From bottle to basement: uncovering a repository of information

Late in 2014 we were contacted by contractors working on a rebuild project in Christchurch’s city centre. It was reported that a number of bottles had been uncovered during routine earthworks and the area cordoned off until our arrival. The bottles themselves were in pristine condition but what was of particular interest was the area in which they were found. Behind us was a mound of dark dirt, strewn with displaced wooden planks and broken bottles. I’ll be the first to admit, it wasn’t one of the prettiest features I’ve ever seen and, oh yeah, it was 2 metres below the surface of the city. So, today I’m going to take you on a little ride, a pictorial one as such, down through that ugly mound of dirt, the archaeology involved and the story it told.

And so our tale begins…

It began with a phone call one Friday afternoon (when I was already thinking about a cold brew at the closest drinking hole), but it was answered and soon I was joined by fellow archaeologists, decked out in hi-vis vests and mud-caked boots, with WHS trowels in the back pocket ready to work.

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The feature on the arrival of the archaeologist. Image: K Bone.

 

Due to the unknown extent of the feature we established a simple quadrant system to allow us to record any material collected as we removed the debris from the area. This involved removing all the planks of wood that were no longer in situ, along with any large amounts of soil.

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Initial excavations following the removal of debris. Image: K Bone.

 

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Excavation begins… Image: K Bone.

Once the area was cleared of all debris, we set out to define the full extent of the feature, which was beginning to look a lot like a floor. Three trenches were dug, along the western, southern and eastern sides of the feature (the northern side had already been dug out during the earthworks). Following the completion of these three trenches, we established a grid system for the collection of artefacts.

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The feature once fully exposed, and the three trenches excavated . Image: K Webb.

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Artefacts from below the floorboards, many complete bottles were recorded but were mostly damaged or broken. Image: K Webb.

Once the top layer of dirt and debris was removed and all structural wood was exposed the feature was mapped using a Trimble M3 total station.

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Site plan. Image: K. Webb.

At the same time, the stratigraphy of the northern baulk was drawn (this was the only stratigraphic profile that could be recorded, due to the sheet piling around the section).

This….IMGP0474

                       Was recorded as this…

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                which became this….CS161 strat Kim amended

Then the wooden floorboards were removed and excavation of the subfloor space began, revealling a treasure trove of artefacts and structural information.

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The remains of some upright boards nailed to the bottom plate at the south end of the feature. Image: K. Webb.

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The stone piles supported the wooden floorboards. Three rows of piles were found, one down each of the east and west sides and one down the centre of the building. The piles were unevenly spaced. Image: K Bone.

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During the excavation samples of each of the different timber elements were taken so we could identify the species at a later date. Image: K. Webb.

Once the field work was completed preparation of the report began, with the historical research. Maps and newspapers revealed that this section of land was the site of Barnard’s repository and later Tattersall’s horse bazaar.

Next up: the artefact analysis, which was conducted by one of our in-house artefact specialists. The artefacts are analysed according to their material classes and recorded by a number of attributes, with research including place of manufacture, product type, company name and date of production. This research contributes to our final interpretation of the site.

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Clay smoking pipes were found below the floorboards: a John Reynolds pipe (top) and a J. M. Heywood pipe (see next week’s post for more on this interesting fellow from Lyttelton). Image: K. Bone.

PLYMOUTH

Plymouth gin tin capsule, still attached to the cork. Image: K. Bone.

capsules

Two bottle capsules still attached to the cork, and the bottle. This suggests that these bottles had not been opened at the time of their deposition. The manufacturer of the capsule at right was the Victoria Stores distributor; that at left could not be identified. Image: K. Bone.

COINS

One of two coins found on the site. This particular one has a profile of the young Queen Victoria, with the date 1853. The other coin was a George IV coin, with the date 1826. Image: K. Bone.

Following the artefact analysis a series of spatial distribution maps were produced to determine whether or not there were any patterns in the distribution of the artefacts.

