The Big House in a little town

The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons

– Fyodor Dostoevsky

One of the challenges faced by any new colony is what to do with the non-conformists, renegades, and criminals. The ideal, of course, is that your new paradise will be carefully designed to have eliminated these undesirable elements. The reality, however, is far from the ideal. The first lock-up in the Canterbury (consisting of three blockhouses) was located in Akaroa, a significant distance away from the growing towns of Christchurch and Lyttelton (Gee 1975: 5). These blockhouses appear to have been used until John Godley arrived on the scene in April 1850 and was appointed as the resident magistrate of Lyttelton (Gee 1875: 7). With his appointment, the location of the lock-ups/gaols moved to the fledgling port-town instead. The earliest gaols in Lyttelton were improvised and, for some enterprising fellows, rather portable. One particularly slapstick story of a runaway gaol involves some opportunistic pranking by the future gaol warden, Edward Seagar:

One night the prisoners in the lock-up, a flimsy, A-frame construction, took up the floor boards, lifted the building and walked away with it. Seagar arranged ropes and stakes in such a way that the escapees unknowingly headed towards the police station further down the hill (Young 2014).

The landing of passengers from the Charlotte Jane, Randolph, Cressy, and Sir George Seymour in Lyttelton c. 1850. Plenty of open space for pranks. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.

The landing of passengers from the Charlotte Jane, Randolph, Cressy, and Sir George Seymour in Lyttelton c. 1850. Plenty of open space for pranks. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.

The first permanent gaol buildings in the settlement were constructed between 1851 and c.1857-1861 on Oxford Street, using both hired and prison labour (Gee 1975: 8, 10). Later buildings followed the design of B. W. Mountfort, who also designed the Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum (Heritage New Zealand 2016). The decision to construct a gaol in a small town like Lyttelton may seem odd to us today, but the reasoning was fairly straightforward. Lyttelton was the bigger town at the time and the new buildings replaced the earlier makeshift prisons near the contemporary police station and court (Gee 1975: 10).

The Lyttelton Gaol, date unknown. Image: Cyclopedia Company Limited 1903. A later image of the gaol c. 1900 can be viewed here.

The Lyttelton Gaol, date unknown. Image: Cyclopedia Company Limited 1903. A later image of the gaol c. 1900 can be viewed here.

Early conditions in this gaol, according to some commentators, had something of a Dickensian feel:

The early days were those of the cat [of nine tails whip] and the triangle, of the 70lb dragging irons, the days of scanty clothing, poor food, the days when the warder was king (Gee 1975: 2).

Others have argued that, in light of the standards at the time, the treatment of the prisoners was not quite as cruel as it may seem to us today (Gee 1975: 10). Conditions were hampered by one major issue which arose in this early period – the swelling gaol population. This population growth was exacerbated by the incarceration of debtors and the mentally ill. The housing of the mentally ill at the gaol was particularly concerning to many (Young 2014). The young townships of Lyttelton and Christchurch simply did not have the facilities to deal with these patients at the time. To their credit, it was intended that the patients be housed in the new Christchurch Hospital, until there was a furore in response to this plan (Gee 1975: 35). The population pressures eased with the construction of Sunnyside Asylum in 1863, and the opening of the prison in Addington in the 1870s (Gee 1975: 30, 87).

Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum. Image: Te Papa O.034082.

Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum. Image: Te Papa O.034082.

Part of the Addington Prison complex, c. 2005. Image: Wikimedia Commons. The prison is now a backpackers.

Part of the Addington Prison complex, c. 2005. Image: Wikimedia Commons. The prison is now a backpackers.

The position of the gaol within town life is quite interesting. As illustrated in the image above, the large Gothic style buildings were quite a dominating feature of the town. In addition to this, the prisoners were involved with a number of town works (discussed further below) and services which ensured a high public presence (Heritage New Zealand 2016). These services included a printing shop, a laundrette for the Lyttelton Hospital and Orphanage and the Immigration Department, and a baking contract for the orphanage (Gee 1975: 17). However, one comment from a resident regarding the communities’ view of the gaol (made after the demolition of the gaol in the 1920s) is particularly telling:

We never thought about the gaol.  We just knew it was there and that was it. But many people couldn’t have been pleased about it because there are few photographs of it and no paintings as far as I have found (C. Fletcher in Gee 1975: 87).

