Hotels, what versatile places!

It’s been a busy month for Underground Overground Archaeology as we’ve been actively involved in New Zealand Archaeology Week 2018 running displays, historical tours, and talks – all of them highly successful thanks to history and archaeology lovers across the country!

Since we love Christchurch historical archaeology, a tribute to hotels is in order. These are spaces which were witness to the everyday life of both visitors and residents in the 19th and early 20th century, places in which the public and private sphere merged. This blog ties in with two events which took place during Archaeology Week 2018. An exhibition at the South Library displaying artefacts from hotels in Christchurch and Lyttelton held over the last month (perhaps you checked it out!). Also, a fantastic new Heritage Trail App was released during Archaeology Week named ‘Public Houses, Private Lives’. It is available for download from app stores and gives you the chance to discover some of the central Christchurch hotels for yourself. So, there are no excuse to get into it! Easy peasy! In keeping with the theme of hotels, today we’ll track down some distinctive aspects and activities that happened in the Christchurch hotels throughout the Victorian era… Righty-ho!

Observer 30/04/1910: 16. I couldn’t start without an image as ‘suite-able’ as this one! No comment from the Gender and Feminist Archaeologist…except perhaps to say that this is an illustrative example of the male perspective.

Hotels in mid-late 19th century not only offered accommodation and entertainment to residents and visitors, they were a central hub for the community (for better or for worse). As establishments with bars or pubs, alcohol could be provided cheaply and in copious quantities to patrons.

A variety of alcohol bottles recovered from the Occidental Hotel, where the alcohol bottles made up half of the artefacts found! All different shapes and sizes to cover all sort of consumer tastes: black beer, wine, porter, stout and other spirit or liquor bottles. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Archaeologically, we can certainly attest to the fact that alcohol was widely consumed at hotels as it forms much of the tangible evidence derived from the finds. Either dumped at the rear of the sections, thrown away into an open ditch or even accumulated underneath the dwelling. The Wheatsheaf Hotel was no exception. It was built by John Shand and Herbert Coupe in 1865. The men were granted a general license for premises, but they neglected to take it up within the prescribed time. The license was cancelled, and they had to reapply (whoops!). They didn’t waste their time in obtaining alcohol though. Lots of artefacts were found under the floor, dominated by a huge quantity of bottle corks, indicating that the patrons of the hotel certainly enjoyed a drink (or two). It’s worth noting that some of the alcohol bottles uncovered had been discarded whole and unexpectedly still sealed.

Top: Heaps of corks! Bottom: Sealed bottle! Specifically, Boord’s Gin. Joseph Boord was a distiller, who became famous for the Old Tom style of gin (Stephenson 2016). He first registered his ‘cat and barrel’ trademark for Old Tom gin in 1849. The trademark featured a cat sitting on top of a wooden cask. Boord stated that this was a pun referencing the ‘Old Tom’ in the name of the gin, which was named after a man called Thomas Chamberlain. Joseph Boord was still in business in 1903, when the company defended the trademark against a rival distillery. Image: C. Dickson.

Historically, local newspapers recorded a variety of stories of drunken and disorderly behaviour that resulted from such easy access to alcohol, including sporadic burglaries, drowning, assaults and murders, to name a few.

Criminal activity at 19th century hotels. Clockwise from left: Observer (6/04/1907: 12), Grey River Argus (14/10/1885: 2) and Press (14/07/1876: 3).

Drinking went hand in hand with other activities, like smoking, or games such as billiards, skittles and dominoes. The presence of clay pipes on hotel sites may be evidence for the social side of pipe smoking, or an indication of providing ‘home comforts’ to hotel guests. In regard to gambling, the City Hotel became famous for (ostensibly) having the best billiard room in New Zealand. The Caversham Hotel, in addition to being an accommodation house and pub, also provided games such as billiards and skittles (an early form of bowling). During the 1880s the hotel had an outdoor skittle ground, which was the site of several competitive matches during the decade (Star 31/01/1885: 2).

Left: Clay smoking pipes stems from the Oxford Hotel site made by Charles Crop, a London pipe manufacturer operating during the 19th century. His pipes are commonly found on archaeological sites in New Zealand and Australia (Ayto 1999: 14, Brassey 1991: 30, Macready et al. 1990: 57). Image: J. Garland. Right: Cutty smoking pipe and a clay pipe decorated with a three-masted sailing ship (most likely a clipper) and an anchor looped with rope on opposite sides of the bowl. Image: C. Dickson.