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Example of one of the spatial distribution maps. This looked at the relationship between the different forms of glass recovered from the feature. Image: K. Bone.

So what does it all mean? The location of the floor 2 metres below the ground surface indicated that it was a cellar floor. The artefacts found indicated that the cellar was primarily used to store alcohol bottles and leather goods. Conveniently, the historical research indicated that there had been both a hotel and a saddlery on site.

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And that’s how the discovery of a few bottles led to us uncovering a unqiue piece of Christchurch’s history. From the field work to the research, the artefact analysis to the final write up, the process is important in allowing us to tell the story of Christchurch.

Kim Bone

In which monkeys have mirrors, battles are fought and hair is oiled.

In writing an introduction to this post, I found myself straying unexpectedly into alliteration. This happens sometimes. I decided to run with it.

So, as an aside from our accustomed analysis of antiquity, we’ve assembled an array of artefacts for the the amusement and appreciation of archaeologist and amateur alike. Enjoy!

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A lovely little milk jug recovered from one of our larger sites on Lichfield Street. We don’t often find jugs like these in such complete condition: we’re far more likely to find just the spout or part of the handle. Image: J. Garland.

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A Christchurch trade token, issued by Hobday and Jobberns, a drapery firm based at Waterloo House on Cashel Street. Tokens like these were used in place of government issued money for much of the late 19th century due to the shortage of actual currency in New Zealand during this period (Thomas & Dale 1950: 42-46). Image: J. Garland.

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A blue and white transfer printed saucer featuring three figures meeting under an arch. Unfortunately, no maker’s mark was evident on this piece, meaning we were unable to trace it to its original manufacturer. Image: J. Garland.

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A musket ball! This was a pretty unexpected find: musket balls are not common finds, particularly in the context of 19th century Christchurch. It probably wasn’t used for an actual musket, but may have been intended for a smaller calibre gun. Image: J. Garland.

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This ‘Pratt ware’ jar  is decorated with a scene from the Crimean war, featuring Sir Harry Jones, a well known British military figure. Sir Harry, who rose to the status of general, commanded the British forces and then the Royal Engineers during the Crimean war, having previously fought in several other campaigns, including one with the Duke of Wellington. Image: J. Garland.

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A beautiful gilt decorated and transfer printed candle holder, or ‘chamber stick’, as they were known during the 19th century. The cone feature to the top left of the vessel was there to hold the candle-snuffer, keeping it within easy reach. Image: G. Jackson.

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This wee bottle originally contained Rowland’s Macassar Oil, a hair restorative and beautifier. It was first introduced during the late 18th century by Alexander Rowland, a barber (a very expensive barber, apparently) based in St James, London. It was then marketed by his son, Alexander Rowland Junior, who did so to great success (Rowland 2013). Macassar oil was in use throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th century and is the origin of the term ‘antimacassar’, referring to the piece of fabric thrown over the top or back of arm chairs. Apparently, antimacassars were developed in response to the oily residue people wearing the oil would leave on furniture. Who knew! Image: J. Garland.

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A teacup fragment, on which the image of a monkey examining itself in the mirror is displayed. Because, why not? Image: K. Bone.

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A wooden ruler found under the floorboards of a 19th century house in Christchurch, with “McCallums The Timber People” printed on the front. McCallum & Co were an Invercargill based timber company, who were established prior to 1864. By the early 20th century, the company was run by a partnership between William Asher and Archibald McCallum, with branch offices in Dunedin, Gore, Oamaru, Kelso and Winton (Cyclopedia of New Zealand 1905). They appear to have been purchased by Fletcher’s at some point during the 20th century. Image: J. Garland.

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A beautiful Alma patterned plate, found on a site on Armagh Street. There isn’t really much to say about this particular plate. I just think it’s pretty. Image: J. Garland.

