Of all the gin joints.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plymouth gin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gin Puff
Old Tom gin
Sugar
Cream
Plain Soda

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

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

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

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

Jessie Garland

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gender matters

Gender matters. And it’s complicated, which is why writing this blog post has been particularly difficult. Why is it so complicated, from an archaeological standpoint? Well, let me try and explain.

Historical archaeology developed as a discipline in the mid-20th century and, at that time, its practitioners made all sorts of sweeping generalisations about the position of women – and other minorities – in the past (as many archaeologists at the time did, regardless of their period of expertise, and as I’m doing now). For the so-called historic period, these assumptions revolved around women as mother and domestic helpmeet, with no roles outside this, little value placed on this role, little recognition that maybe women wanted more than this and little room for any agency on the part of women.

Times have changed, and society now sees gender – and gender roles – quite differently. Historical archaeologists are no exception to this change. We now see considerable value in the role of women in the 19th century and are able to make far more nuanced interpretations about their lives and experiences.

For all this, women are still frustratingly elusive in the archaeological record. There are some artefacts that definitely indicate the presence of a woman at a site, such as a woman’s shoes, clothing or jewellery. It might be possible to use a perfume bottle to definitely link a woman to a site, or perhaps some specific medicines. The presence of girls might be able to be identified through dolls, but boys could just as easily have played with dolls. And anyway, these artefacts do little more than reinforce those gender stereotypes we’ve moved away from. They tell us that there was a woman at the site, and maybe she wore perfume. Or maybe someone gave her some perfume that she didn’t like. Who knows?

But if you’ve got a site that you know was almost exclusively occupied by women for over 40 years, that’s a whole different matter. Especially when that site was occupied by the same family for that period, which is pretty unusual in central Christchurch, regardless of the genders involved.

The site in question was that of Violet Cottage. Even the name sounds feminine, right? Well, that’s how it was known when Dr Thomas Moore – and his family – were living there. The Moore family had bought land in Canterbury in 1850, and emigrated the following year (Greenaway 2007, Lundy 2014). They settled at Charteris Bay initially, before moving to Violet Cottage. Unfortunately for Dr Moore, he only lived at the cottage for two or three years before his untimely death in 1860 (Lyttelton Times 15/2/1860: 4). Following his death, members of his family remained at  the cottage until the 20th century (H Wise and Co 1911). This included Mrs Elizabeth Moore, and the children: Elizabeth, Alice, Thomas, Jane, Ellen, Annie and Emma (H Wise & Co 1878-1979, Lundy 2014). Elizabeth lived at Violet Cottage until her death in 1887 and two of her daughters – Annie and Emma – continued to live at the cottage until the 20th century. We’ve not been able to identify how the women supported themselves after Thomas senior’s death, but there is some evidence to suggest that they had income from property near Violet Cottage (Hughes et al. 2014: 4).

 Violet Cottage, 1881. Image: Andersen 1949: 430.


Violet Cottage, 1881. Image: Andersen 1949: 430.

What we found at the site was perhaps surprising: there was nothing about the assemblage we recovered that suggested the artefacts were deposited by a predominantly female household. Or even that there were women living at the site: no women’s clothing, perfume bottles or shoes. Nothing specifically female at all. This is perhaps not surprising, given that we probably only recovered a fraction of the material culture discarded by the site’s occupants over the more than 40 years they lived there.

We found a fairly generic Victorian Christchurch domestic assemblage, with one exception. We only found three rubbish pits at the site, and one of these features contained almost nothing but alcohol bottles: 134 of the 146 artefacts we recovered from the feature probably contained alcohol (long-time followers of the blog will know that bottles were frequently re-used in 19th century New Zealand and may not have contained the contents suggested by their form). There was nothing about the rubbish pit that suggested the bottles had been deposited over a number of years, and the pit was probably filled over a relatively short period of time. So someone at the site may have been doing a lot of drinking – or it’s possible that the good doctor was using the alcohol for medical purposes.

 Just two of the many alcohol bottles recovered from a rubbish pit at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.


Just two of the many alcohol bottles recovered from a rubbish pit at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.