There is no archaeological record of billiards or skittles but of dominoes instead! Playing pieces consisted of a bone face and a thicker wooden backing. The game of dominoes was a popular pastime among both children and adults, particularly in pub or hotel contexts (Bone et al. 2017). Very few dominoes have been found on Christchurch archaeological sites, but at least one was found on the site of a 19th century hotel. Image: C. Dickson.

Leaving aside the drinking culture and related habits for a while, hotels hosted several sporting and social meetings and events, and many proprietors became notable figures in the community thanks to the visibility and respectability of their establishments. John George Ruddenklau was one of those gentlemen. He opened the City Hotel on the corner of Colombo, Cashel and High Streets (what used to be known as the Triangle Centre) in 1864. Although no archaeology was found on the site of the City Hotel, tiny pieces of a saucer and a teacup were found in other central Christchurch sites with the initials J.G.R. and the name ‘City Hotel’ transfer printed into the design. An excellent example of personal and commercial branding in the Victorian era. These marked ceramics suggest that Rudenklau was prosperous enough to afford its own customised china. Exactly how that china ended up on other sites in the city is unknown. He may have sold or given it away after his retirement in 1869, or it may have been ‘taken’ by guests of the hotel at any point during its operation.

Left: Shamrock patterned saucer and teacup with the City Hotel and the initials J.G.R printed on it. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu. Right: John George Ruddenklau, c. 1892. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, CCL PhotoCD 15, IMG0097.

Hotels were also recreational places to enjoy a meal and some entertainment, as well as providing a home away from home for travellers. A wide variety of table and serving wares is considered a characteristic of non-domestic assemblages like hotels, boarding houses and other commercial establishments associated with the provision of food and drink (Lawrence et al. 2009: 75-77). The presence of matching sets may indicate that the hotel chose to serve meals on matching plates and dishes, likely representing what must have been a first-class dinner experience for the guests. In particular, the Occidental Hotel became one of the most well-known hotels in Christchurch, with a room maintained solely for the use of visiting members of the Parliament – a clear indicator of the hotel status.

This set of Belmont patterned vessels made by the Staffordshire potter Pinder, Bourne and Co. (1862-1882) were found on the Occidental Hotel site. The range of tableware recorded, showed that dining was a formal activity at this site, with specialised forms such as a ladle, a cover dish, tureens and a number of plates and other serving wares.

Personal items are scarcely identified on hotel assemblages. These goods hold great value for archaeologists as they tell us about private lives within public spaces (i.e. hotels) in the Victorian era and provide evidence of daily domestic life within this unique space. They may have belonged to the proprietors, visitors or haven been provided to guests by the hotel itself. Their rarity is also what makes them captivating for us.

Perfume bottles. Right: This one may have held a fragrance, based on its size and octagonal shape, similar to the J. M. Farina Cologne bottles found on other Christchurch archaeological sites. Left: Piesse and Lubin bottle. They were perfume manufacturers established in 1855 in London. Their fragrance was first advertised for sale in New Zealand newspapers as early as 1857 (Wellington Independent 20/05/1857: 3). In the 19th century, perfume became intimately entangled with gender. Despite the growing popularity of perfumes in the written record towards the end of the 19th century, especially for women, we don’t find that many perfume bottles on archaeological sites here in Christchurch. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Clockwise from top: John Gosnell’s Cherry Toothpaste first produced in the 1850s, hair comb made from vulcanite or vulcanised rubber (brushing and combing the hair was a frequent recommendation in the 19th century newspapers and magazines to encourage a healthy hair), bone toothbrush made in Liverpool by an unknown manufacturer. Image: J. Garland.

To conclude our particular approach to the daily life at Christchurch hotels though the artefacts and other sources, I’ll return to the beginning: hotels were an important part of the social development of both the public and private areas in the 19th and the early 20th centuries. Who knew hotels were such versatile places!

Just witty! (Observer 7/09/1912: 17).

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Ayto, E. G., 1994. Clay Tobacco Pipes. Shire Publications

Bone, K., Dickson, C. and Whybrew, C., 2017. 6 Winchester Street, Lyttelton: Report on Archaeological Monitoring. Unpublished report for Holloway Builders Ltd.

Brassey, R., 1991. Clay Tobacco Pipes from the Site of the Victoria Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand. Australasian Historical Archaeology, Vol. 9: 27-30.

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Grey River Agust. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed May 2018].

Lawrence, S., Brooks, A. and Lennon, J., 2009. Ceramics and Status in Regional Australia. Australasian Historical Archaeology, Vol. 27: 67-78.