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It can be pretty easy to forget that there was another British monarch between the end of George IV’s reign and the beginning of Queen Victoria’s time on the throne. There’s the Georgian period, then there’s the Victorian period and those seven years between them when William IV was the King of England get sort of forgotten about. This coin, a half-crown, was minted in 1835, during William’s reign, and it is his slightly smiling profile that adorns one side, jaunty hair and all. Image: J. Garland.

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The royal bust on this artefact isn’t quite as affable seeming as William IV’s. In fact, if I may say so, the smudges of dirt don’t do anything for the shape of her nose (a bit beak like, isn’t it?). This pipe celebrates Queen Victoria’s Royal Jubilee, which she had two of – one in 1887 (50 years) and one in 1897 (60 years). It’s unclear exactly which one this pipe is referring to. Image: J. Garland.

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And lastly, here is a teacup shaped like a barrel. Image: J. Garland.

Jessie Garland

References

Cyclopedia Company Limited, 1905. Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago and Southland Provincial Districts]. Cyclopedia Company Ltd., Christchurch. [online] Available at www.nzetc.victoria.ac.nz. [Accessed May 2015]

Rowland, R., 2013. Fifteen Generations of the Rowland Family. [online] Available at www.rowlandgenerations.org. [Accessed May 2015]

Thomas, E. R. & Dale, L. J., 1950. They Made Their Own Money: the Story of Early Canterbury Traders & Their Tokens. Royal Numismatic Society of New Zealand, Canterbury.

Put this in your pipe and smoke it!

A few weeks ago, there was an interesting interview on Radio New Zealand with historian Jock Phillips, on the history of tobacco use in New Zealand. In the interview, Jock talked about the ways in which people consumed tobacco in the past, the types of people smoking tobacco at different points in New Zealand’s history and the rituals that surrounded the habit. One of the things he touched on was the use of the clay tobacco pipe as the method of choice for most smokers during the 19th century, whether in social situations or in the privacy of the home.

Clay smoking pipes are relatively common finds on 19th century archaeological sites here in Christchurch, although, given the prevalence of smoking in 19th century society and the ease with which the pipes were discarded after use, it’s surprising that we don’t find more of them. Clay pipes were, on the whole, cheap and easily obtained, although some of the more elaborately decorated pipes would have been more expensive and, consequently, less disposable. Many of the cheaper, plainer pipes may have been used only once before being discarded, particularly in certain contexts: hotels and taverns, for example, used to provide disposable clay pipes for their customers to use and throw away while on the premises (Phillips 2014).

Broken pipes

The pipes found on archaeological sites are usually broken, often at the stem of the pipe, and their bowls blackened from use. Some of these have ‘bites’ at the ends of the stems, in the form of raised ridges or glazed sections where the smoker put the pipe in their mouth. Sometimes, there are teeth marks at the end of broken stems, suggesting that the stems were cut and the pipes reused until they were no longer useable. Occasionally, however, we do find unused pipes, indicating that they may have been broken before they could have been smoked. Image: J. Garland.

Clay pipes are one of my favourite kinds of artefacts and a big part of that, I think, is due to the elaborate styles of decoration we sometimes find. They’re just so cool. Most of the pipes we find are plain, made from white clay, with no decoration on the bowl, but others are moulded and sculpted in fantastic ways. We’ve found fish head pipes; bowls as eggs cradled in the talons of an eagle; effigy pipes sculpted to look like skulls and caricatures; basket pipes; pipes with steam-ships and trains on them; military pipes; naval pipes and, notably, a pipe with the figure of a woman riding side-saddle along the stem.

A selection of clay pipes found in Christchurch. Clockwise from the top left: fish head pipe bowl; talon pipe; pipe decorated with the insignia of the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers; basket pipe; effigy pipe from three sides; pipe decorated with a ship and anchor. Image: J. Garland.

A selection of clay pipes found in Christchurch. Clockwise from top left: fish head pipe bowl; talon pipe; pipe decorated with the insignia of the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers; basket pipe; effigy pipe from three sides; pipe decorated with a ship and anchor. Image: J. Garland.