Most of the remainder of the artefacts recovered from the site were either ceramics or animal bones (i.e. food waste from the Moores’ meals). The ceramics included a range of serving wares that suggested a well-to-do middle class establishment. There was a tureen, a platter, a milk jug and dinner plates, as well as more utilitarian items, such as chamber pots, a colander and a rather fabulous wash basin. There was only one tea cup, one saucer and no teapots – while that may not seem that interesting, archaeologists have often identified the presence and role of women on 19th century archaeological sites through the ritual of afternoon tea, and the material remains of that ritual. There was some evidence, however, to suggest a matching set of sprigged ware – and this may have been a tea set, as the items from this set were a milk jug, a saucer and a side plate.

 Ceramics from Violet Cottage. Clockwise from top left: a tureen, a Fibre-decorated side plate, the base of a serving dish and a colander. Image: C. Dickson.


Ceramics from Violet Cottage. Clockwise from top left: a tureen, a Fibre-decorated side plate, the base of a serving dish and a colander. Image: C. Dickson.

 Fragments of sprigged porcelain recovered from Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.


Fragments of sprigged porcelain recovered from Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.

The animal bones tell us that the Moores were eating mutton and beef, with a preference for mutton, and a range of both cheap and expensive cuts present – beef cheek anyone? The cuts of mutton were from both the forequarter (or shoulder) and the leg, with the latter suggesting the consumption of roast mutton. In amongst all this evidence for food and its consumption, it is perhaps surprising that no condiment containers were recovered from the site – no vinegars, salad oils or pickles.

 A wash basin decorated with the Magnolia pattern, found at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.


A wash basin decorated with the Magnolia pattern, found at Violet Cottage. Image: C. Dickson.

The artefact from the site that I found most evocative was a porcelain platter, made by Spode, and decorated with a blue floral pattern. The interesting thing about this platter was that the maker’s mark indicated that it was made between c.1805 and 1830 (The Potteries 2008). That means that it was made before the Moores arrived in New Zealand, and that the Moores are very likely to have brought it with them from England, and kept it carefully and safely throughout their travels. For the family, this piece of china may have provided a direct and tangible link between the life they left behind in England and their new life here on the other side of the globe.

 A Spode platter, made between c.1805 and 1830 (The Potteries 2008). Image: C. Dickson.


A Spode platter, made between c.1805 and 1830 (The Potteries 2008). Image: C. Dickson.

We can’t relate this artefact to gender (at least, not without making a whole lot of assumptions that don’t sit comfortably), but it does tell us about the sort of items that new colonists – of a certain class – brought with them for their new lives, and their expectations of those lives: I don’t imagine that the holds of migrant ships were packed with Spode platters or ashets… This platter suggests that the Moore family expected to dine well, and possibly even to entertain, and to maintain certain standards in their new home.

Our experience at this site confirms that gender – and gender roles – can be difficult to explore archaeologically. But the question is an important one and needs to be considered carefully at any archaeological site, rather than simply making assumptions about the role of women in 19th century Christchurch.

Katharine Watson, Chelsea Dickson & Julia Hughes

References

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

Greenaway, R. L. N., 2007. Barbadoes Street Cemetery Tour. [online] Available at: http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/heritage/cemeteries/barbadoes/barbadoesstreetcemetery.pdf [Accessed June 2014].

H. Wise & Co., 1878-1979. Wises New Zealand Post Office Directories. Dunedin: H. Wise & Co.

Hughes, J., Dickson, C. and Geary Nichol, R., 2014. 89 Chester Street East, Christchurch: report on archaeological monitoring. Unpublished report for Hawkins Ltd.

Jacobson, H. C., 1914. Tales of Banks Peninsula. Akaroa: Akaroa Mail Office.

Lundy, D., 2014. Dr. Thomas Richard Moore. [online] Available at: <http://www.thepeerage.com/p44788.htm> [Accessed June 2014].

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

The Potteries, 2008. A-Z of Stoke-on-Trent Potters. [online] Available at: www.thepotteries.org.

Brewery to bonded store (or a tale involving beer, misfortune and the casualties of long distance trade)

From Staffordshire pottery to American made glass-ware, we’ve come across artefacts from all over the world on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. This prevalence of internationally made artefacts, and what it means for the city’s history, is something that’s come up frequently in previous posts on this blog. Today’s post continues to discuss that theme, albeit from a slightly different perspective – that of the importer.

Over the last little while, we’ve been looking at the artefact assemblage from a site in the central city that was associated with a bonded store from the 1860s onwards. Bonded stores (also known as bonded warehouses) were buildings in which goods could be stored and remain exempt from customs duties. They were usually used to store goods and bulk merchandise until they were distributed for retail, at which time those duties and taxes would have to be paid.

