Touring the past

It seems almost expected now that many of us will go on semi-frequent overseas jaunts and visit the spectacular local scenery that New Zealand has to offer. However, most of us probably don’t often think about when these destinations became tourist hotspots, or what holidays were like for the early settler “tourists” of New Zealand. Tourism was definitely not something that was initially available to all economic classes and it isn’t something we can easily identify in the archaeological record (click here to see an earlier post about early tourist souvenirs). However, even though the archaeology of a broad concept like tourism might be scarce, we sometimes find physical evidence of things located more on the periphery of tourism. But more about that next week – today we will take a look at how written records and images of destinations and transport links can give us an idea of how some lucky (or plucky) Victorians explored their new home in Aotearoa.

As previously mentioned on the blog, the desire to take a break from colonial city life was probably felt by many of Christchurch’s early inhabitants. The high temperatures of summer and the inadequate sanitation in Christchurch increased heath concerns and diseases. Day excursions out of the city were popular from the 1870s and summertime public holiday expeditions from the central city to the nearby beaches were made readily available to many city folks with the introduction of the tram system. Steam and horse trams were used from 1882, but electric trams made travel more efficient between 1905 and 1954 (after which time buses replaced them on the city routes; Christchurch City Libraries). The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw grandiose train stations being erected around the country to link more destinations together, while (perhaps more importantly), also improving transport routes for goods and trade.

Construction of the electrical tramways in Christchurch [1905]. Laying the lines in High Street. Image: CCL File Reference: CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0046.

The Temuka railway station [1908]. Designed by George Troup (1863-1941), who was at the time Chief Draughtsman for New Zealand Railways, it was built in 1906. It no longer exists. Image: CCL File Reference: CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0013

And here’s a similar looking version in Kaiapoi…

Kaiapoi railway station [1908]. Built in 1904, it shows the features, such as porches, turrets and lattice windows, typical to its designer, George Troup (1863-1941). Only one third of the building now remains. Image: CCL File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0014.

A larger quantity of New Zealanders began to obtain more leisure time by the 1920s. Increased wages and the introduction of shorter working weeks gave many workers more of an opportunity to explore New Zealand’s exceptionally beautiful surroundings. With this came the hey-day of rail tourism in the 1920s and 1930s. It was at this time that New Zealanders were quoted as being “the greatest travellers in the world” by Wellington’s Evening Post (Ministry for Culture and Heritage; Evening Post 24/09/1923: 6). The statistics backed up such claims, stating that 21,000 of these “travel minded New Zealanders”  were carried as passengers on trains in the Wellington District alone, during the 1936 Easter period (Evening Post 15/4/1936: 11).

However, even before the boom in the early 20th century, tourism was present here. Some of our ancestors got to witness a few things that we didn’t, namely, what was arguably our best natural scenic attraction – the Pink and White Terraces at Lake Rotomahana. These were located in the ‘hot spot’ of Rotorua and were a must-visit destination for the visitors to New Zealand (or those who could afford it), prior to their destruction by the volcanic eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886. The local Tūhourangi people were heavily involved with the tourist industry here, protecting the terraces from vandals, and providing food, transport and accommodation for visitors (McClure 2010). But this wasn’t smooth sailing – government intervention stifled Māori initiatives with levies and local Māori also had no interest being personal tourist attractions, as shown when the government constructed a model village to depict Māori lifestyle in 1903 (McClure 2010).

Group of tourists on the White Terraces, circa early 1880s (prior to the 1886 Mount Tarawera Eruption). Photograph taken by Charles S. Spencer. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library, Reference Number: PAColl-6075-58.

When travelling west from Christchurch, Aoraki/Mount Cook was the gem of the Mackenzie Country and the first Hermitage Hotel was constructed there in 1895. The mountain had been ascended for the first time the previous year, but the hotel accommodation improved visitor comfort and accessibility to the slopes. This paved the way for more tourists and future mountaineers, some of whom travelled from as far as Great Britain and the continent for the climb (Press 15/2/1896: 7). Amateur photographers were noted among such climbing parties, attracted by the “new and unique series of views” (Press 15/2/1896: 7). Women were also getting in on the action – photographs on display at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch inspired Sydney local, Emmeline Freda Du Faur, to be the first woman to scale the peak. Her 1919 climb was the fastest to that date (Langton 1996). You can learn a great deal more about the early tourism and the archaeology associated with Aoraki/Mount Cook here on one of our previous blogs.

The Hanmer Hot Springs Tea House [1905]. It opened on 21 Nov. 1904 and in the 1904/05 season earned £108. It was a popular and pleasant resort in all weathers. Image: CCL: File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0002.