Like most decorated objects, there’s information in the decorative styles of these pipes – fashions that can be dated to period of popularity, references to events or figures or organisations that can tell us something about Victorian society and the culture of pipe smoking. Many of the pipes are also marked with the initials or names of their manufacturers, identifying pipe makers in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, London, Manchester or Sydney (among other places), who shipped their goods to New Zealand.

Scotland and England had particularly strong export markets, supplying clay smoking pipes to the colonies in Australia and New Zealand during the Victorian era (Gojak and Stuart 1999, Sudbury 2006). Certain manufacturers – Thomas White, Charles Crop and Duncan McDougall, for example – are frequently represented amongst pipe fragments found here and in Australia. Other pipes may have been made on the continent, particularly in France, where there was also a strong clay pipe manufacturing industry, but, as yet, we’ve not found any recognisably French pipes in Christchurch (Ayto 2002).

Possibly the coolest pipe we've found in Christchurch.

Possibly the coolest pipe we’ve found in Christchurch. A person would look completely badass smoking this. Skull pipes similar to this one have been identified as French in origin (the French industry specialised in ‘figurals’ and portrait pipes), although there is no way of telling if this particular example was made in France. Image: J. Garland.

We’ve also found pipes with local connections, marked with the names of Christchurch retailers and merchants. Pipes with the names of Cathedral Square retailers Twentyman & Cousin and coffee, flax and chicory merchants the Trent Brothers were both found on central city sites earlier in the year. It seems likely that these companies ordered pipes from overseas, branded with their own names, to be sold in their stores or as part of their merchandise. Similarly, in Australia, we know of at least one Sydney tobacconist – Hugh Dixon – who also sold clay pipes bearing his name.

Two clay pipes marked with the names of local Christchurch retailers. Image: J. Garland.

Two clay pipes marked with the names of local Christchurch retailers. Image: J. Garland.

These pipes are found in a range of contexts, some of which can add to or confirm our knowledge about the rituals of pipe smoking in 19th century Christchurch, as well as the methods by which they were imported and sold in the city. We find pipes in domestic assemblages, pipes that would have been smoked by the residents of those households (probably the men – as far as we know, pipe smoking was an almost exclusively male thing amongst European settlers). Smoking was a common habit in Victorian society, particularly in the home. There are numerous articles and advertisements surrounding both the rituals or practice of smoking and the pipes used in the process (Daily Southern Cross 23/04/1852: 1, Evening Post 6/08/1872: 2 Star 10/03/1892:10, Taranaki Herald 2/10/1909: 6, Thames Star 5/02/1892:1).

One thing I found interesting, actually, while researching this, was the number of articles discussing tobacco smoking that referred to the health issues associated with it – good and bad. The most astonishing, I think, was an article from 1867 which decried tobacco as a poison that “benumbs the brain, extinguishes the memory, brings on giddiness, and finally engenders those horrible diseases, cancer in the mouth, and softening of the spinal marrow” (New Zealand Herald 17/12/1867: 5). We tend to think of health concerns with tobacco as a modern phenomenon: clearly, they were not.

 “Tobacco, says Michelet, has killed kissing; it has done more, it has closed the drawing room…The increasing consumption of tobacco is frightful, children ten years of age already smoke. It is time to think of a remedy, tobacco is a poison – a slow one if you will – but certainly a poison, for it benumbs the brain, extinguishes the memory, brings on giddiness, and finally engenders those horrible diseases, cancer in the mouth and softening of the spinal marrow. In concert with its comrade alcohol, it ravages the organisation and dwarfs the species. Tobacco injures the human race, not only physically but morally. It strikes thought with atrophy, and paralyses action; with every whiff of tobacco a man exhales a virtue, or an energy. Germany smokes and dreams; Spain smokes and sleeps; Turkey, who has been smoking these last three hundred years, has no longer strength to stand on her legs.” – New Zealand Herald 17/12/1867: 5

The ritual of smoking in the home has some interesting accompaniments: for example, Victorian literature often speaks of the ‘smoking room’, as a room in a house (presumably a middle – upper class house), specifically set aside for the males of the household to use for smoking (Phillips 2014). We’ve only identified one house with a smoking room in Canterbury (near Ashburton) and then, only because we had the plans for the house that labelled the room accordingly. Without those plans, it’s difficult to know which room in a house may have been used as a smoking room, if one existed at all.