Macready, S. and Goodwyn, J., 1990. Slums and Self-Improvement. The History and Archaeology of the Mechanics Institute, Auckland, and it’s Chancery Street Neighbourhood, Vol 2: The Artefacts and Faunal Material. Science and Research Report 92, Department of Conservation, Wellington.

Observer. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed May 2018].

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed May 2018].

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed May 2018].

Stephenson, T., 2016. The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace. Ryland Peters and Small, London.

Wellington Independent. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed May 2018].

‘The broken pitcher’

Today, art is my inspiration, at least as a starting point. The title of this blog post may seem whimsical, but it is both a practical description of our subject today and a reference to the art of centuries past. Some musicians, painters, writers named their masterpieces ‘the broken pitcher throughout the 18th and 19th centuries such as Henri Pontet, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, William Adolphe Bouguereau or Heinrich von Kleist. Artists may have been seduced by the curved shape of the vessel similar to a feminine body, or maybe inspired by earthlier meanings associated with the everydayness. Even the fragility of ceramics as easily breakable might suggest a deeper meaning…

We’ve previously written about ceramics on the blog (a lot), from transfer patterns inspired by the ancient world to toilet humour and all the way through to cuppas. Now, it’s turn of “the broken pitcher”. Not just as the inspiration for art, but also as something that can tell us about people, our topic. Broken ceramics in general, and jugs and pitchers in particular, were common parts of daily life during the Victorian Era – whether they were broken by accident, dropped from clumsy hands or smashed in a fit of rage, it’s hard to tell…

Auckland Star (17/02/1934: 4). I’m not sure if I’m understanding the illustration properly at all. It seems to me that the big man holding the teapot is blaming his wife for breaking the last jug. The man looks worried. How can he fill the jug with beer! I would say: that’s your big problem, mate!

South Canterbury Times (14/09/1889: 4). The mystery of the broken pitcher inflicted uncertainty on this woman. It seems bizarre. Splitting into pieces at a touch. Undoubtedly, I would be also wondering why that happened…

As archaeologists, we are used to dealing with broken ceramics. As we are not artists using the romantic topic of ‘the broken pitcher’ or Victorians in the 19th century struggling with their day-to-day issues, we deal with broken ceramics from a distinct perspective. During the artefact analysis we follow several steps. First, we try to put the pieces together. It’s like a game, figuring out a puzzle – as entertaining as it is handy for us. Refitting gives us the chance to determine how much of the vessel is present, and to further identify the forms and functions. Also, when you are holding the complete reassembled vessel, there’s a moment of joy and happiness. A real sense of satisfaction.

Left: The office is chocka! It’s a sea-ramic, even. Image: J. Garland. Right: After an amazing refitting job, I promise, Jessie was the authentic expression of delight. Unfortunately, we cannot check it out because she preferred to hide her face behind a pretty plate. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Technically, a jug is a vessel with a handle and spout used for storing or pouring liquids. This definition also applies to pitcher and ewer, terms that are often used interchangeably (although there are some distinct differences) for larger vessels. As it’s a bit confusing, we have our own typology here at Underground Overground, for the sake of consistency. We usually use jug to refer to milk jugs or smaller vessels, while both pitchers and ewers are large jugs. Particularly, ewer is used for those vessels that are found with matching wash basins, in relation to personal hygiene. Sadly, to find jugs, ewers or pitchers in a complete condition is as unusual as delightful. We often find them broken instead, largely just the pouring lip or part of the handle.

In defence of these fragmentary jugs, let’s say both have been identify thanks to the presence of the diagnostic elements mentioned above. Left: Gilt banded pitcher. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu. Right: Holly patterned pitcher. Yes, the name makes sense. The Holly pattern features holly leaves across the vessel. Also, the pattern name is printed on the base. Unfortunately, the mark is incomplete, making impossible to trace it to a specific manufacturer. Image: J. Garland.

Otherwise, a broken jug occasionally becomes an almost complete one after being carefully refitted. From tiny to large examples, here’s selection of the jugs, pitchers and ewers we’ve found in 19th century Christchurch.

Miniature porcelain jug. So cute and tiny. Both now and in the past, children learn through play and toys, which teaches them about roles that will be important during their adult life. Girls, in particular, were educated in the Victorian era with dolls and tea sets, enforcing their role in relation to motherhood and domesticity (Prangnell and Quirk 2009: 42). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Dark and light. Both of these are milk jugs, likely used with a matching tea set. Left: a red refined earthenware jug with a tulip shaped body and a footed base. It stands out for its metallic brown glaze. Image: J. Garland. Right: a bone china jug decorated with gilt banding in combination with the ‘tea leaf’ motif. The ‘tea leaf’ design was first introduced in the mid-1850s by Antony Shaw and its popularity increased quickly, being produced by a number of manufacturers (Kowalsky and Kowalsky 1999: 15). Image: C. Dickson.