We found numerous archaeological features (mostly rubbish pits) on the site, almost all of which contained artefacts. Many of these rubbish pits contained a large number of alcohol bottles. This is not particularly unusual. What is unusual is that within each feature most of the alcohol bottles were identical and almost all of the bottle tops found were still sealed – with cork, wire seal and metal capsule.

One of the rubbish pits found at the site, containing a large number of J & R Tennent sealed bottles.

One of the rubbish pits found at the site, containing a large number of J & R Tennent sealed bottles. Image: J. Hughes.

One rubbish pit contained a total of 130 artefacts (in 454 fragments), 126 of which were black beer bottles. Although the bottles were broken, the tops and bases were almost equal in number. More significantly, all of those black beer bottles were still sealed, or found in association with their corks and capsule seals, and every single seal bore the distinctive trademarks of J & R Tennent’s Pale Ale, brewed at the Wellpark Brewery, Scotland. Most of the capsules were also stamped with the mark of Betts & Co, the company who patented and manufactured this type of metal capsule seal for bottles. Similarly trademarked bottle capsules have been found at other 1860s-1880s sites throughout New Zealand, although not in such large quantities (Petchey and Innanchai 2012).

A couple of the J & R Tennent sealed tops found in the rubbish pit. The side of the seal reads: "Bottled by J & R Tennent" and (not pictured) "Betts & Co/Patent/Patent/ Trade Mark/ London."

A couple of the J & R Tennent sealed tops found in the rubbish pit. The side of the seal reads: “Bottled by J & R Tennent” and (not pictured) “Betts & Co / Patent / Patent / Trade Mark / London.” Betts & Co were the original patentees and manufacturers of metal bottle capsules like these. They were founded in 1804, but weren’t established in London until 1840. The company continued to manufacture bottle capsules until the 1960s: these particular seals were probably made between 1860 and 1915 (Nayton 1991). Images:  J. Garland.

J & R Tennent capsule drawing

A drawing of one of the J & R Tennent bottle capsules found at this site. Note that the beer is a pale ale, and the reference to Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow. Image: J. Garland.

John and Robert Tennent were Glaswegian brewers and bottlers who began operating in the 1770s. Their business continued to be run by their descendants throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, right up until the present day (Petchey and Innanchai 2012). By the end of the 19th century they were increasingly known for the quality of their beer and were a relatively large presence in the export market for bottled beer throughout the English speaking world (Hughes 2006). In Christchurch, Tennent’s Pale Ale was sold in large quantities from the 1850s onwards by a number of Christchurch merchants such as Robert Symington, Charles Wesley Turner (my great great grandfather!), Longden & Le Cren, Robert Wilkin & Co, and Tonks, Norton & Co, among others (Lyttelton Times 6/11/1852: 312/8/1865: 1Star 22/10/1869: 4; Press 18/9/1879: 3,14/1/1891: 8).

A second rubbish pit at the site contained a similar assemblage: 125 artefacts, 88 of which were identical dark green beer bottles. Like the Tennent bottles, almost all of these were still sealed or found in association with metal capsules, wire seals and corks. Unfortunately, the seals from this feature weren’t in the best condition: only eight of them could be definitively identified to the bottler, T. B. Hall & Co, Liverpool. It seems likely, however, given the similarity of the bottles (a handful of which still had the remnants of T. B. & Hall labels on the glass), that all 88 were originally T. B. Hall & Co products.

Some of the T. B. Hall & Co bottle capsules found in the second rubbish pit. Image: J. Garland.

Some of the T. B. Hall & Co bottle capsules found in the second rubbish pit. Image: J. Garland.

This drawing of one of the T. B. Hall & Co metal capsules shows the distinctive boar trademark used by the company. Image: J. Garland.

This drawing of a T. B. Hall & Co bottle seal shows the distinctive boar trademark used by the company. Image: J. Garland.

T. B. Hall refers to Thomas Bird Hall, who operated an export bottling company in Liverpool in the latter half of the 19th century. The company became well known for their ‘Boar’s Head’ brand, which we see on the bottles found in Christchurch.  They started bottling beer under this brand in 1874, much of which was exported to British colonies, including Australia and New Zealand. They bottled a range of beers, spirits and liqueurs, including the well-known Bass and Guinness ales and stouts (Hughes 2006: 131). We have evidence for the brand being sold in Christchurch from at least 1878 until the late 1890s (Press 22/4/1878: 2; Press 23/10/1899: 4).