A rather macabre aspect of the prison, which feels particularly repugnant to us today, is that between 1868 and 1918 seven men convicted of murder were executed at the gaol. This was an aspect of the gaol that was a source of curiosity for some of the younger residents, but of dread for most. One resident stated: “In a little place like Lyttelton the knowledge of an impending execution used to hang like a pall over the whole town” (I. Gray in Gee 1975: 47). It is quite a stretch for me to imagine a community continuing with their daily lives in the anticipation of such an event. Executions appear to have been so entrenched in the town’s psyche that despite the fact that the bell did not toll for the last execution in 1918, many residents insist they remember it ringing (Gee 1975: 47).

A poem by Basil Dowling. The role of the hangman was a necessary part of the justice system, which carried a heavy stigma for the men who did the job. There are a number of cases where officers had to smuggle the hangman in to avoid the curiosity and/or anger of the general public.

A poem by Basil Dowling. The role of the hangman was a necessary part of the justice system, but carried a heavy stigma for the men who did the job. There are a number of cases where officers had to smuggle the hangman in on the eve of the execution to avoid the curiosity and/or anger of the general public.

The archaeological legacy of the prison and prisoners remain visible in many aspects of the town today. All that remains of the gaol itself are concrete retaining walls, a small block of cells, pedestrian pathways and concrete steps. These remains are an important archaeological site, particularly as they are demonstrative of some of the earliest use of concrete in New Zealand (Heritage New Zealand 2016).

The remaining cells and concrete walls of the prison. Image: A. Bulovic, 2013 Peeling Back History.

The remaining cells and concrete walls of the prison. Image: A. Bulovic, 2013 Peeling Back History.

However, we can also see the influence of the gaol on the Lyttelton settlement through other features of the town. Prisoners sentenced to hard labour were part of gangs put to work on public works, such as road formation and retaining wall construction. In particular, the red volcanic retaining walls constructed during this period have been described as a distinctive part of the townscape. Unfortunately, as with much of Lyttelton’s heritage, a number of these walls have been repaired or replaced after the damage from the earthquakes.

Earthquake damaged walls at the corner of Coleridge Terrace and Dublin Street. Image: M. Hickey, 2015.

Earthquake damaged walls at the corner of Coleridge Terrace and Dublin Street. Image: M. Hickey, 2015.

 The newly constructed concrete wall on Sumner Road, with partial re-facing using the volcanic stone from the demolished wall. The re-facing will occur on as many of the key retaining walls across the town, as funding allows. Image: M. Hickey, 2016.

The newly constructed concrete wall on Sumner Road, with partial re-facing using the volcanic stone from the demolished wall. The re-facing will occur on as many of the key retaining walls across the town as funding allows. Image: M. Hickey, 2016.

A collapsed wall at 61 St Davids Street. Image: M. Hickey, 2016.

A collapsed wall at 61 St Davids Street. Image: M. Hickey, 2016.

The same wall after deconstruction and reconstruction work (all completed by hand). Image: M. Hickey, 2016.

The same wall after deconstruction and reconstruction work (all completed by hand). Image: M. Hickey, 2016.

The port also benefited from convict labour in the form of reclamation construction and wharf building (Gee 1975: 17). Another notable site of works is the fortifications at Ripapa Island, which were constructed in the 1860s and 1870s by the Hard Labour Gang and were even used to house some prisoners (Gee 1975: 22). Prisoners housed on the island reportedly included members of the Parihaka resistance movement in Taranaki in 1880s (Donna R 2014). These men are remembered today during a service on the 5th of November each year and a memorial at Rapaki (Lyttelton Community House Trust 2013).

In many ways, the Lyttelton Gaol was a product of its time; the morality of Victorian Britain, the realities of a new colonial land and the challenges of a growing society. However, the legacy of the gaol should not be limited to a grim spectre of past principles. Prisoners made a considerable contribution to the development of the town through the construction of infrastructure. Despite the recent changes to the townscape, the influence of the gaol remains a visible part of Lyttelton’s heritage.

Megan Hickey

References

Gee, D. 1975. The Devil’s Own Brigade: A History of the Lyttelton Gaol 1860-1920. Wellington: Millwood Press Ltd.

“A healthy mind and human happiness”

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

Locke Stream Hut. Image: K. Watson.

Locke Stream Hut. Image: K. Watson.

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

Location map. Image: Google.

Location map. Image: Google.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The rather fabulous floorboards! Image: K. Watson.