These milk jugs are as similar as they are different. The former (left) is decorated with blue sponging, while the latter (right) displays a romantic scene with towered buildings in the foreground and a man or woman ridden a horse. Despite the lost fragment, the scene is lovely. Unfortunately, there is no manufacturer’s mark and we don’t know the name of the pattern. Image: J. Garland.

Another pair of jugs, one of which is my favourite. Left: a yellow-ware vessel decorated with a blue and white dendritic mocha design. Such decoration originated in the late 18th century was formed by allowing a drop of a chemical solution known as ‘mocha tea’ to fall onto the still wet slip of the vessel. The ensuing reaction was carefully managed in order to create the fronds characteristic of the pattern (Rickard 2006). Right: a buff-bodied Bristol glazed jug. The relief moulding displayed a pastoral scene in which people are drinking surrounded by trees. This type of relief moulded jugs, depicting sentimental, floral, gothic, biblical or patriotic themes, gained popularity in the early Victorian period, from the 1830s until the 1870s (Oswald et al. 1982). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

This is an elegant semi-vitrified pitcher or ewer, decorated with stylised foliage in relief. The pitcher had the mark ‘DUDSON’ impressed into the base of the vessel, referring to the Hanley pottery company of James Dudson, operating from 1838 – 1888. Dudson was known for producing “moulded jugs” like this one, as well as Wedgwood style Jasper wares (Godden 1991: 223). Image: J. Garland.

With appearance of the noble marble and with a faceted body, this little jug is just adorable! This style of transfer print is colloquially known as ‘marble’ based on its similarity with marble stone and the veins on its surface. This decoration is usually found in black, blue, blue or purple colours and typically used for jugs and toilet sets for many years (Kelly 2006: 122). This particular jug was found in a rubbish pit with several other near complete ceramic vessels dating from the late 1840s to the late 1850s. Image: J. Garland.

This huge black transfer printed pitcher features an aesthetic pattern, combining asymmetric floral and foliage motifs, including fruits and elements in clusters with geometric shaped vignettes. Aesthetic styles like this are fairly common on Christchurch sites during the 1880-1890s period. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

I’m sure that you remember this one. It’s an imitation of a Mason’s Imari jug, looking like those made by G. M. and C. J. Mason in their Fenton factory in the 1820s. This colourfully design is inspired by Japanese motifs and the handle is in the shape of a dragon. Image: J. Garland.

Gorgeous shape, attractive curved lip, and flowered body, plenty of roses. So far, we cannot figure out the name of the pattern. Overall, scenic or scenic or sheet floral decorative styles like this, which cover most, or all the vessel are characteristic of mid-19th century (Samford 1997). This particular vessel, which is an excellent example of an ‘ewer’ shape, was found with fragments of a matching wash basin. Image: J. Garland.

Regarding to their function throughout the 19th century, jugs, pitchers and ewers were widely used to contain and serve a variety of liquids, including water, milk, beer or wine as well as being used in relation to personal grooming and hygiene. Unquestionably, a versatile artefact. Just saying…

Anything to add. ‘A terrible, yet amazing pun’ (Jessie’s quote). Colonist (21/05/1858: 3).

New Zealand Herald (20/08/1931: 11). I wouldn’t underestimate the multipurpose nature of a jug. This could be a good revenge against that ironic husband who jokes with pitchers, water and women, by the way. If a little drastic…

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Auckland Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Colonist. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Kelly, H.E., 2006. The Glasgow Pottery of John and Matthew Perston Bell China and Earthenware Manufacturers in Glasgow. Glasgow.

Kowalsky, A. A. and Kowalsky, D. E., 1999. Encyclopedia of Marks on American, English and European Earthenware, Ironstone, and Stoneware 1780-1980. Makers, Marks and Patterns in Blue and White, Historic Blue, Flow Blue, Mulberry, Romantic Transferware, Tea Leaf, and White Ironstone. A Schiffer Book for Collectors, Atglen, U.S.A.

New Zealand Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Oswald, A., Hildyard, R. J. C. and Hughes, R. G., 1982. English Brown Stoneware, 1670-1900. Faber and Faber, London.

Prangnell, J. and Quirk, K., 2009. Children in Paradise: Growing up on the Australian Goldfields. Historical Archaeology, Vol. 43, No. 3, pp. 38-49.