Interestingly, during the excavation of this rubbish pit, it was noted that most of the bottles were complete, but cracked, while they were still in the ground. Many of them fell apart as they were lifted out, suggesting that they had broken or cracked from the impact of being thrown – complete and still sealed – into the pit.

The partially excavated rubbish pit containing numerous T. B. Hall & Co sealed bottles. A couple of complete bottles are visible, sticking out of the top of the feature: one of these fell apart as it was lifted, due to the cracks already present in the glass. Image: J. Garland.

The partially excavated rubbish pit containing numerous T. B. Hall & Co sealed bottles. A couple of complete bottles are visible, sticking out of the top of the feature: one of these fell apart as it was lifted, due to the cracks already present in the glass. Image: J. Garland.

As archaeologists, we’re used to finding old or broken artefacts in archaeological assemblages  – objects that have clearly been used and discarded, due to damage, age, changes in fashion or simply because they’ve reached the end of their uselife. The fact that two rubbish pits at this site contain artefacts that have clearly not been used and, in one case, were complete when they were discarded, indicates that there must be another reason for their disposal.

Given the association of the site with a bonded store, it seems likely that these bottles were originally imported and stored at the warehouse with the intention of being distributed to local retailers and consumers. The question then remains: why were they thrown out? There are numerous potential answers to this, from damages incurred during transport to a bad quality batch of beer, a lack of demand or old, unsaleable stock. Bottled beer was a hell of a lot more unpredictable – both in quality and preservation – during the 19th century than it is now, and it wasn’t uncommon for batches to go bad, or simply be bad.

This extract from a legal case involving the supply and sale of bad beer lists just a few of the ways beer could go bad in the 19th century. Image: Colonist 26/07/1911

This extract from a legal case involving the supply and sale of bad beer lists just a few of the ways beer could go bad in the 19th century. Image: Colonist 26/7/1911: 4.

It’s easy to forget, in this age of air freight and controlled temperatures, that these goods had to come a very long way in relatively difficult conditions in order to reach our shores (and our stomachs) in the 19th century. British export beers travelled to colonies like Australia and New Zealand by ship, a journey that could take anything upwards of 100 days (by clipper, the fastest non-steam powered ship at the time). These voyages often encountered rough seas and extreme temperatures, both of which could damage cargoes of bottled beer (Hughes 2006). High temperatures (when sailing through the tropics, for example) could cause the beer itself to go off: sometimes, if it caused rapid fermentation, the bottles would explode (my personal favourite). On top of the sea voyage, of course, the bottles had to survive loading and unloading as well as transport over rough roads to their final destination. It’s hardly surprising that breakages occurred!

There were also issues with supply and demand: agents in New Zealand would have been ordering the stock well in advance (remember, 100 days or more to get here), based on predicted demand. If their predictions were wrong, products might not sell and be left, instead, to age to the point where they were both undrinkable and unsaleable, and had to be discarded. All of which leads to rubbish pits such as these, containing the physical casualties and failures of the 19th century import/export trade.

Analysis of this site is continuing but, as you can see from the small part of it that I’ve discussed here, it has the potential to provide us with a window into the realities of the goods trade in Christchurch – internationally and locally. It’s also an excellent example of the importance of archaeological context in the interpretation of artefacts and archaeological features.  Just one of these bottles, out of context, wouldn’t have nearly such an interesting story to tell.

Jessie Garland

References

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

Hughes, David. 2006. “A Bottle of Guiness Please”: the Colourful History of Guiness. Phimboy: Berkshire, England.

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

Nayton, G., 1992. Applying frontier theory to a Western Australian site: the problem of chronological control. Australasian Historical Archaeology 10: 75-91.

Petchey, P. and Innanchai, J., 2012. Bottle top capsules in New Zealand historic archaeological sites. Journal of Pacific Archaeology 3 (2): 1-16.

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

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

Tales of a house

So, that message in a bottle? Well, it turns out it wasn’t the only interesting thing about the site it came from. A fellmongery, German Danes, shoes… read on!