The rather fabulous floorboards! Image: K. Watson.

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

Katharine Watson & Rosie Geary Nichol

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

References

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

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

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

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

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

The Langlois Eteveneaux cottage, Akaroa

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

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

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

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

Langlois Etevenaux cottage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jessie Garland and Luke Tremlett

References and acknowledgements

Christchurch City Council.

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

Insight Unlimited.

A century of good old country living (or the archaeology of an old farm house)

In 1874 this modest two-storey farm house was built on the outskirts of Christchurch. It’s not the sort of house we normally see in Christchurch, in part because of its age, but also because it was built as a farm house, not as a town house (as it were). Fortunately for us, there had been very little modifications to the house since it was built, giving us a great insight into (farm) houses of this period.

North elevation

North elevation. The windows were installed in the 1970s, but retained the dimensions of the original double-pane sash windows. The porch over the front door was added during the late 1980s. Image: F. Bradley.

While the layout of the house was fairly typical of what we see from the 1880s on in Christchurch (the front door opened into a central hallway, which led to the parlour, master bedroom and kitchen), but the form of the dwelling was not – the house was a saltbox cottage, rather than a Victorian villa. This form of cottage was the norm in the earliest days of European settlement in Christchurch, but had evolved into the villa in the 1880s. The late 1860s and 1870s seem to represent a transitional period between the two styles, with both forms of house being built.

Inside, the house was as plain and simple as its exterior. The rooms were of modest dimensions and most of the downstairs rooms were lined with rough-sawn rimu boards and an exposed match-lined ceiling. The traditional moulded door architraves and skirting boards were much narrower than those found in villas, as were the skirting boards – and only the public rooms (the hall, parlour and the master bedroom) had moulded skirtings: the private rooms had skirting boards with a very rudimentary rectangular profile.

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The back bedroom, showing the match-lined ceiling and narrow door architraves. Image: F. Bradley.

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The rough-sawn timber boards lining the walls in the back bedroom. Image: F. Bradley.

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The skirting boards. Left: unusually narrow traditional skirtings in the hall. Right: rudimentary rectangular skirtings in the back bedroom. Image: F. Bradley.

Upstairs, the rooms economically occupied the roof space.

Cross-section

Cross-section of the dwelling, looking east. Image: F. Bradley.

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Dangerously steep staircase, leading to the upstairs bedrooms. Image: F. Bradley.

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One of the bedrooms upstairs, showing the exposed rafters. Image: F. Bradley.

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Earlier wallpaper discovered in one of the bedrooms upstairs. Image: F. Bradley.

We found a bunch of artefacts underneath the floorboards of three rooms – the kitchen and two of the original bedrooms – in the house. Underfloor deposits are always interesting and, at the same time, extremely frustrating. Because they accumulate over time, whether thrown or swept under the house from the outside or lost through the floorboards, these deposits often have longer date ranges than the rubbish pit assemblages we usually deal with. They also have better preservation than rubbish pit assemblages a lot of the time, which is cool. It means we get to see a lot of things we don’t normally see, like labelled cans and bottles, well-preserved footwear, fabric and paper and, of course, the odd mummified cat.

The frustrating thing, however, is that because of that long date range, it can be difficult and sometimes impossible to associate the objects we find under a house with the occupants of that house. If, as is the case with this site, the material ranges in date from the 1860s until the 1940s, we have no idea which of the people who lived in that house over that 80 year period might have owned and used them. There is also, thanks to that whole good preservation thing, a tonne of dust, bones with skin or tissue on them (gross) and other icky things. Underfloor deposits make me sneeze a lot. I definitely find this frustrating.

The under-floor deposit uncovered under the original kitchen. The area under this room contained the largest number of artefacts from the site. Image: F. Bradley.

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Some of the artefacts found under the kitchen, including an Edmond’s baking powder tin, a pot or kettle handle and two pennies, from 1945 and 1946. How many of you know that Edmond’s baking powder was created in 1879 in Christchurch? Good old Thomas John Edmonds. Image: J. Garland.

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Some of the glass artefacts found underneath the kitchen. There’s a labelled hock or Rhine bottle at the top, which would have originally contained German wine. The wide mouth jar on the black background is from the Macleans Pickle and Preserving Company, another Christchurch-based producer. Macleans were established in 1882, formed out of the award winning pickle manufacturing business run by A. H. Maclean prior to that date. They made pickled walnuts. Pickled walnuts! Why would you do that to walnuts. The bottles at the bottom of the image are a labelled salad oil bottle, a Mellor and Co. worcestershire sauce bottle and a J. Whittington aerated water bottle. Whittington was another Christchurch-based manufacturer, with the bottle dating to the late 1890s. Image: J. Garland.

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More tins! These were found under one of the bedrooms and were identified from the labels as a tin of Poliflor wax (top two images) and an unidentified brand of cut cake tobacco (bottom image). Poliflor was a New Zealand-made product (lot of that in this assemblage), advertised in the 1920s as a polishing wax for furniture, floors, tiles and leather goods. Image: J. Garland.

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Another small selection of artefacts found under one of the bedrooms. The large champagne looking bottle here is one of my favourites, because the label identifies it as a product of the Crown Brewery in Christchurch. The Crown Brewery is one of Christchurch earliest institutions, established in 1854 by William May. It changed hands several times over the decades, with this bottle probably dating to the period post-1870 .We almost never find examples of Christchurch, or even New Zealand, brewed beers in the archaeological record because the labels just don’t survive, so this one is an excellent find. The stoneware cap at the top is from a Kempthorne and Prosser New Zealand Drug Company jar or crock, referring to the well-known Dunedin firm, and the flask in the bottom right corner has a seal identifying it as Scotch Whisky, from the Distiller’s Company, Edinburgh, Scotland. Mmm, whisky. Image: J. Garland.

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Presented without comment. Image: J. Garland.

Francesca Bradley and Jessie Garland

How to read a landscape

Some of you might have been to the St James Conservation Area, a remote and beautiful area managed by the Department of Conservation. You might have been cycling or walking there, or you might have been drawn by the romance of the famous St James horses. While there, you’re sure to have marvelled at the landscape, and I’m hoping that you might have paused to consider the human history of the area. Today, I’m going to tell you about the story I – as an archaeologist – see when I look at this landscape.

Looking up the Stanley River from Stanley Vale (William Fowler's run) to Lake Guyon (W.T.L. Travers' run). Image: K. Watson.

Looking up the Stanley River from Stanley Vale (William Fowler’s run) to Lake Guyon (W.T.L. Travers’ run). Image: K. Watson.

But first, why the St James on a blog about Christchurch? The St James station (which the St James Conservation Area grew out of, as it were) is representative of the sheep stations that played such an important role in Christchurch’s development, from early struggles over land tenure in the fledgling settlement, to providing important economic stimulus, and not to mention the political and social power of the runholders. Please, however, forget all notions of the landed gentry: it’s a myth.

St James horses. Image: K. Watson.

St James horses. Image: K. Watson.

Let’s start before Europeans arrived in Aotearoa/New Zealand, when Māori roamed the land, passing through the St James on trails that connected the interior with the coast (Brailsford 1984). They left little tangible evidence of their passage, although an archaeological site at Lake Tennyson tells the story of moa hunting in the interior, working stone tools (although not where they were found), and of networks of trade and exchange linking people across the country.

On the shores of Lake Tennyson. Image: T. Wadsworth.

On the shores of Lake Tennyson. Image: T. Wadsworth.

Like their Maori predecessors, the first Pākehā in the St James left little sign of their passage. There are the remains of a sod hut in the Edwards valley, though, that could be from some of the earliest runholders in the area, possibly dating to the early 1860s. It’s the location that suggests this, along with the fact that this hut doesn’t appear on any maps or plans, even maps that show old, ruined huts. This hut lies on the south side of the valley, tucked into the hillside, looking up at the northern part of the St James Range. It was small, probably with just one or two rooms, and its builders (probably also its occupants) would have worked hard to build this. The sod used tells the story of a treeless landscape, which would have made keeping fires going hard work in an era when fires were used for all cooking, as well as heating.

In the Edwards valley, with the remains of a sod hut and ditch and bank fence in the foreground. Image: K. Watson.

In the Edwards valley, with the remains of a sod hut and ditch and bank fence in the foreground. Image: K. Watson.

There was a hut pretty similar to this a bit further up the valley, at a place known as Scotty’s camp (next to a 20th century hut), where the Edwards flows into the Waiau. The only difference is that the hut in the Edwards valley had a ditch and bank fence around it, meaning it had a garden, probably consisting of fruits and vegetables, because it was a long way to the nearest supply town – probably pretty much back to Christchurch in those days. At 700 m above sea level, it would have been hard to keep that garden going over winter. The hut at Scotty’s, though, had no fence, suggesting no garden – in those early runholding days, it was much cheaper and easier to fence stock out than in.

The 20th century hut at Scotty's camp. Image: K. Watson.

The 20th century hut at Scotty’s camp. Image: K. Watson.

The next phase in the story is two men whose stories I love, perhaps because I’ve spent a long time researching and thinking about them, and they’ve developed personalities for me (I make no claims to the accuracy of these).

They arrived in the area in the early to mid-1860s, a bit after the first Europeans, with W.T.L. Travers taking up Lake Guyon station and William Fowler taking up Stanley Vale, making the two men remarkably close neighbours, given their distance from anywhere else. As it happens, Fowler built his house on Travers’ land. From this distance, there’s no way of knowing whether this was deliberate, or simply an accident. There were no fences, after all, and boundaries were defined by vague descriptions about heading east from point X until point Y was reached, or for however many chains/miles. While there was a dispute about the location of Fowler’s house, however, there was never one about him grazing stock on land that wasn’t his. Which suggests to me that he knew full well where his boundaries were, and where he was building his house.

Lake Guyon. Travers, William Thomas Locke, 1819-1903 :Photographs. Ref: PAColl-1574-30. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Lake Guyon. Travers, William Thomas Locke, 1819-1903 :Photographs. Ref: PAColl-1574-30. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Travers was just your average Renaissance man – photographer, scientist, explorer, lawyer, politician, and one of the founders of the New Zealand Institute (now the Royal Society; Shepherd 2014). His biography doesn’t even mention that he was a runholder, and it seems unlikely that he spent much time at Lake Guyon, preferring to leave the station in the control of his manager, William Newcombe, who I like to think of as phlegmatic. From my point of view, Travers did make the most of the time he spent at Lake Guyon, taking photographs, such a rare but valuable resource for us to draw on (he also did quite a lot of exploring). These photographs are wonderful, not just for enabling interpretation of the archaeological remains, but for the life they show us.

Mr William Newcombe, his wife Mary (nee Embury) and children on the shores of Lake Guyon, circa 1870s. Photograph taken by William Thomas Locke Travers. Image: PA7-22-04, Alexander Turnbull Library.

Mr William Newcombe, his wife Mary (nee Embury) and children on the shores of Lake Guyon, circa 1870s. Photograph taken by William Thomas Locke Travers. Image: PA7-22-04, Alexander Turnbull Library.

In particular, they show us William Newcombe and his family. Yes, he lived up that remote valley with his wife and children, in a house that grew a bit like topsy. Today you can still see the chimney remains, mounds of stones peeking up through the grass, right on the water’s edge. Strangely close to the water’s edge to my way of thinking – the lake would have been lapping at the building – and so exposed to the nor’west winds that howl down the valley. What the photographs don’t show is another hut, tucked away amongst the (exotic) trees at the base of the hillside, nicely sheltered from the wind. Perhaps a shepherd’s hut? They also don’t show the garden Newcombe and his family grew and tended: cherry, mint, elderberry, strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries.

A hut tucked into the trees at Lake Guyon, next to Newcombe's garden. Image: K. Watson.

The remains of a hut, tucked into the trees at Lake Guyon, next to Newcombe’s garden. Image: K. Watson.

Fowler’s garden was actually a bit better: he had raspberries, hazelnuts, gooseberries, currants, rowans, hawthorns, ash trees, sycamores, primroses, willows, poplars and snapdragons. And all this at a considerable height above sea level. A lush garden he might have had, but Fowler faced many problems and cantankerous is the word that springs to mind when I think of him, as he was involved in innumerable court cases, including one against his own son. Some of the reports on these in the papers suggested a pretty grumpy man. I think he was probably stoic, too – he lasted here for some 30 years, long after Travers had sold out.

Looking down on the Stanley Vale homestead site, showing some of the exotic plantings. Image: K. Watson.

Looking down on the Stanley Vale homestead site, showing some of the exotic plantings. The poplars in the distance are on drains that Fowler dug. Image: K. Watson.

Part of the problem was that, in choosing the best location for his homestead (tucked neatly into the lee of the hill, with bush nearby for a good supply of firewood), Fowler had built on someone else’s land. Not only was this detrimental to good neighbourly relations, it also meant that he was isolated from the rest of his run. Also, there was no good road access to his station – of course, there wasn’t really any road access at all, just some flatter stretches of land than others. All of this meant that Fowler’s woolshed was some six miles from his house. Across someone else’s land. Which is never going to work out well in an industry plagued by scab. Travers had a woolshed on his land too, which was much closer, but neighbourly relations appear to have been such that it was not possible for Fowler to use Travers’ woolshed.

The sheep dip at Lake Guyon, which was adjacent to the woolshed. Image: K. Watson.

The sheep dip at Lake Guyon, which was adjacent to the woolshed. Image: K. Watson.

Instead, Fowler had to drive his sheep out over Fowler’s pass – a route some of you might have walked or mountain biked. If you haven’t, and you’re keen on that sort of thing, I’d highly recommend it. No doubt because of the distances involved, Fowler built a hut at the woolshed – not, I hasten to add, the hut known as Fowler’s hut, which was really built for a rabbiter named Henry Barker, and his wife. Nothing at all to do with Fowler, he just happened to own the land on which the hut was built. It’s a great hut, but not the sort of hut that runholders typically build: it’s a bit luxurious for that.

Fowler's Pass track, in somewhat inclement weather. Image. K. Watson.

Fowler’s Pass track, in somewhat inclement weather. Image. K. Watson.

Not only was Fowler running sheep, he was planting exotic grasses and draining paddocks, which has left drains and plough marks visible today. While there was lots of ploughing in 19th century New Zealand, little evidence of it survives, because the land continued to be worked, destroying the evidence of that earlier ploughing. But not on Fowler’s land. The plough lines are easy to see when you’re there today and, if you know what you’re looking for, you can see them on Google Earth. So cool! Something usually so ephemeral, preserved. And think, too, of those men and their horses, the effort to get the equipment to where it was needed, the seed, training the horses, draining the land. This was hard work.

Fowler's hut (before recent DOC work to preserve the structure). Image: K. Watson.

Fowler’s hut (before recent DOC work to preserve the structure). This hut was built in the early 1890s, for a caretaker on the rabbit-proof fence. Image: K. Watson.

In the end, though, both Fowler and Travers sold up and left, moving on to other things. I don’t have a clear picture in my head of the McArthurs, the brothers who added Lake Guyon and Stanley Vale to their holdings, creating a station of some 200,000 acres, most of it more than 800 m above sea level. Hard, economising Scotsmen, perhaps. And they made it work, in spite of the rabbits and the climate and the terrain. Ambitious and driven, then. Tough.

The St James woolshed. Image: K. Watson.

The St James woolshed. Image: K. Watson.

They moved the station homestead from the Styx River to the Peters valley, where many of the station buildings remain today. Not the homestead, though. It burnt down in the 1940s (by which time the McArthurs were long gone) and was never replaced. Today, though, you can wander amongst the trees that sheltered it from the southerly and the nor’west, inspect the long drop they would have used, and count the dog kennels that remain.

The St James homestead, as it is today. Image: T. Wadsworth.

The St James homestead, as it is today. Image: T. Wadsworth.

And think, too, of the men, women and children who lived here, in such splendid isolation. In a world where it was cheaper to build a concrete chimney than cart in bricks from Rangiora or Christchurch, where electricity must have come late in the piece, and where rabbits were such a problem that a fence was built to keep them out. We laugh now at this folly, but perhaps think instead of the men whose livelihoods were threatened by such a small, furry creature.

The rabbit-proof fence, alongside Tophouse Road. This was built by the Hurunui Rabbit Board in the 1880s. Image: T. Wadsworth.

The rabbit-proof fence, alongside Tophouse Road. This was built by the Hurunui Rabbit Board in the 1880s. Image: T. Wadsworth.

All of the sites I’ve mentioned – and more – exist in the St James Conservation Area. I say go, explore, and see what stories you can find in the landscape, on the trails that have existed for hundreds of years, in the ruined buildings, the remains of sheep dips, those glorious mountains.

Katharine Watson

References

Brailsford, B., 1984, Greenstone Trails: The Maori Search for Pounamu. A. H. and A. W. Reed, Wellington.

Shepherd, R. Winsome, 2012. Travers, William Thomas Locke. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. [online] Available at: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1t105/travers-william-thomas-locke