We also find pipes on hotel sites, as I mentioned above, where they may be evidence for the social side of pipe smoking (much like ‘social’ smokers today, perhaps, who smoke only when they drink), or simply an indication of the provision of ‘home comforts’ to hotel guests. Interestingly, one of the pipes found on the site of the Zetland Arms hotel here in Christchurch was not a cheap, disposable example, but one of the most elaborately decorated clay pipes we’ve come across. It was unused, so perhaps it was ornamental, displayed above the bar or used as a display to advertise other pipes or tobacco sold on the premises. It seems a waste, if this was the case: one would look completely awesome (or possibly a little pretentious?) smoking that pipe.

Elaborately decorated pipe with a female figure riding sidesaddle along the stem. Sadly, her head went missing somewhere along the way. Image: J. Garland.

Elaborately decorated pipe with a female figure riding sidesaddle along the stem and an alternative use for a clay pipe in social situations. Sadly, the lady’s head went missing somewhere along the way. Image: J. Garland and Auckland Star 19/11/1936: 26.

On one notable site, we even found a large collection of broken and unused clay pipes, all decorated with either a steam ship or a traction engine design. It turned out that the site had originally been occupied by a grocer, and the pipes were probably damaged or unwanted stock that had been disposed of on-site (Watson et al. 2012). As we can see from these pipes, and the Twentyman and Cousin and Trent Brothers examples, smoking paraphernalia was sold by a range of different merchants and retailers, not just tobacconists (although tobacconist’s shops did exist in Christchurch: Lyttelton Times 18/04/1867: 1).

A concentration of unused clay pipes found on the site of a grocer's business. Image: M. Hennessey.

A concentration of unused clay pipes found on the site of a grocer’s business. Image: M. Hennessey.

It’s interesting, I think, that such a small artefact can provide evidence for or be a part of so many different aspects of society and life in the 19th century. Clay pipes can represent everything from international connections between New Zealand and the rest of the world to local businesses and business owners. They can shed light on contemporary styles and symbolism, on social rituals, on gendered activities, on class, on the beginnings of disposable consumerism. They were intrinsically linked with individual health, good and bad, even a hundred and fifty years ago. In America, pipes even played a part in the workings of the justice system, and, in one of my absolute favourite articles on the subject, pipe smoking is condemned as the murderer of romance, the cause of moral injury and the instigator of national apathy.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: sometimes it’s the smallest things that tell us the tallest tales.

Jessie Garland

References

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

Ayto, E. G., 2002. Clay Tobacco Pipes. Shire Publications, Buckinghamshire.

Daily Southern Cross. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz 

Gojak, D. and Stuart, I., 1999. The Potential for the Study of Clay Tobacco Pipes from Australian Sites. Australasian Historical Archaeology, Vol. 17: 38-49.

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

Phillips, J., 2014. Pundit: Life and Times of the Long White Cloud. Radio New Zealand, aired 15/09/2014. [online] Available at www.radionz.co.nz

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

Sudbury, J., 2006. Historic Clay Tobacco Pipe Studies, Volume 1. Phytolith Press, Oklahoma.

Taranaki Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz 

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

Watson, K., Carter, M., and Hennessey, M., 2012. 134 Hereford Street, Christchurch: report on archaeological monitoring. Unpublished report for CERA.

In which goats frolic, pipes masquerade as baskets and camels do whatever it is that camels do.