First up, the bottle came from under a house built in 1887 (the land transaction records had suggested 1885, when the first mortgage was taken against the land; LINZ 1885). From the outside, this looked like a fairly standard 1880s villa (albeit modified), but inside – and its history – were not quite so standard. The differences inside weren’t that huge, but you have to understand that, in the 1880s and 1890s, there was little deviation from the standard plan for single-storey villas, so even the smallest difference is telling. On the outside, your standard villa might be flat-fronted or have a bay or two, and there might be some variation in the number of windows on the street-facing façade (depending on how much money you wanted to spend). Inside, villas of this type tended to have four rooms in the main body of the house, two on each side of a central hall. And there might have been some additional service rooms to the rear of this.

 The house. The conservatory on the left was originally a veranda. Photo: K. Webb.


The house. The conservatory on the left was originally a veranda. Photo: K. Webb.

As I said, this one wasn’t so very different. Instead of a central hall, it had a sort of T-shaped hall, with six rooms opening off it. Not only was the hall a different shape, but there were more rooms than usual in the main body of the house, although the house was roughly the same footprint as the standard villa (and the house’s layout had barely been modified since it was built). And only one of the front rooms opened off the front hall – normally both did. While this detail seems particularly small, it’s actually more significant than the hall shape/position.

In the standard villa design, the front hall and the two front rooms, both of which opened off it, were the ‘public’ part of the house, where visitors were likely to be entertained. Usually, this part of the house was separated from the ‘private’ part by an arch in the hall, and guests were unlikely to pass from the public area to the private area. One of the front rooms was the parlour or drawing room and the other was the master bedroom, where guests might leave their coats (Stewart 2002). It’s always seemed slightly odd to me that the master bedroom was part of the public area of the house, and clearly it wasn’t in this house. Visitors would only have gone into the parlour, nowhere else.

The house’s history revealed that it was built for Neils Carl Heinrich Püschel (without recourse to a mortgage) and transferred shortly thereafter to Tryphona Püschel, his wife. The Püschels owned the house until 1896, when it appears to have been sold as a mortgagee sale (LINZ 1888).

Püschel. Not a very English name, that. The family was of German origin, although Neils – who was generally known as Carl – was born in Denmark. In fact, three Püschel brothers came to Canterbury, only one of whom was born in Germany. John, the eldest, and Carl established a fellmongery (where sheepskins were prepared) in Rangiora, before setting up a fellmongery in Avonside in the late 1870s. That’s right, Avonside – hard to imagine now! By 1887, however, Carl Püschel was no longer part of the business, which William Püschel continued to run on his own, albeit with funding from John Püschel (Macdonald n.d.: P610, 611;  Watson 2013).

So could the layout of the house be explained as a fusion of New Zealand and German/Danish architecture? We don’t know, but it’s an intriguing possibility.

During our work on the house, we were fortunate enough to meet Jenny, the most recent owner. Jenny’s parents had bought the house in the 1920s, and Jenny had grown up there and lived there until the earthquakes changed everything. Jenny told us some awesome stories about the house, including how, after they’d bought the house, her parents journeyed to Christchurch on the train, complete with Dolly the cow. As a teenager, Jenny and her friends had played tennis on the lawn in front of the house (where Dolly had once grazed), with the aim of catching the eye of the local lads!

Not only did Jenny share her stories with us, she also shared her collection of early 20th century shoes –  her father was a Pannell of the Pannell bootmaking business. And she showed us a catalogue produced by the Pannells in c.1903-1904, containing all sorts of information about the most wonderful  sounding shoes: Goloshed Balmorals, Watertight Bluchers or Lorne Shoes, anyone?

Lace-up lady's ankle boots, with a military stacked heel and machine stitching along the vamp, tip and back quarter of the upper, c.1900-1920. Photo: J. Garland.


Lace-up lady’s ankle boots, with a military stacked heel and machine stitching along the vamp, tip and back quarter of the upper, c.1900-1920. Photo: J. Garland.

And then there’s that message in a bottle. But first, the bottle itself, which a number of you commented on, with a couple of you identifying the label. Jessie’s research indicates that the label represents two different companies: Read Brothers and Bass Brewery. The Read Brothers Bottling Company was founded in 1877 by William Thomas Read and John Walter Read. They were based in London and were among the largest, if not the largest, of the London bottling companies, inventing their own bottling machines as well as buying up and reusing old alcohol bottles from across London. The Bull Dog trademark, along with the ‘Dog’s Head’ brand, was registered by them in 1877 and featured the image of a bull dog in a circle on the label (Hughes 2006).