Rickard, J., 2006. Mocha and Related Dipped Wares 1770-1939. New Hampshire University Press of New England, Lebanon.

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

South Canterbury Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz [Accessed February 2018].

Keen to have a cuppa

This week on the blog, a bunch of teacups classified according to how cute I think they are. It won’t be as fun as talking to God on the porcelain telephone, but teacups also give us heaps of scope!

Thinking about it – depending on your taste, most of you will be either tea or coffee drinkers (or maybe both, if you’re really breaking boundaries), as is the case in our office.  On the other hand, all of us can relate to making a storm in a teacup or feeling that something it isn’t our cup of tea, regardless of whether we actually drink tea or not. So, this Friday afternoon, grab your cuppa, relax and get lost for a moment in the teacups of yesteryear…

With your and, of course, Jessie’s permission, I’ve borrowed her rating system because we are already familiar with that. Well, except that this time the ranking is back to front, so that our expectations can increase from the beginning to the end.

Cute rating: not at all. Bone china vessels are frequently found on Christchurch sites, and although they’re a bit of cut above the basic refined earthenware vessels, they’re usually relatively plain in decoration. These were fairly affordable, and perfect for your daily caffeine dose. Left: gilt banded teacup, featuring a thin line on the rim and body. Right: sprigged teacup. This technique is easily identifiable by the small blue applied moulded sprigs of floral and foliage motifs, frequently used in the mid-late 19th century (Brooks 2005: 43). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: everyday, as these were very popular in the 19th century. Fair enough. Left: Rhine pattern. A typical romantic pattern displaying a castle and people in a boat sailing on the river surrounded by large trees. Right: Asiatic Pheasants teacup. This pattern is likely the most common floral pattern of the 19th century, but is usually found in a pale blue colour rather than black. Both decorative styles were relatively low-cost but a tidy option for drinking coffee or tea. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: boring? Not at all. I kind of like it, to be honest. The garland on top features repetitive dots and a ribbon with geometric elements hanging. This set seems a bit solemn, but these would have been a perfectly functional vessel for a morning or afternoon tea. Image: C. Dickson.

Cute rating: understated, in a lovely shade of pink. I love this type of aesthetic design. This style often places emphasis on asymmetry in design, combining geometric shapes with fans, birds, bamboo and blossoms inspired by Japanese imagery (Samford 1997: 19). Aesthetic decoration is relatively common on Christchurch sites dating to the 1880-1890s period. Image: C. Dickson.

Cute rating: relatively elegant teacup and saucer set. This motif was identified as the Napier pattern through the mark, which also indicates that it was made by William Brownfield, a Staffordshire potter, who operated from 1850 to 1871 under this name (Godden 1991: 110). Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: attractive because of its naïve semblance. As the name indicates, sponged decoration is formed by the application of a sponge (Brooks 2005: 42). Also, this teacup and saucer set have extra points from me as the repetitive spirals remind me a little of the koru, the Māori symbol of creation, which also symbolises how life both changes and stays the same. Getting thoughtful and meditative at this stage… Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Cute rating: minimalist fancy (by me). I guess this one is quite difficult to fit into our cute ranking. But I needed to include it. A teacup with plenty of insects! It puzzles me a bit! Ladybugs and butterflies are lovely little creatures though…but I don’t have the same feeling with the ants, cockroaches, beetles or what’s that? I’m not too sure. Perhaps, this teacup might be the best choice when offering a hot drink to someone who doesn’t please us to much… On the other hand, it could also be the favourite cup of an entomologist! Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: very. With exotic connotations, an excellent companion for a relaxing moment – let yourself be seduced by (admittedly English depictions of) the Ancient Orient and the Moorish culture, travelling to India, Persia or wherever you want. Unfortunately, I can’t figure out (so far) the name of this pattern, which displays a variety of elements: buildings with minarets, palm trees, columns and three men with beards and black robes, it looks like one of them is teaching, lecturing or just rambling on, while the others listen. These patterns are based on English impressions of ‘exotic’ locations, showing a romanticised imagery of those, don’t necessarily depicted as they were. Anyway, lovely! Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: majestic, as grand and noble as the rearing equestrian statue suggests. This one is a slightly different shape from the others, making it even prettier -the teacup has a flared rim and a sophisticated handle, both of which grant it a superb style. This pattern name is Walmer, inspired by the Walmer Castle, a defensive structure built by Henry VIII in the 16th century to defend the Downs of southeast Kent against foreign invasion (Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017). Image: J. Garland.

Cute rating: the best of the bunch (in my opinion). Jessie is holding a precious treasure in this photo. Who doesn’t want this delightful cup and saucer? No words to describe how lovely they are! Also, this set has everything that we, as archaeologists, could ask of an artefact – the vessels are nearly complete, decorated with the flow blue technique displaying a beautiful Asiatic inspired scene and there is a mark on the base with the name of the pattern and the manufacturer! The pattern is Amoy, which use to be the name of the port city of Xiamen in China. The scene shows two Chinese figures, one is seated, and the other is standing. There is a fringed parasol between them and they are flanked by trees and other plants…an idyllic spot for a cuppa (or a smoke, as we can see from the pipes in the hands of the two figures). The maker’s mark indicate that they were made in England by Davenport c. 1844 (Mason 1982: 15). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Unquestionably, the consumption of both tea and coffee became an important part of New Zealand culture from the 19th century onwards. The archaeological record confirms this popular habit through the range of teacups and saucers found on Christchurch sites, and around the country. Nowadays, smoko, morning and afternoon tea are all essential in our daily lives to give us the energy for the day or, paradoxically, as a moment of personal relaxation or an enjoyable social moment with mates and friends. Keen to have a cuppa? Always.

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Brooks, A., 2005. An Archaeological Guide to British Ceramics in Australia 1788-1901. The Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology & La Trobe University, Australia.

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Mason, V., 1982. Popular Patterns of Flow Blue China. Library of Congress, Wallace Homestead Book Company, Iowa.

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

Transferware Collector’s Club, 2005-2017. Welmar [online] Available at:  http://www.transcollectorsclub.org/tcc2/data/patterns/w/walmer/ [Accessed 13 December 2016].

Toilet humour

This week on the blog, a selection of chamber pots for your perusal, ranked according to my entirely objective, and not at all arbitrary, assessment of how fancy they are. This is accompanied by my very best attempt at using as many euphemisms for talking to God on the porcelain telephone as I can bring myself to type. Starting right now.

(Fair warning, I got most of the euphemisms from the internet. I’m not entirely convinced that they’re all actually things that people say. I also struggled to say most of them out loud, let along type them up in a blog post, so these are some of the more innocuous ones…)

Fancy rating: fairly fancy. Who doesn’t want a lovely flared rim chamber pot decorated with cows in which to see a man about a horse (how confusing).  This one, which we’ve featured here on the blog before, is decorated with the pattern “Cattle Scenery” and dates to the 1850s-1860s. Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Fancy rating: understated fancy. This porcelain throne is literally porcelain, unlike the others in this post, which are all refined earthenware. It may not have the charming farm animals or gaudy colours of its compatriots, but this is the kind of commode used by somebody who actually says commode and refuses to refer to doing one’s business at any time, by any kind of phrase. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: boring but perfectly serviceable vessel for going where even the emperor must go on foot. I don’t really have anything to say about this one. It’s…respectable? Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: middling fancy, with aspirations of grandeur.  A person could check the plumbing using this and remain secure in the knowledge that while they may not own a castle, they can at least squat over the towers of one when they want to. This particular potty was found on the site of a china shop, so, unlike most of the chamber pots we find, it might not have actually been used. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: classical overtones, with points for the purple. This pattern is known as the ‘Alma’ pattern, or rather, is one of several 19th century patterns known by that name. It may refer to a small river in the Crimea that was home to a significant battle between the armies of Britain, France, Turkey and Russia during the Crimean war. I very much doubt that the Crimea, its rivers and the war, were on anybody’s mind while using this to change the water on the goldfish (seriously, who says this!?), but you never do know. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: stately. A slightly different shape to some of the others, this chamber pot is both tall and sturdy, with an imposing cold marble look to it and a spacious interior. The sort of porcelain – or marble – throne from which one reigns over one’s bodily functions, as one should. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: as fancy as those “paintings” we used to make as kids with some paint and half a potato carved to act as a stamp. I kind of like this one, though. It’s somehow cheerful. If you had to visit kermit (apparently it’s Cockney rhyming slang, see if you can work it out), it’s not a bad option. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: very. Decorated with the pattern ‘May Morn’, this glossy, beautifully shaped chamber pot is possibly the most elegant vessel for answering the call of nature that I think we’ve found to date. Maybe we should all decorate our toilets with scenes of springtime in the country. It (like most of the chamber pots in this post) would likely have been part of a bedroom set that included a wash basin and pitcher. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: not at all. Plain, serviceable and child-sized, this is the most basic of vessels in which to sprinkle the tinkle. Image: J. Garland.

