

With the exception of the bubble blowing, which used new pipes, all of these alternative uses were, presumably, carried out after the pipe in question had been smoked (although in the case of the horse enemas, all bets are off). They’re cases of re-use, the 19th century (or earlier) recycling of an object that was no longer wanted or needed for its original purpose. We see this with quite a few artefact types, but most often with glass bottles and jars (we’ve talked about it a little on the blog before). There’s another use for clay pipes, however, that relates directly to their nature as a highly visible and easily available object on which any motif, slogan or name can be displayed. This function was exploited by people in the 19th century for all kinds of political, social and commercial objectives including, as is evident in Christchurch’s archaeological record, advertising.

We recently found a large assemblage of clay pipes on one of our sites in central Christchurch, including fourteen pipes bearing an oval mark with HEYWOOD / LYTTELTON / NZ impressed on the bowls. The mark refers to the business of Mr Joseph Martin Heywood, general commission agent, insurance agent, customs agent, goods transporter and all around 19th century entrepreneur. Heywood first set himself up in business as a general commission agent in Lyttelton in 1851 in partnership with Messrs. Tippetts and Silk, which I think sounds like the name for a detective agency and my co-worker argues sounds like a tailor’s shop (crime fighting tailors?; CCL 2013). The partnership dissolved, and Heywood went on to expand his business into Christchurch: in addition to his premises on Norwich Quay in Lyttelton he also had a building on the corner of Colombo Street and Cathedral Square in the city (Star 22/10/1897: 2, Press 19/12/1908: 8). His business interests expanded as well, going from ‘general commission agent’ to operating a customs house and a ‘cartage’ company, involved with the storage and transportation of goods between Lyttelton and Christchurch. He was exceedingly successful, securing the railway contract for the delivery of goods between the two towns in 1879 and holding it until 1896 (Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1903).

Selection of Heywood pipes found on one site in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

Selection of Heywood pipes found on one site in Christchurch. Image: J. Garland.

We’ve found pipes with his mark on them on a couple of sites in the city, dating from the 1860s to the 1880s. All of them refer to the Lyttelton store, suggesting to me that this was the premises most closely associated with Heywood or the one from which the pipes were sold (although they could easily have been sold from the Christchurch store). At least one advertisement for the Norwich Quay store lists “pipes, meerschaum washed (Heywood’s)” available for purchase, telling us that, although the ones we’ve found aren’t meerschaum, Heywood definitely sold pipes bearing his name in his store (Lyttelton Times 31/07/1861).

A close up of the Heywood / Lyttelton mark found on the pipes. Image: J. Garland.

A close up of the Heywood / Lyttelton mark found on the pipes. Image: J. Garland.

All the pipes that we’ve found with the Heywood mark were also made by Charles Crop, a prolific London pipe maker, making it likely that Heywood commissioned pipes exclusively from the one manufacturer. It’s not likely to have cost him very much: one price catalogue from 1875 for D. MacDougall and Co. gives a price of 2 pence for a gross extra (12 dozen or 144) of “pipes stamped with name on bowl or stem” (Sudbury 1978: 106). He also wasn’t the only one to do it. We’ve featured pipes bearing the mark of Twentyman and Cousin and Trent Brothers here on the blog before. This suggests to me that not only was this a common thing for pipe-makers to offer, but it was a relatively common thing for Christchurch businesses to commission and use clay smoking pipes as a means of advertising for their own companies. Not just Christchurch businesses, either: we’ve found at least one pipe with the name of an Australian tobacconist business on it as well.

Two clay pipes marked with the names of local Christchurch retailers. Image: J. Garland.

Pipes marked with the names of Trent Brothers and Twentyman & Cousin, local Christchurch businesses. Image: J. Garland.

It’s not that surprising, when you think about it. As a cheap and disposable item (one of the 19th century’s first truly disposable objects), clay pipes provided an excellent medium for advertising a range of products and businesses throughout the European world. They were everywhere: pipe smoking was exceedingly popular during the 19th century, and was one of the few activities that crossed almost all social and status boundaries in society. Anyone could smoke a pipe. They were highly visible: marks or decoration on the front of a pipe bowl would be seen by anyone in conversation with or even just sight of the smoker, while marks on the back of the bowl were in the eyeline of the smokers themselves. Even their fleeting existence was an advantage: being disposable items allowed advertisers to not only continue to sell or distribute them, again and again, but also to change or update their marks, emblems or decoration as they wished.

They were most often used to advertise the associated paraphernalia of smoking, as one would expect, from tobacco and tobacconists’ shops to the pipe makers themselves (Walker 1976). Increasingly, though, as the 19th century unfolded, they were used to advertise the general businesses of merchants and agents, locally and internationally, and it’s interesting that this is the only type that we’ve found in Christchurch. All three of our locally commissioned pipe examples relate to businesses that have nothing to do with the smoking industry itself. Heywood had many fingers in many pies, but none of them were specifically related to tobacco, while Trent Brothers operated a chicory farm and Twentyman and Cousin were wholesale and retail ironmongers. I suspect that this simply reflects the fact that by the time these businesses were operating, the value of pipes as merchandise had begun to equal their value as smoking paraphernalia, resulting in their commissioning by a wider variety of business types.

There are all kinds of directions we could go in with these pipes and what they tell us. The use of mass-produced disposable items as an advertising medium is both something that relates to the modern day (basically the 19th century equivalent of the tote-bag?), as well as to the rise of modern consumerist culture and the huge role advertising played in the development and maintenance of that culture. As commissioned objects they tie into the increasingly globalised nature of international trade and goods production, representing in physical forms the relationship that existed between colonial businesses and British manufacturers. Their simultaneous function as an implement of smoking and a form of advertising also has implications for how we look at and understand the role of objects in our lives, both in the past and in the modern day. They fulfil certain purposes in our own lives, but they’re also part of wider social and cultural phenomena that we may not even think about which shape, and have shaped, the world around us.

Jessie Garland

References

CCL (Christchurch City Libraries), 2015. [online] Available at www.christchurchcitylibraries.com. 

Cyclopedia Company Ltd., 1903. Cyclopedia of New Zealand: Canterbury Provincial Distict. Cyclopedia Company Ltd., Christchurch. [online] Available at www.nzetc.victoria.ac.nz.

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

Observer. [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. 

Sudbury, B., 1978. Additional Notes on Alternative Uses for Clay Tobacco Pipes and Tobacco Pipe Fragments. Historical Archaeology, Vol. 12: 105-107.

Walker, I., 1976. Alternative Uses for Clay Tobacco Pipes and Tobacco Pipe Fragments. Historical Archaeology, Vol. 10: 124-127.