DSC_0088ed1_web

Read Brothers were closely associated with the Bass Brewery and their products, originally bottling only Bass sparkling champagne, cider and Guinness. By the early 1900s they were the largest exporter of Bass Pale Ale in the world.  Bass Brewery, usually represented by the red triangle seen on the label, was founded in 1777 by William Bass in Burton upon Trent. Their characteristic red triangle has the distinction of being the first trademark registered in the UK, under the Trademark Registration Act of 1875 (Hughes 2006).

DSC_0091ed1_web Advertisements in New Zealand newspapers frequently link the two companies from 1878 until 1886, after which the two are mentioned in separate advertisements for quite a time. Then in 1911, they appear again in the same advertisements. We’re not sure exactly what this means!

 An 1878 advertisement for Bass's Pale Ale, bottled by the Read brothers. Image: New Zealand Herald 13/6/1878: 4.


An 1878 advertisement for Bass’s Pale Ale, bottled by the Read brothers. Image: New Zealand Herald 13/6/1878: 4.

As for the message itself, well, I reckon that one of my colleagues got it right when he suggested it was a prank. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. Firstly, although the names on the message are difficult to make out, we couldn’t find any of the possibilities we tried in Papers Past – or at least, we couldn’t make any that we found work, in terms of time, place and/or occupation. And you’d expect an ‘Hon.’ to turn up the newspapers, even if a humble labourer didn’t. Secondly, the spelling mistakes, including of some quite basic words, such as bottle. Thirdly, since the earthquakes, we’ve seen a number of time capsules reported on. There’s something about time capsules that’s undeniably appealing, perhaps through that sense of a very direct message from the past. So, perhaps some workers on the site thought they’d have a good laugh by aping those time capsules and leaving their own message for the future.

Kirsa Webb, Jessie Garland & Katharine Watson

References

Hughes, D., 2006. “A Bottle of Guinness Please”: The colourful history of Guinness. Phimboy, Berkshire.

LINZ, 1885. Certificate of Title CB105/33. Landonline.

LINZ, 1888. Certificate of Title CB133/286. Landonline.

Macdonald, G. R., n.d. Macdonald dictionary of Canterbury biography. Canterbury Museum.

New Zealand Herald. Available at: http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

Stewart, D., 2002. The New Zealand Villa: Past and present. Penguin, Auckland.

Watson, K., 2013. Avonside wool scour: an archaeological assessment. Unpublished report for CERA.

The Standard Hotel: beer, burlesque and a “sketchy kind of farce”

This week we’re delving into the seedier side of the life in early Christchurch with the story of the Standard Hotel, an establishment that found itself on the fringes of Victorian respectability during its short existence in the 1860s. At the heart of this tale are two brothers, James and William Willis, who appear to have trod very different paths to success (or not, as the case may be) after their arrival in the city.

Portrait of Joseph Brittan, founder of the Canterbury Standard. Image: Wikimedia Commons & Rolleston 1971.

Portrait of Joseph Brittan. Image: Wikimedia Commons & Rolleston 1971.

The story begins with James Willis, a printer by trade, who arrived in Christchurch in the early 1850s (Lyttelton Times 7/5/1853: 6). By 1855, he was the official printer to the Canterbury Provincial Council (Lyttelton Times 20/01/1855: 4). It’s here that he probably made contact with Joseph Brittan, one of Christchurch’s prominent early citizens and the founder of the Canterbury Standard, the third newspaper to be established in the city (Lyttelton Times 13/8/1853: 12). James went on to work with Brittan on the paper, becoming the printer, part owner and eventual proprietor of the publication in the late 1850s and early 1860s (Burke Manuscript n.d.: 114).

An article in the Lyttelton Times in 1853, announcing the establishment of the Canterbury Standard, to be

An announcement of the Canterbury Standard‘s founding in the Lyttelton Times in 1853 claimed that “the public good will be it’s guiding principle [and] the advancement of the interests of the Province its constant aim.” Image: Lyttelton Times 13/8/1853: 12.

The Canterbury Standard was produced and printed in a building located on the corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace in central Christchurch, just across the road from Brittan’s home on the other side of Hereford Street. Early images of the building show a two storey façade at the front, facing onto Oxford Terrace, with the printing sheds (to house the printing press) extending along Hereford Street.