Fancy rating: relatively elegant, entirely inoffensive repository with which to refresh the body. Late Spode, made by W. T. Copeland in the latter half of the 19th century. Image: Underground Overground Archaeology.

I could bring myself to use it, but points to “humping the cats loin” for the strangest euphemism I came across.

Jessie Garland

All things great and small

Here at Underground Overground Archaeology we try not to sweat the small stuff – particularly because the small stuff we find is often super cool and makes us say “aww, that’s cute!”, similar to the way many people react when they see baby humans next to regular sized, adult humans.

For example: one product, in two very different sized pots (it’s John Gosnell’s Cherry Toothpaste – first produced in the 1850s). The image on the left shows the size we commonly find in 19th century Christchurch assemblages. The one on the right was a unique find for us. It’s super cute, but it wouldn’t have held a whole lot of toothpaste. Images: left and right: C. Dickson.

Big things coming in small packages are quite literally the bread and butter of an archaeologist. We have often mentioned the theory of how the smallest or most ordinary of objects can illustrate the histories of people and places in ways we might not expect. This was an idea first brought forward in the 1970s, by – American archaeologist, James Deetz, in his bookIn Small Things Forgotten.’

While many of the artefacts we find are small fragments, or what Deetz would consider small things anyway, there are also those that we would classify as “mini sized.” These tiny versions of some of our commonly found Victorian artefacts don’t appear to be particularly rare among online collectors, but information regarding their functions is rather scarce. When faced with identical artefacts with such extreme size differences, our best guess is that these may represent samples of a product – much like a tester you would find in a pharmacy today. Although humorous to imagine, it seems a little farfetched that a mini-sized champagne bottle would have been found in a 19th century boarding house minibar, or that a mini toothpaste pot was fashioned as travel size to fit in your carry-on baggage. Moreover, the subject of vessel reuse is one that constantly plagues our ability to accurately attribute vessel function to our finds, and intrinsically assigning the normal contents of a ‘regular’ sized vessel to a ‘sample size’ vessel, seems even more problematic than usual. For instance, the volume of the mini ring-seal bottle pictured below suggests that it probably wouldn’t hold more than one serving… So champagne for one anyone?

Less is more? Here are some smaller versions of some larger alcohol bottles. On the right is a tiny version of one of the most common 19th century artefact finds – the black beer bottle. The left image shows the size comparison of a champagne shaped ring seal bottle – these were made in several different volumes, but the mini size is rare. Maybe sometimes people just weren’t overly thirsty. Images: J. Garland and C. Dickson.

Maria and I with two very different sized flagons, wearing two very similar tops…. Coincidence? …Actually yes. These vessels may have once held a number of beverage types, including cider, beer, wine or water. The large vessel was made by Stephen Green’s Imperial Pottery in Lambeth, between 1820 and 1858. The small vessel was manufactured by George Skey and Co., Tamworth – a known maker of ginger beer between 1860 and 1936 (Lorenzor 2011). Images: J. Garland and C. Dickson.

It is a small world after all, and maybe sometimes people only needed small amounts of certain products? The tiny bottles that we occasionally find may have been deliberately sized as such because their original contents were perishable and consumers didn’t use much at once. Cosmetics come to mind in this case.

Our in-house hand model, Jessie, is sporting two very small vessels which come in several different colours to suit every skin tone. We aren’t entirely sure what these tiny bottles originally contained, but the one on the left has black residue on the interior.

If we take a break from beverages and bottles, we can consider the small artefacts that are known as ‘miniatures’ (the type of bric-a-brac one finds on a mantelpiece). These items have been relatively overlooked by archaeological interpreters and theorists in the past, primarily because their origins and meanings are less understood than those of items that were used as part of daily domestic or commercial tasks. Indeed, the way we even sometimes refer to miniatures carries connotations of reduced importance, calling them “trinkets,” “trifles,” or “dainty” (Mullins 2001: 159). Perhaps I’m also guilty of this, having called the toothpaste pot “cute” earlier. It’s been thought that lesser archaeological value has been historically attributed to these ‘knickknacks’ because they are recovered from archaeological sites in comparatively smaller numbers, and have less meaning attached to them than other artefacts (Mills 2015: 250). Even modern-day enthusiasts and collectors of miniatures are often more concerned with the rarity, and thus greater monetary value of their antiques, so the original functions and meanings of these items are further ignored (Mills 2015: 250).

As a result of this gap in the discourse, we don’t know all that much about miniatures. While it’s true that they’re not found as commonly on historical archaeological sites as items that are ‘’utilised’ for everyday functions, we do still come across them. So it begs some questions – how did people acquire them? How did the manufacturers of miniatures decide what to make? And how were they promoted to potential consumers? (Mills 2015: 256). Nineteenth century advertisements for miniatures are scarce, despite the phenomenal increase in marketing that occurred during this century (Mills 2015: 256). But we can guess that many of these ‘luxury?’ items must have been inexpensive and versions of them were probably readily available to most people because miniature forms are found on archaeological sites widely spanning many different socio-economic groups.

Beverage break! Some of the Underground Overground Archaeology staff (including a very fresh-faced Luke), enjoying a cup of afternoon tea. Personally, I require more tea than this during my breaks, but that’s just me…

Despite the small issue of the gap in our knowledge, the idea has been put forward by scholars that “A reduction in dimensions does not produce a corresponding reduction in significance” (Stewart 1993: 43). As miniatures could often be considered more ‘luxury’ items (in this case, luxury refers to something that is not used as a part of everyday living), they offer us a rare opportunity to speculate about values and thoughts, rather than about everyday activities. The latter of these can be seen through household artefacts, and the theory behind their use can get a little mundane when they only show us home maintenance, cooking, cleaning, eating, grooming, child care etc. It’s been theorised that “while many artefacts can reflect the thinking of their owners indirectly (fashionable tea wares, for example), miniatures can depict attitudes and meanings since they were not acquired to be used, but for what they symbolized” (Mills 2015: 254).

But theorising/speculating about the meaning of miniatures is not without risk. Attributing meaning to any object is problematic because an individual’s ownership of an artefact can’t always be assumed, and connecting ‘backstories’ to possessions can reflect the biases modern interpreters (Mills 2015: 255). One of the main ways this happens with miniatures is by assuming that “small” equals “toy” and “toy” equals “child”. This is something we often do when finding miniature items like ceramic dolls, marbles and miniature tea sets on Christchurch archaeological sites – and as with other places in the world, documented evidence of children’s presence on these sites is not always found to back up this presumed ownership. Of course, children are not always recorded in historical sources, but this is beside the point. Meanings behind the creation, initial appropriation and continued possession of artefacts can be acquired, changed, and abandoned over time— for example, what starts as an item of childhood entertainment may be nostalgically kept by an adult, or even sometimes may be first acquired by an adult (Mills 2015: 255). This could explain the presence of things like miniature tea sets in our assemblages when we know that only a bachelor lived on-site historically. To confuse the issue further, the concept of childhood as a distinct from adulthood was not also widely recognised by all parts of Victorian society until the mid-19th century (Mills 2015: 255). Child labour was the norm among the Victorian lower classes at this time, but sentiments of youthful innocents requiring protection and education grew, and as a result, so did childhood leisure time. Prior to this, some children still had opportunities to play, but not in the ways children do today, and we can’t assume that all children played with ‘toys’ in the way that we think of them now.

A tiny dog and some tiny bricks. The bricks represent an artefact that we would typically classify as a ‘toy’ or ‘children’s artefact’. The bricks are called ‘kiddibricks’ – first made in Christchurch 1893, by Percival Adams (who was the son of a brick-maker). He made a miniature model of a brick-making press (which made miniature bricks; Truttman 2011). The name “kiddibricks” probably says it all, but these are essentially a precursor to Lego, and I know a few adults who love a good Lego set.

Regardless of their original contents or meanings, mini-sized artefacts and “miniatures” are always a welcome find on our historic sites. We may not be able to come to many conclusions about their place in the historic world, but it pays to remember, it’s the little things that count.

Chelsea Dickson

References

Lorenzor, M., 2011. Tamworth Time Hikes: George Skey´s Wilnecote Works [online] available at: https://tamworthtimehikes.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/george-skey%C2%B4s-wilnecote-works/

Mills, R. 2015. ‘Material Culture in Miniature: The Historical Archaeology of Nineteenth-Century Miniature Objects.’ The Importance of British Material Culture to Historical Archaeologies of the Nineteenth Century. Alisdair Brooks (eds): 243-273. University of Nebraska Press.

Mullins, P., 2001 Racializing the Parlour: Race and Victorian Bric- a- Brac Consumption. In Race and the Archaeology of Identity. Charles E. Orser, editor, pp. 158– 176. University of Utah Press, Provo

Stewart, S., 1993. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Duke University Press, Durham nc.

Truttman, L., 2011. ‘A Little Brick Story.’ Timespanner [Online] Available at: https://timespanner.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/little-brick-story.html