Taking a break from our recent musings on society, smells and legacies, this week’s post features another selection of artefacts from the archives. All of these were found on the same site in Christchurch’s central business district over the last few weeks. Enjoy!

Glass lamp

How lovely is this? It’s the (nearly complete) base from a finger lamp. It would have originally had a glass chimney on the top, attached with a copper/brass fitting or burner, looking a bit like this. Image: J. Garland.

Plate with ... pattern

Saucer decorated with scenic pattern, Geneva, similar to the Lucerne patterned plate we featured a few weeks ago. Image: J. Garland.

Marble

A large glass marble, with swirl of coloured glass inside. Image: J. Garland.

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The fragments of another children’s plate, similar to others that we’ve found. Image: J. Garland.

Goats!

Goats! Frolicking! This pattern is, aptly enough, titled “Goat” and seems to be associated with Scottish pottery manufacturer James Jamieson & Co and the Bo’ness (Barrowstouness) Pottery in the Central Lowlands (1829-1855). Image: J. Garland.

And camels!

And camels! Image: J. Garland.

Some patterned pipe bowls, including two with a 'basket weave' motif.

Some patterned pipe bowls, including two with a ‘basket weave’ motif. Image: J. Garland.

A ceramic egg. Eggs like this were used to encourage hens to lay in the nest, rather than elsewhere. Image: J. Garland.

A ceramic egg. Eggs like this were used to encourage hens to lay in the nest, rather than elsewhere. Image: J. Garland.

A small porcelain figurine, tragically missing it's head. Image: J. Garland.

A small porcelain figurine, tragically missing its head. Image: J. Garland.

 

Oh, the irony: a tale of unexpected survival (or how the little things can last the longest)

Over the last few weeks, as archaeologists do, I’ve found myself thinking about the physical legacies people leave behind them. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the contrast between the monumental (buildings, in this case) and the artefactual and how, oddly enough, it is not always the large or the supposedly permanent legacies that survive. We’ve come across this contrast before in Christchurch’s archaeology, in cases like that of J. G. Ruddenklau and the City Hotel or the china from Sydenham House, where the structural legacies are long gone, but the story – the memory – can still be found in the a single fragment or a single object. In small things forgotten, as the saying goes.

This came to mind again recently, thanks to a clay smoking pipe we found in the CBD, incised with the mark of Messrs Twentyman & Cousin, “whole sale and retail ironmongers”. It’s a simple cutty-shaped pipe, with a slightly angled bowl and no heel or spur evident at the base. Were it not for the circular stamp of “TWENTYMAN / COUSIN N.Z” at the back of the bowl, it would be unremarkable. The stamp renders it unusual, by virtue of the fact that it is rare to find clay pipes in New Zealand with the marks of local retailers or manufacturers.

We found another New Zealand branded pipe at this site, this time stamped with the mark of Twentyman & Cousin. Messrs Twentyman & Cousin (wonderful names!) were Christchurch retailers

The Twentyman & Cousin clay smoking pipe found in Christchurch. Interestestingly, the mark is only on one side of the bowl – the one facing the smoker. Image: J. Garland.

We don’t really know why the clay pipe bears the mark of Twentyman & Cousin. The only other examples of similarly branded pipes that I’ve come across were associated with tobacconists and hotels, both of which are more easily related to the practice of tobacco smoking than an ironmonger and agricultural merchant would have been. Was it advertising, perhaps? Maybe the business branched out into a few examples of personalised merchandise? Maybe it was commemorative in some way? Whatever their reason for marking the clay pipe, I suspect it had little to do with preserving a legacy. Yet, in a way, that is what it does now.