Burke's Manuscript cropped

Sketch of the Canterbury Standard building and proprietor, James Willis. Image: Burke Manuscript: 114, accessed through the Christchurch City Libraries.

James continued to operate a printing press in this location until his death in 1866, under the eventual auspices of the Telegraph Printing Press (Press 8/12/1866: 2). During the last few years of his life, however, he shared the premises with his brother, William Willis, who took the old Standard offices at the front of the building and transformed them into a hotel.

The old Canterbury Standard building, transformed into the Standard Hotel in 1864. Image: Dr. A. C. Barker Collection, Canterbury Museum. Permission of the Canterbury Museum must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

The old Canterbury Standard building, transformed into the Standard Hotel in 1864. Image: Dr. A. C. Barker Collection, Canterbury Museum. Permission of the Canterbury Museum must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

Well, I say hotel…

Advertisement for the opening of the Standard Hotel in July 1864, emphasising the selection of alcohol available. Image: Lyttelton Times

Advertisement for the opening of the Standard Hotel in July 1864, emphasising the selection of alcohol available. Image: Lyttelton Times 9/7/1864: 5.

The Standard Hotel, which opened in July 1864 (Lyttelton Times 9/7/1864: 5), appears to have had very little to do with offering accommodation and a great deal more to do with drinking beer and providing ribald entertainment. Only one reference to accommodation at the hotel was found in the newspapers of the period and this from an unemployed man staying at the hotel, suggesting that the accommodation available was fairly cheap (LytteltonTimes 6/8/1866: 1). In contrast, advertisements for the opening of the hotel in 1864 place particular emphasis on the selection of ales and wines available for consumption (Lyttelton Times 9/7/1864: 5) and, when we excavated the section next to the hotel earlier this year, we found a lot of beer bottles to back this up.

Some of the black beer bottles excavated from the Standard Hotel site in May 2013. Image: J. Garland.

Some of the black beer bottles excavated from the Standard Hotel site in May 2013. Image: J. Garland.

Excavation took place in May, and then again last month, and revealed a huge number of artefacts (you’ll definitely be hearing from us about these in later posts). Although analysis of last month’s assemblage is in its early days, the artefacts we found in May are almost certainly from the Standard Hotel. They are also nearly all alcohol bottles (over 600), with a few ink bottles, glass tumblers, stemmed glasses and condiment bottles thrown in for good measure.

Other artefacts found at the Oxford Terrace site, prior to their excavation. Image: M. Carter.

Some of the other artefacts found at the Oxford Terrace site, prior to their excavation. Image: M. Carter.

Finding a high proportion of alcohol bottles is something we’ve come to expect with hotel sites in Christchurch (like the Oxford Hotel, from a few weeks ago), especially when those bottles are accompanied by serving wares and bottles of condiments like Worcestershire sauce, salt and pickles. However, the quantity of alcohol bottles found at the Standard Hotel site is so far beyond that from any other hotel site in the city that it suggests a different sort of clientele and a different sort of tone characterised the establishment.

Advertisement for a performance of Poses Plastique at Willis's Assembly Rooms in 1866.

Advertisement for a performance of Poses Plastique at Willis’s Assembly Rooms in 1866. Image: Press 10/4/1866: 1.

Exactly what that tone was becomes clear when we look at historical records for William Willis’s Assembly Rooms, opened in 1865 and located next to the Standard Hotel on Oxford Terrace (Press 8/11/1865: 1; 15/02/1866: 1). Although these rooms hosted public auctions and were used by the Canterbury Jockey Club for meetings (Lyttelton Times 1/01/1866: 3; Press 8/11/1865: 1), they were also the setting for a variety of musical entertainments, from vaudeville-style theatre and burlesque to the more risqué Poses Plastique (Lyttelton Times 10/3/1866: 2; 12/3/1866: 2; Press 10/4/1866: 1).

Entertainment at Willis's Assembly Rooms

Advertisements for entertainments held at Willis’s Assembly Rooms in 1866, including burlesque, a “sketchy kind of farce” and “nigger eccentricities”. Images: Lyttelton Times 12/3/1866: 2; 10/03/1866: 2.

While vaudeville theatre may be a form of entertainment familiar to many, the term ‘burlesque’ didn’t mean quite the same thing in a 19th century context as it does now. Rather than involving Dita von Teese-like figures and the sultry dance routines it’s now known for, burlesque in the mid-1800s was simply a form of musical entertainment, often involving elaborate or farcical costumes, parodies and caricatures of well-known historical and literary figures (Oxford English Dictionary).

Clockwise: Advertising poster from 1899 for a vaudeville and ‘hurly-burly’ extravaganza; 1870 advertisement for performance of an Aladdin burlesque at the Theatre Royal in Christchurch; 1897 excerpt from a burlesque titled ‘Doing a Moose.’ Images: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection, accessed through Wikimedia commons; Star 16/5/1870: 3; Observer 15/5/1897: 10.

Poses Plastique, on the other hand, was definitely a form of entertainment that only flirted with the notion of respectability. It was a form of Tableau Vivant, or ‘living scene’, a 19th century performance in which the performers, both women and men, acted as living statues on stage. These performances often involved various states of undress, justified and made ‘classy’ by references to Classical mythology and the imitation of Greek and Roman statues (Anae 2008). Sometimes the performers would wear nude body stockings, so as to give the appearance of undress yet not be completely indecent.

Woodcut of a performance of poses plastique at the Coal Hole in the Strand, c. 1854. Image: Wikimedia commons.

Woodcut of a performance of poses plastique at the Coal Hole in the Strand, c. 1854. Image: Wikimedia commons.

tableau vivant

Advertisement for performances of tableau vivant based on well-known fairy tales. Image: Poverty Bay Herald 25/5/1881: 3.

I should mention that while Poses Plastique was a form of Tableau Vivant, not all examples of the 19th century living statue involved the same degree of undress or risqué material. Tableau Vivant was often used to present famous literary, artistic or historical scenes, such as battles, famous paintings or moments from well-known works like Cinderella (Poverty Bay Herald 25/5/1881: 3).

The performance at Willis’s Rooms in 1866 is one of only two examples of Poses Plastique advertised in New Zealand newspapers before 1900 (Nelson Evening Mail 25/2/1884: 2), although there are numerous references to burlesque and vaudeville shows being held throughout the country (see Papers Past). Clearly, the semi-nude living statue never really took off here, despite enjoying great popularity in London and Australia during the same period.

In Christchurch, at least, one reason for this may have been the disapproval with which such entertainment was viewed by the general authorities and community. While it was not illegal (that we’ve been able to find), we did note that William Willis had his liquor license refused in 1866 due to reports of “objectionable entertainment, low women and noisy people” in the vicinity of his Assembly Rooms late at night (Lyttelton Times 2/5/1866: 2). Interestingly, this notice came soon after the advertised performances of Poses Plastique. Coincidence? I think not.

License refusal

Details of the refusal to renew William Willis’s general license in 1866, citing objectionable entertainment, low women and noisy people. Image: Lyttelton Times 6/5/1866: 2.

The Standard Hotel, along with Willis’s Assembly Rooms, closed its doors in 1867 after only three years of operation (Lyttelton Times 4/7/1867: 1). Later that same year, a fire in the offices of the Telegraph Printing Press next door so badly damaged the building that it was abandoned and moved to Bealey Avenue in early 1869 (Lyttelton Times  4/1/1869: 3). For reasons unknown to us, the section on the corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace remained empty and unused during the following decades, until a suite of offices was constructed there in the early 20th century (Press 16/9/1905: 9).

During its life the Standard Hotel building was home to two very different sides of the social and commercial spectrum, personified in the figures of James and William Willis. From its origins in Joseph Brittan’s, and later James Willis’s, Canterbury Standard, with its guiding principles of “public good [and] the advancement of the province”, to its eventual demise in William’s den of alcohol and “low women”, it showcases a diversity of character and commerce in Christchurch’s early history that we don’t always get to see. Hopefully, as we work our way through the rest of the archaeological material from this site, even more of that variety will be revealed.

Jessie Garland

References

Anae, N. 2008., Poses, plastiques: the art and style of ‘statuary’ in Victorian visual theatre. Australasian Drama Studies. Available at http://eprints.usq.edu.au/7003/.

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

Burke Manuscript, 1860s. [online] Available through the Christchurch City Libraries Digital Collection at http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Heritage/Digitised/Burke/

Canterbury Museum Digital Collections

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

Nelson Evening Mail. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

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

Oxford English Dictionary. Available online via the Christchurch City Libraries subscription service.

Poverty Bay Herald. [online] Available at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.

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

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

Wikimedia Commons. [online] Available at http://commons.wikimedia.org.