Satisfied customers in 1914 (Fielding Star 4/2/1914: 2).

When travelling west from Christchurch, Aoraki/Mount Cook was the gem of the Mackenzie Country and the first Hermitage Hotel was constructed there in 1895. The mountain had been ascended for the first time the previous year, but the hotel accommodation improved visitor comfort and accessibility to the slopes. This paved the way for more tourists and future mountaineers, some of whom travelled from as far as Great Britain and the continent for the climb (Press 15/2/1896: 7). Amateur photographers were noted among such climbing parties, attracted by the “new and unique series of views” (Press 15/2/1896: 7). Women were also getting in on the action – photographs on display at the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch inspired Sydney local, Emmeline Freda Du Faur, to be the first woman to scale the peak. Her 1919 climb was the fastest to that date (Langton 1996). You can learn a great deal more about the early tourism and the archaeology associated with Aoraki/Mount Cook here on one of our previous blogs.

Mt. Cook and the old Hermitage before it was destroyed by flooding in 1913
[ca. 1910]. The original hotel is pictured. This was a 13-roomed house built of cob and completed in 1895. It was situated at the foot of the Mueller Glacier and accommodated about 30 guests. A cage took tourists across the Hooker River to the Tasman glacier. The hotel was damaged by flood in January 1913, and two months later was destroyed beyond repair by a second flood (Press 4/4/1913:4. The Hermitage Mount Cook centennial 1884-1984). Image and caption: CCL File Reference CCL Photo Collection 22, Img00344.

In 1901 the control of the Hermitage Accommodation House passed to the newly formed Dept. of Tourist and Health Resorts. The 1904/05 season saw 175 visitors and earned £924 pounds. Photograph taken 1905 Image: CCL File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0001.

The intrepid kiwi travel spirit is widely felt in our modern society. This ardent idea was clearly passed down through the generations from early pioneers who travelled to the other side of the world to make new homes for themselves. That being said, for the intrepid Victorian traveller, Fiordland must have seemed the most remote and sensational place to visit and it was frequently was – by explorers, hunters, prospectors, sealers and whalers ever since Captain Cook moored in Dusky Sound during 1773. Premier Julius Vogel introduced the New Zealand Forests Bill in 1874, recognising our forest resources as finite and although it didn’t happen until 1952 Fiordland National Park is now New Zealand’s largest conservation area. However, it wasn’t until the end of the 1880s that scientists became concerned that hunting, the introduction of predators, pests and deforestation having a negative impact on our native flora and fauna (Ministry for Culture and Heritage). The caption in the 1884 photograph below says it all: “tourists” make up a hunting party in Dusky Sound – note the woman among them who braving the elements of sun or rain.

Tourists in small boats hunting in Wet Jacket Arm, Dusky Sound, Fiordland [ca. Jan. 1884]. Burton Bros. Image: CCL, File Reference: CCL PhotoCD 3, IMG0006.

Of course, New Zealand pioneer travellers weren’t always confined to their new shores. Their initial journey from Great Britain to the colony was long – 75 to 120 days in a mid-19th century sailing ship, but this was shortened to about 40 days by the 1890s following the introduction of steamers to the British-New Zealand route (Wilson 2005). The faster passage made returning to Great Britain and the continent feasible for an extended period of time or for “the season.” Historically, this was a social time when the leaders of fashionable society returned to London from the country or abroad, including many young women seeking marriage prospects. Local newspaper excerpts from the late Victorian era to the Georgian era record snippets of the comings and goings of the wealthier elite, naming where and with whom they were visiting (Otago Daily Times 10/1/1913 2; Marlborough Express 18/8/1919: 8: Bay of Plenty Times 10/8/1927: Press 13/3/1928: 10). Colonists also took the opportunity to return to their homeland to visit the family they had left behind – such as the Lyttelton couple we met recently on the blog. This tragic story started with a holiday visiting family in the Orkney Islands and ended with a fatal fall from a cliff leaving only a widow to return to Lyttelton alone  (Star 20/8/1890: 3).

But on a nicer note to end – although us modern kiwis may have missed out on the wonder of the Pink and White Terraces, there is still plenty of natural beauty left for us to enjoy. The spectacular landscapes of New Zealand have been commented often in historic newspapers (Otago Daily Times 10/1/1913 2). They have also thankfully been preserved for us through conservation efforts such as Premier Richard Seddon’s 1903 Scenery Preservation Act – his vision for which saw our land not just as an economic resource but a place that had scenic, scientific and historic value (Ministry for Culture and Heritage).

Asked about the South Island on the map he is showing to the American travel agency heads, the government official dismisses it with a yawn. Scales, Sydney Ernest, 1916-2003: That? – nothing there but scenery. Otago Daily Times, 14 January 1954. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library: Reference Number: A-311-4-003.

Tune in next week for the next instalment of the historic tourist industry where we take a look at the archaeological evidence of possible tourist accommodation – specifically hotels and boarding houses.

Safe travels everyone!

 

Chelsea Dickson

References

Langton, G. 1996. ‘Du Faur, Emmeline Freda’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996, updated December, 2005. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3d17/du-faur-emmeline-freda (accessed 2 February 2018).

McClure, M. 2010. ‘Tourist industry – Māori entrepreneurs in Rotorua’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/tourist-industry/page-2 (accessed 31 January 2018)

Wilson, J. 2005. ‘The voyage out – Early steamers’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/the-voyage-out/page-6 (accessed 1 February 2018).

Wilson, J. 2006. ‘Canterbury places – Hanmer and Lewis Pass’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/canterbury-places/page-3 (accessed 1 February 2018).

A club for Christchurch gentlemen

At the start of an archaeological investigation we often consult historical documents to learn as much as we can about a site’s past. Such research can identify the buildings that were once present, the people associated with the site through land purchase and occupation, and the kinds of activities undertaken at the site. This helps us determine what kind of archaeological remains we can expect during excavation. Often the archaeology meets these expectations, although sometimes a site can completely surprise you.

The excavation of the Canterbury Club is a good example of an archaeological investigation in which the archaeological evidence did not quite match up with information gained from the documentary sources. This evidence was not contradictory. Instead it supplemented the documentary information and ended up providing us with a more multi-faceted interpretation of the site.

 The Canterbury Club on the Corner of Worcester Boulevard and Cambridge Terrace c. 1882. Photo: Christchurch City Libraries, PhotoCD13, IMG0060.


The Canterbury Club on the corner of Worcester Boulevard and Cambridge Terrace c. 1882. Photo: Christchurch City Libraries, PhotoCD13, IMG0060.

The Canterbury Club, on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Worcester Boulevard, was established for the professional gentlemen of Christchurch in the 1870s. Many noteworthy gentlemen of Victorian Christchurch were members and the building itself was considered to possess plenty of aesthetic and architectural merit (e.g. Press 20/12/1873: 2). The club, and the men associated with it, was therefore well documented in the formal histories of Christchurch and the gentlemen’s clubs of New Zealand. The club itself produced its own published history in the 1970s (Lamb 1972).

Here’s what the formal histories told us about the site. The Canterbury Club was a Victorian gentlemen’s club in the style of its English predecessors – institutions where men of wealth and status met socially and conducted business. By the mid 19th century these clubs had become an integral part of the upper and middle class British male lifestyle, reflecting the Victorian obsession with class (Manning 1991: 1). As a written history of another such club put it:

Having securely anchored his wife at home with a large family and at the same time established himself as ‘the master’ who could do no wrong, the Victorian husband would spend his leisure no longer in drinking to excess and gambling but in surroundings of luxury never excelled, where the house, the food, the wine and the service bore comparison with those found in any royal palace.

          Macdonald 1956

Brooks Club, London, one of the oldest gentlemen's clubs in England. Image: Hatton 1890:

Brooks Club, London, one of the oldest gentlemen’s clubs in England. Image: Hatton 1890: 13.

In 1856 the Christchurch Club was established on Latimer Square, providing a ‘house in town’ for Canterbury’s rural landowners. In contrast, the Canterbury Club was established by urban, professional gentlemen wanting a club that represented their own social sphere (Opus 2006). The 151 founding members purchased Town Section 403 and part Town Section 407 for their establishment, and the buildings were designed in ornate Italianate style by William Armson and Frederick Strouts. The main club buildings were completed in 1874 (a detailed description of the buildings appeared in the Press during construction and can be found here). The club’s service wing was located discretely behind the club and connected to it via a passageway, which was frequented by the club’s serving staff (Press 29/5/1873: 2). These included a cook/housekeeper, kitchen-, scullery- and house-maids, a steward, waiters, a barman and a billiard marker (Lamb 1972: 30). Once the buildings were finished they were furnished by local suppliers J. Ballantyne & Co and Morrow, Basset & Co  (Lamb 1972: 23). The club’s crockery – white with a maroon band and a ‘Canterbury Club’ monogram – was ordered from London. The club was opened officially on 24 October 1874 with an inaugural dinner.

Advertisement calling for founding members for the Canterbury Club. Image: Press 10/7/1872: 1.

Advertisement calling for founding members for the Canterbury Club. Image: Press 10/7/1872: 1.

When excavation began at the Canterbury Club site it was expected that the archaeology would substantiate the information from the written sources. However, only one rubbish pit, containing a minimum number of 165 artefacts, appeared to be related to the club. Moreover, the artefacts recovered from this pit did not quite match up with the written descriptions.

The ceramic artefacts consisted of a mix of ware types. Two large whiteware basins fitted for indoor plumbing and manufactured by J. Tylor & Sons of London were the largest and most complete ceramic vessels recovered from the rubbish pit. Whiteware cups, saucers and plates were the most common vessel forms, but a stoneware bottle, a bone china cup and dyed-body tiles were also found. While cups, saucers and plates were identified in the assemblage, no other forms associated with food presentation and consumption, such as serving vessels, were found. However, variety was evident in the decorative transfer print patterns on these vessels. The ubiquitous Asiatic Pheasant print was identified on one of the vessels, but the basins were the two only vessels bearing the same pattern. No vessel recovered from the rubbish pit could be positively identified as part of the monogrammed set ordered from London for use in the club.

A whiteware basin recovered from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit. Photo: R. Geary Nichol.

A whiteware basin recovered from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit. Photo: R. Geary Nichol.

A collection of ceramic artefacts recovered from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit. Photo: R. Geary Nichol.

A collection of ceramic artefacts recovered from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit. Photo: R. Geary Nichol.

The faunal remains recovered from the pit also contrasted with written information about the type of fare served to club members. Lamb (1972: 26-27) states that goose, turkey, duck, rabbit, pheasant, hare and several types of fish were ordered from the local fishmonger and butcher and served up at the club. A maximum of four species were recovered from the pit – oyster, cow, sheep, and possibly pig. The meat cuts that could be identified – beef chuck, mutton leg and forequarter – were cuts typically used for boiling, mincing and roasting. There was no sign of the more exotic fare known to have been eaten at the club.

A pair of shoes, belonging to an adult male, was also recovered from the pit. These shoes were interesting because they were made with a combination of leather and canvas. It is possible that these were lighter summer shoes, or perhaps a poorer quality shoe than the full leather pieces often recovered from archaeological contexts in Christchurch. Another possibility, given the use of canvas, was that they were used as sports shoes.

Few glass artefacts were recovered from the pit, and this too was inconsistent with known consumption of alcohol by Club members.

The artefacts from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit did not simply reiterate the information in the written sources and so forced consideration of alternative interpretations. It’s possible that these artefacts represented the less formal side of club life and are the debris of run-of-the-mill activities. For example, the basins in the club bathrooms may have been deemed old-fashioned and discarded. Informal lunches, beverages and snacks may have been served on common dishes rather than the monogrammed crockery, which may have been reserved for formal occasions. Similarly, these meals may have consisted of plainer fare than that served on special occasions. A pair of worn sport shoes, forgotten by a Club member after a cricket match, may have been discarded after they went unclaimed. These are the kind of mundane details that do not make it into the formal histories.

A pair of leather and canvas shoes recovered from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit. Photo: R. Geary Nichol.

A pair of leather and canvas shoes recovered from the Canterbury Club rubbish pit. Photo: R. Geary Nichol.

It is also possible that the artefacts relate to the staff of the Canterbury Club rather than its members. The difference in status between members and staff could account for the common dishes and plain fare represented in the rubbish pit, assuming the staff ate separately. The staff would have been present at the club each day, as opposed to the more transient club members, and their everyday meal is unlikely to have consisted of exotic delicacies served on fancy crockery.

The archaeology of the Canterbury Club site highlights the way in which historical documents and archaeological excavation can supplement each other and result in a more multi-faceted understanding than could be reached by either research method alone. Whether the artefacts represented consumption by club members or staff (or both) they are evidence of the more mundane details of club life that were excluded from the formal histories. Details of daily life are often taken for granted and ignored in favour of more glamorous narratives. However, the artefacts of everyday activities are instantly recognisable even today, and forge a common bond between the past and the present. It is often through these artefacts, rather than the glamorous histories, that a strong connection with the site’s history is made.

Rosie Geary Nichol

References

Lamb, Robert C., (1972), The Canterbury Club 1872-1972: Centennial Notes. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd.

Hatton, J., 1890. Club-Land: London and Provincial. [online]. Available at: http://archive.org/details/cu31924077731317.

MacDonald, G. R., 1956. The Christchurch Club: A History. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd.

Opus International Consultants, 2006. Conservation Plan for the Canterbury Club, 129 Cambridge Terrace Christchurch. Unpublished report for the Canterbury Club.

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