Twentyman & Cousin was first established in the late 1860s in Cathedral Square (Lyttelton Times 10/8/1867: 1), by John Holm/e Twentyman and his cousin, Alfred Charles Twentyman (hence the name). Although it is unclear when the latter arrived in the city, we know that Mr J. H. Twentyman arrived in Christchurch in late 1865, along with his family (Star 6/3/1900: 1). By all accounts he was a particularly well-read man (one advertisement details a lecture he gave to the Young Men’s Christian Association on Egypt in the ancient and modern eras) and heavily involved in Christchurch’s church community (Star 17/06/1879:3, 13/08/1879: 3, 16/04/1890:3). Less information is available about Alfred, unfortunately, although we do know that the partnership between the two men was dissolved in 1888 (Press 10/08/1888: 1).

Early advertisements for the business indicate that Twentyman & Cousin imported and sold a range of materials, from woolpacks  to corn sacks and sheep shears (Lyttelton Times 23/12/1868: 1, 10/8/1867:1). In later years, they were known for their ironmongery, particularly their selection of agricultural, pastoral and gardening tools and machinery. One advertisement from 1881 mentions products such as “garden syringes” and the “Ward & Paynes bow pattern solid crucible cast steel sheep shears”, a phrase that I challenge you all to try and say fast five times (Star 9/11/1881: 4). In that following year, numerous advertisements tell of their sale of reapers and binders and their participation in a “trial of reaping and binding” (which, to me, suggests some kind of demonic exorcism as much as it does agricultural work; Wanganui Herald 25/01/1882: 2 ). They didn’t limit themselves to agricultural and pastoral tools, though: other advertisements for the business promote the sale of “an assortment of guns, which for finish and cheapness surpass anything ever brought into the market” (Star 31/05/1883: 1).

An 1881 advertisement for Twentyman & Cousin. Image: Star 25/11/1881: 4

An 1881 advertisement for Twentyman & Cousin, listing all manner of machinery and tools (shovels, rakes and implements of destruction, even). Image: Star 25/11/1881: 4.

By 1880, the company had moved from Cathedral Square to a new building on Cashel Street west, one designed by renowned Gothic revival architect Benjamin Mountfort. Mountfort is most famous for his involvement in the design of the Canterbury Provincial buildings, which still stand today. The new Twentyman & Cousin building on Cashel street was constructed from concrete, brick and stone, and cost somewhere in the region of four thousand pounds to construct, a hefty sum in those days. Contemporary accounts described it as being in the domestic Gothic style, having “solidity of structure and elegance of appearance” and ornamented “sufficiently so as to relieve it from the sombre and barn like appearance of too many of our other buildings” (Press 10/4/1880: 1, Star 8/04/1880: 4). It was, it seems, the talk of the town.

Extract from an 1880 newspaper article on the new Twentyman & Cousin building in Cashel Street. You can see images of the building here. Image:

Extract from an 1880 newspaper article on the new Twentyman & Cousin building in Cashel Street. You can see images of the building here. Image: Press 10/4/1880: 1.

Although this building is of note for a number of reasons (the architectural design not least among them), I find it particularly interesting to think about it as an example of branding, of legacy, in comparison with the clay pipe. The building was elaborate (ostentatious, even), durable (remember that “solidity of structure”) and, presumably, deliberately built to carry the Twentyman & Cousin name into the future, be it 10 years or 100 years distant. There is an intention of permanence in its construction, in everything from the materials used to the style of the building. The clay pipe, on the other hand, emits no such sense of intentional durability. It’s a disposable item, meant to be used until it no longer works and can be discarded. Yet, it survives (albeit slightly the worse for wear), and the building does not.

The contrast (and irony) in this particular story is not just in the difference between the intended purpose of the pipe and the building, but in the manner of their survival. It’s fair to say, I think, that the clay pipe has survived where the building has not because it was discarded, kept safely in the ground over the decades. This often seems to be the way in archaeology, especially in circumstances like those found in Christchurch: the big things are lost and it is the small, disposable, things – the forgotten things – that slip through and keep the past alive. A legacy is a legacy, after all, even if it is not quite as originally intended.

Jessie Garland

References

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

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

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

Wanganui Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz