A selection of the most interesting bits and pieces we’ve been working with recently here in Christchurch.
A selection of the most interesting bits and pieces we’ve been working with recently here in Christchurch.
Few would suspect that the now empty lot on the corner of Worcester, Gloucester and Manchester streets was once home to the famous Waverley Wine Vaults.
Previously known as the Australasian Wine Vaults, the business was established in the late 1870s by New Zealand pioneer Edwin Coxhead Mouldey (Press 22/5/1897: 5). Mouldey, along with parents Moses and Eleanor, siblings Moses, Mary-Ann, William, Phoebe, Eleanor and relatives Henry and Sophia, were one of the pioneer families who emigrated to New Zealand on The Cressy in 1850.
In 1869, leaving the confectionery business he had established in Lyttelton to his eldest son Walter, Mouldey purchased 4 ha of land in the Heathcote valley. Here, Edwin established his vineyard, featuring plum, apricot, pear, peach and tomato plants. Mouldey also built a homestead on the site, where he, his wife Jessie Landers and their five children Ethel, Walter-Edwin, Frederick, Amy-Eleanor and Eva-Rebecca resided (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
While life in the valley may have seemed oh-so-sweet, it was not without tragedy for the Mouldey family. Frederick Mouldey, who was a keen rabbit hunter on the Heathcote hills, was found dead after failing to meet his father at the family bach in Sumner in 1914. His death was listed as accidental, as it appeared his shotgun had mistakenly gone off and the shell had lodged in Frederick’s throat (Press 09/03/1914: 9).
Walter Mouldey, the eldest of Edwin’s sons, became well known in the community for his strength and as an amateur sportsman. At just 19, Mouldey’s chest measures a staggering 43 inches and he was ranked among the 10 strongest men in the world. In the early 20th century Walter added a gymnasium to the Mouldey homestead, where notable visiting boxers were often invited for a round or two in the ring. One of the more prestigious visitors was Bob Fitzsimmons, who held three boxing world titles between 1891 and 1905 (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
In 1914 when war broke out and New Zealand didn’t immediately join the war efforts, Walter (who had previously fought in the Boer War) purchased a ticket to England and joined the Lancashire Fusiliers. During his time in the Fusiliers, Walter rose to the rank of lieutenant, but was severely gassed in France and sustained a leg injury from a splintering shell. His outstanding physique was thought to be the only thing that saved him from death (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
The Mouldeys most prosperous venture was the Waverley Wine Vaults. Originally named the Australasian Wine Vaults, Edwin began his wine making at his Heathcote Valley property in 1869. While the fruit trees prevailed, grapes were not as easy to procure as Edwin had hoped, and so he was limited to making fruit wines (Press 22/5/1897: 5).
In 1888, Edwin moved his business into what was formerly Gee’s school room, on Town Sections 688, 689, 690 and 691. With this move, the wine vaults grew both in size, and success (Press 22/5/1897: 5). The vineyards achieved their peak in 1907, when they produced 1,150 gallons of wine, 105 gallons of spirits, 1,413 gallons of sherry and a staggering 162 gallons of fortifying fruit spirits (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
Advertisements from the period promote the sale of port wine, sherry, verdeilho, red and white constantia and other light wines (Press 27/11/1901: 12).
In 1913 after the death of his wife, Edwin sold the Heathcote Valley vineyard to the Booth family, stepping down to allow eldest son Walter to carry on the lease and management of the Worcester Street winery until 1939 (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
Advertisements and articles from the period are a stark difference to the way in which we advertise alcohol today. In an article about Mouldey and the wine business, the industry is described as “commendable” and Edwin describes the need for “encouragement” for people (referring in particular to families) to consume more alcohol, by way of lower prices and a license to retail his wines (Press 22/5/1897: 5)
The wine business didn’t come without its bumps along the way, however, and the Mouldey family experienced some significant challenges. In 1888, Edwin Mouldey was declared bankrupt just 5 years after he originally leased and mortgaged the town sections on which he situated the Waverley Wine Vaults (Star 7/1/1888: 2). A vesting order was taken out on all the sites in the same year, which is believed to have been the reason Mouldey was able to stay in business.
In 1907, Walter Mouldey was caught delivering a package of unlabelled port wine to George Bales in Ashburton, which was at the time a no-license district. Walter was charged with making the delivery, and further charged with failing to send the requisite notice to the Clerk of the Court (Ashburton Guardian 15/2/1907: 3).
Despite these indiscretions, the Mouldey family were held in high respect within the community. Eva-Rebecca took her love for art and made a distinguished career for herself, under her married name of Mewton. She exhibited some of her water colour drawings in London, which featured scenery from Switzerland, Austria and Bombay, showing the distance of her travels (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
Amy-Eleanor succeeded in a ‘first aid to the injured’ course, passing in the Medallion section, and received many awards during her school days (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
Edwin lived to be 83, and maintained a distinguished reputation within the Canterbury community. The Waverley Wine Vaults was the first distillery in the South Island, and although after 1939 the distillery was re-purposed into a packing facility, several other wine merchants came into business in Christchurch during the middle of the 20th century, following in Mouldey’s footsteps (Ogilvie 2009: 134-135).
From 1959 the Heathcote valley property was farmed by Jack and Lucy Labuddle and Rolfe Bond, after Walter officially retired from the business in 1939 and moved into the seafaring business, followed by his two sons Andrew and David.
Olgivie, G., 2009. The Port Hills of Christchurch. Phillips and King Publishers, Christchurch.
It is a well-known truth, in this office at least, that archaeology and whisky go well together. Or, perhaps more accurately, that archaeologists and whisky go well together. With a few exceptions (you know who you are, gin drinkers), it is not at all uncommon to find yourself in the company of an archaeologist with a fine appreciation for a single malt (or two, or three). With that in mind, it’s a bit of a wonder that we haven’t thought to write a blog post combining the two before now (honestly, archaeology and whisky are two of my favourite things, what were we thinking).
It won’t surprise any of our readers, I think, to hear that alcohol bottles are one of the most common artefacts we find on 19th century sites (here in Christchurch and throughout New Zealand). Despite the temperance movement in the late 19th century and the many discussions and testimonies about the evils of the demon drink, alcohol remained a popular product. As with the gin bottles we discussed a while back, however, it can be difficult to know exactly which types of alcohol were originally contained in these bottles – unless we have a label or embossing (and even then, these bottles were reused over and over again for a variety of products). Fortunately for this post, as it happens, we’ve been lucky enough to find a few examples that do have labels, each with their own story to tell about whisky consumption in Christchurch.
Papers Past. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.
Townsend, B., 2015. Scotch Missed: The Original Guide to the Lost Distilleries of Scotland. Neil Wilson Publishing, England.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like oysters – they’re slimy, they look weird and they taste like the sea. So perhaps I was affected more than your average person when I recently had the task of analysing an assemblage of artefacts that provided an abundance of similarly decorated stoneware jars. These jars were all the same form, one which I had never come across before. A quick internet search determined that some collectors refer to these as ‘oyster jars’ – this was an unfamiliar term for me, and it piqued my curiosity. Further research revealed that the canning and pickling of oysters was a common enterprise in 19th century Canterbury and around the world!
Now, not being a fan of them, the idea of other people not only eating oysters, but eating old oysters, wasn’t appetising. But I looked at a few recipes online and, actually, the concept didn’t seem so bad – vinegar and cayenne pepper form a part of my regular diet…
Normally, it is difficult to determine the original contents of a vessel without manufacturer labels. In fact, jars and bottles with wide mouths like the ones from my assemblage may have been used to store or pickle any number of food or condiment varieties, or even viscous household items like glue or shoe polish. This being said, the large number of oyster shells that were found in the rubbish pit alongside the jars did suggest that these two items were related in this instance – and it is possible that the 19th century family that lived in the associated Rangiora house pickled their own oysters.
The canning and preserving of oysters has taken place since 1850 (Hunt 2010), and oysters have been a commonly consumed fresh food resource here and around the world since ancient times – their consumption can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Chinese, and they are commonly found in early Māori rubbish deposits (referred to by Māori as tio). European industrialisation in the 18th and 19th centuries made these slippery morsels readily available to everyone and saw them become the great unifier – enjoyed by the wealthy and the poor. It was during this period that New York became the oyster capital of the world and it is said that in any day during this late 19th century, six million oysters could be found on barges tied up along the New York harbour waterfront (Happillion 2016). The catch was sold to New Yorkers everywhere from street corners to high class restaurants and in every way imaginable – in the half shell, roasted and in stews.
So ingrained were oysters in 19th century popular culture they can be seen everywhere – we witness the lure of an oyster meal for both the working class and the upper class alike in Lewis Carroll’s 1871 The Walrus and the Carpenter poem, from Through the Looking Glass. In this classic children’s story, we see the overweight and well-dressed walrus swindle the hardworking carpenter out of his oyster meal, while tricking the unlucky and naïve oysters into taking part in a buffet where they’re on the menu. Perhaps not all of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland were based on nonsense?
From the 1860s oysters were increasingly popular among European settlers in the colonies, and by the 1880s New Zealand joined the oyster craze with the emergence of the oyster saloon – otherwise known as the ‘oyster bar’, the ‘oyster house’ or the ‘raw bar’. Such establishments sought to offer the freshest and tastiest oysters available – generally claiming to provide fresh stock daily (New Zealand Tablet 7/8/1896: 14). Now this may not always have been the case – oysters were available locally in Christchurch and Lyttelton, but the ever popular Stewart Island beds were also supplying to Canterbury during this period (Star 17/4/1875: 1). It was during this time that Christchurch saw the emergence of several fine dining oyster options – Cashel Street’s Café De Paris provided not only the finest oysters night or day, but also quality beverages, operatic entertainment and a separate section for ladies. The establishment claimed to be ‘the best in the colony’ and its success lasted well into the 20th century.
At the opposite end of the etiquette scale, the more typical oyster saloon quickly became synonymous with drinking – being one of the only places to purchase cheap food late at night, as an accompaniment to beer. The phrase ‘red light’ district’ was derived from New York oyster bars, which put up red balloons to indicate that the oysters had arrived, and in London, the lighthouse building at King’s Cross flashed a beam from its turret (Smith 2015). Unsurprisingly, these establishments also developed a reputation as houses of vice – news reports from this era are frequently linked to crime –anything from publicans supplying liquor without licences (Press 2/11/1901: 7) and the use of obscene language (Star 27/7/1885: 3) to violent encounters between patrons – male and female (Press 15/7/1881: 2). There are even reports of violence between patrons and establishment owners – take this report for example: three individuals named Maloney, Larsen and Creasey (these names reminded us of some sort of gangster pantomime), got into an altercation with an oyster bar proprietor, who stabbed Maloney in the side and wounded his side-kick (Grey River Argus 26/5/1898: 4). Such reports are accompanied by letters from concerned Cantabrians, who write into the paper questioning the appropriateness of such establishments being located “under the shadow of the cathedral spire” (Star 14/3/1882: 2).
Further connections were made between the oyster’s aphrodisiac qualities and Victorian vice in the popular 19th century erotic magazine The Oyster, which was printed and distributed privately in London from 1883. This publication and its predecessor, The Pearl, were banned, and its author was prosecuted for the risqué content – which you can see for yourself did not consist of mere pictures of ladies’ ankles (reproductions of the issues are still available on Amazon. This is interesting stuff from before the times when science made the link between oysters being a food source high in zinc (which raises testosterone levels), as well as a source of rare amino acids that increase levels of sex hormones in men and women. Such nutritional values were also possibly known to 18th century Casanova – who reputedly consumed 50 oysters for breakfast daily, and claimed to have seduced 122 women. Or perhaps he was part of the tradition that saw oysters as an aphrodisiac due to their visual similarities with their form and that of the female anatomy…? (Schulman 2008).
Looking back further – Aphrodite (goddess of love and sex) was born from a mollusc shell and the ancient Roman physician, Galen of Pergamon, described oysters as aphrodisiacs because they were a food that was moist and warm… This being said, Galen said the same for all ‘windy’ foods (those which produce gas – if that’s what you’re into), and going even further back, Babylonians looking to increase sexual appetites bit the heads off partridges, ate their hearts and drank their blood, while the ancient Greeks dined on sparrow brains to produce a similar effect (Thring 2011; Camphausen 1999; Hoppe 2015). But I digress…
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the reign of the humble yet hazardous oyster saloon was not to last. One can still frequent bars that specialise exclusively in oyster delicacies in cities larger than Christchurch, but over-consumption and the subsequent depletion of our local marine resources saw the end of the oyster as an abundant, ‘cheap and cheerful’ food source. Our government began to intervene as early as 1866, with the Oyster Fisheries Act, which introduced licencing, a fishing season and the creation of artificial beds (New Zealand Parliamentary Debates 18/8/1865).
As a result, oysters eventually claimed their modern status as a luxury item, to be afforded and consumed by the wealthy, or saved for special occasions. The basic idea of the oyster saloon itself evolved into what we now think of as the fish and chip shop, where we are provided with a bevy of convenient and inexpensive (and fried) seafood options. So the tradition isn’t completely dead… But maybe don’t start a bar fight on your next visit your local fish n’ chippy.
Anonymous 2016. The Oyster Vol. 1: The Victorian Underground Magazine of Erotica (online) Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Oyster-Vol-Victorian-Underground-Magazine-ebook/dp/B000MAH5H4.
Camphausen, R. C. 1999. The Encyclopaedia of Sacred Sexuality. Inner Traditions International, Rochester.
Grey River Argus. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed May 2016].
Happillion, C. 2016. The History of Oysters. [online] available at: http://theoystergourmet.com/the-story-of-oysters.
Hoppe, D. Aphrodisiacs in History. Diana Hope, M.D., INCS. [online] Available at: http://www.drdianahoppe.com/aphrodisiacs-in-history-part-1/
Hunt A., L. 2010. Fruits and Vegetables, Fish, and Oysters, Canning and Preserving. Nabu Press, Charleston.
Lincoln, M., J., B. 1884. Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book. Roberts Brothers. [online] Available at: http://digital.lib.msu.edu/projects/cookbooks/books/mrslincoln/linc.pdf
New Zealand Parliamentary Debates 18 August 1865 P326
New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed May 2016]
New Zealand Tablet. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed May 2016]
Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed May 2016]
Shulman M., 2008. The Science of Aphrodisiacs In U.S News & World Report 19/05/2008. [online] available at: http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/sexual-and-reproductive-health/articles/2008/08/19/the-science-of-aphrodisiacs [Accessed May 2016]
Smith, D. 2015. Oyster: A Gastronomic History (with Recipes). Abrams, New York.
Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed May 2016]
Thring, O., 2011. Aphrodisiacs: the food of love? In The Guardian. [online] Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/feb/11/aphrodisiacs-food-of-love. [Accessed May 2016]
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.