The Risky Business of Exporting Beer in the 19th century.

During excavations under the floor of a house in Akaroa, we found a large assemblage of labelled bottles. Labelled bottles are always an exciting find, firstly because they tell us what the bottle held at the time of its disposal, and secondly, because they’re not very common (paper doesn’t survive well when it’s buried in the earth for over 100 years). At our site in Akaroa we found over 30 bottle labels, making it one of the largest assemblages of labelled bottles we’ve recovered. These bottle labels were mostly for alcoholic products, typically beer, and were found on bottle types normally associated with alcohol, such as ring seal bottles and spirits bottles. Over the next few blog posts we’re going to focus on this assemblage of labelled bottles and explore the stories they were able to tell- starting with the risky business of exporting beer in the 19th century.

One of the many labelled bottles we found under the floor. Image: C. Watson.

You might have noticed the bottle pictured above has two labels (there’s also a third on the back). That’s because the beer contained in this bottle was imported from Britain. Whilst the British export beer market was not a large one, only 3% of British manufactured beer was exported in the 19th century, it was far-reaching with beer exported globally (Hughes 2006: 85). The bottom label- the Guinness one- is for the manufacturer of the beer. The top one- for Robert Porter and Co.- is for the bottler of beer. Bottling companies would purchase beer from the brewer, bottle it and then export it to different countries. We found bottle labels for two brands of British and Irish beers: the infamous Irish brand Guinness and the English Bass & Co.

 

Still famous today, Guinness’s history dates back to the 18th century when Arthur Guinness signed a lease for the St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin in 1759 (Guinness Storehouse 2019). At the beginning of his career Arthur Guinness was not brewing the dark stout we associate with Guinness today, but instead was making ale. From the 1770s onwards Guinness began brewing porter, with much success, and in 1799 they stopped brewing ale and instead focussed solely on porter and stout (Hughes 2006: 21). Porter kept longer than ale, making it ideal for the export market. Guinness began with exporting their stout to England and over the course of the 19th century expanded globally. Guinness did not bottle their beer, instead they exported in bulk hogsheads, barrels and half barrels to bottling companies, who were responsible for the bottling, export and sale to the consumer (Hughes 2006: 21). The success of Guinness is apparent, with the brand still in operation today. Image: C. Watson.

Whilst the Guinness brand focused on dark beers, the Bass and Co. brand was synonymous with pale ales. William Bass founded the brewery, based in Burton-on-Trent, in 1777 (Holl 2019). The brand had immediate success, and was exporting ale to Russia by 1784 and North America by 1799 (Holl 2019). This success continued until the 1880s, after which time they saw a drop in sales in export markets, as an increase in colonial brewing operations meant locally produced beer was more readily available and affordable than imported beers (Hughes 2006: 90). Bass ale continues to be brewed today, although the company itself has seen a variety of sales, mergers, more sales and more mergers throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Image: C. Watson.

Guinness and Bass & Co. were the two big brands in the world of 19th century export brewing. For most British (and Irish) breweries, the demand of the internal market combined with the risk of the export market meant there was little desire to export. Exporting beer was a risky market. Beer has a shelf-life, and factors such as the long-shipping times, unpredictable weather conditions and potential for contamination meant it was common for beer to spoil. Breweries did what they could to alleviate these issues. Only beers with a long shelf-life and high quality were exported, and Bass & Co. even restricted the months in which their beers could be bottled and shipped to try and prevent spoiling (Hughes 2006: 93).

For the most part though, brewers avoided the losses associated with the export market by not bottling beers themselves. Instead, they sold their beer in bulk to bottling firms. These bottling firms were responsible for bottling the beer, shipping it overseas, and selling it to retailers, and as-such took on all the risks involved with that process. They were often ordering beer from the brewer for export a year in advance, meaning overstocking and spoilage was common, with these problems further compounded by delays in shipping and even shipwrecks. To make up for this, export beer was sold at a high price. There was no set price, as different bottling companies selling the same product competed in the same markets, but it was higher than locally produced beers, with bottlers targeting well-to-do people (Hughes 2006: 88). Whilst we only found two brands of export beer, Guinness and Bass, we found labels for a variety of export bottlers.

Robert Porter and Co. bottled both Guinness and Bass Ale. The London based firm was founded in 1848 by Robert Porter and was well known for their Bull Dog brand (proving that doggos are always a popular marketing technique; Yenne 2007). They traded across the world and won medals for their bottled beer in Melbourne in 1880, in Adelaide in 1881 and in Calcutta in 1883 (Hughes 2006: 119). In 1950 the company was amalgamated. The bottles found at the site showed that as well as having their name in the beer brand label, they also labelled bottles with their bulldog brand, and in some cases with a label boasting of their award wins. Image: C. Watson.  

John Walter Read, originally an associate in Robert Porter and Co., set up the Read Brothers with William Thomas in 1871. The firm was based next door to Robert Porter and Co., and the use of the Bull Dog Head brand shows great similarities to Robert Porter and Co.’s bulldog brand (lots of good doggos in the export bottling world). The firm produced 50,000 bottles a week in the late 19th century and by 1906 were the largest buyers and bottlers of Bass Ale in the world (Hughes 2006: 121). Read and Porter eventually amalgamated to form the Export Bottlers Ltd in 1939 (Hughes 2006: 122). Image: C. Watson.

Unlike the previous two bottling firms, Daukes was never a major player in the export bottling business (probably the lack of doggos in their branding), with most of their business focused on the home market. The company was based in London and in operation from around 1864 to the 1920s (Hughes 2006: 138, 288). This label features the Ship brand, which was used from 1902 onwards (Hughes 2006: 138). Image: C. Watson.

The British export beer market peaked in 1859 at 614,000s barrels exported (that’s approximately 100,696,000 litres!). The decline was due to a myriad of reasons, one of which was increased competition with local brewers who could under-cut the price of export beer. New Zealand brewers differed to British export brewers in that they both brewed and bottled their own beer, as is evident in their bottle labels.

The Crown Brewery Company was located on the corner of Antigua and St. Asaph Streets in Christchurch and was first established in 1855 by William May (Donaldson et al 1990:221). However, the name Crown Brewery Co. was not used until William White took over the business in 1875, with the Louisson Brothers acquiring the brewery the following year (Cylcopedia Company Limited 1903:290). By the start of the 20th century, the company was capable of producing up to 50 hogsheads a day and were responsible for bottling their own beer. Image: C. Watson

Manning and Co. were another Christchurch brewery, established in 1860 by Samuel Manning (Donaldson et al 1990: 246). Manning established the brewery when he was only 19 years of age, having learnt the brewing trade by working alongside his father at the Suffolk Brewery in Barbadoes Street. The company brewed and bottled their own beer and were in operation until 1923, although Manning left the firm in 1889 (Donaldson et al. 1990: 246). Image: C. Watson.

McGavin and Co.’s Union Brewery was established in 1882 by George McGavin, Alexander McGregor and W H. Smith (Cyclopedia Company Ltd 1905:292). Their factory was located on the corner of Duke and Great King Streets, Dunedin, and the firm both brewed and bottled beer.

One of the most interesting things about the assemblage of labelled bottles was the variety of different brands and exporters present. It showed that the occupants of the house were consuming beer brewed in Christchurch, Dunedin, England and Ireland, and that there seems to have been no great preference for one type over another. Whilst we know from newspaper advertisements of the time that consumers had a wide range of products available to them, it is only when we find assemblages such as this that we can actually see what consumers were choosing to purchase, and from there begin to try and understand why they were purchasing the brands they were.

Fun fact to end the blog on (because I couldn’t find anywhere else to fit it in), the world record for drinking a pint of beer is 0.45 seconds, and 6 seconds for drinking it upside down (Record Holders Republic 2020)

Clara Watson

References

Cyclopedia Company Ltd. 1905. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]. The Cyclopedia Company of New Zealand.

Cylcopedia Company Limited. 1903. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]. The Cyclopedia Company of New Zealand.

Donaldson, B., G. Hume, and S. Costello. 1990. Antique Bottles and Containers of Christchurch and District. Christchurch: Antique Bottle and Collectables Club.

Guinness Storehouse. 2019. Archive Fact Sheet: The History of Guinness The 18 Th Century and Arthur Guinness. Available: https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/content/pdf/archive-factsheets/general-history/arthur-guinness.pdf

Holl, J. 2019. Bass & Company | Craft Beer & Brewing. Available: https://beerandbrewing.com/dictionary/28hc1iTi5P/

Hughes, D. 2006. A Bottle of Guinness Please The Colourful History of Guiness. Berkshire: Phimboy.

Record Holders Republic. 2020. World Record Holders and Breakers – Peter Dowdeswell. Available: http://www.recordholdersrepublic.co.uk/world-record-holders/131/peter-dowdeswell.aspx

Yenne, B. 2007. Guinness. The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint. New Jersey: John Willey & Sons.

 

Hats Off to the Past. Coats off to the Future. 2019: A Year in Review

And just like that, another year is over. This year’s been a big one for us. We’ve excavated some large sites, found some cool artefacts, and on top of all that we moved offices. This fortnight on the blog we’re looking back on the year that was 2019. The blog will be back at the start of February next year. Until then, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Probably the biggest thing to happen for us as a company in 2019 was moving offices. If we flash back to the start of the year, the photo on the left shows the lab in our old office and the photo on the right is the lab in our new office. The question, “when are we moving?” was asked at least daily for the first few months of the year.

It took a bit longer than we thought but come May we finally made the big move. Here’s some photos showing the office just before we moved, versus how it is today. There’s still some more shelving and minor bits and pieces to go, but it’s great to have 80% of our artefacts now stored on shelves and a purpose-built artefact washing area.

One of the best things about our new office is that it’s big enough for us to hold exhibitions in. For Heritage Festival this year we held an open office night complete with talks about being an archaeologist and displays on some of our best sites (top photos). 2019 was a busy year for us in terms of public events. We gave talks at the Teece Museum and to the Workers Education Association, along with being part of Pecha Kucha Night for Archaeology Week (pictured bottom left). We’ve also been lucky enough to work with the Ng King family and their restoration works at the Ng King Brothers Chinese Market Garden Settlement (shoes from the settlement pictured bottom right).

The other perk of the new office is that it’s big enough for office badminton.

It wasn’t all badminton and moving. We did also do some archaeology! The best feature of 2019 by far would be this one. What you’re looking at here is an old creek bed or gully that was infilled during the 19th century, had 20th century features cutting into 19th century features, and a 21st century trench dug through the middle. The complexity of the feature made it both challenging and rewarding to record and interpret.

A few of the many, many features we excavated this year. See Hamish’s blog from a few months back for even more!

Of course, with features comes artefacts. We already did a wee summary of some of our best finds this year, and have also shared cool artefacts throughout the year. Whilst we love finding pretty things (we’re a bit like magpies), we also like thinking about what the social context the artefact existed in was (something we did in a more abstract way with our Life Before Plastic blog series).

And with archaeology, comes animals. For an office of cat lovers, I’m disappointed that nobody shared their site cat photos with me. Looks like birds and dogs won our hearts this year (#moaforbirdoftheyear2020).

And with archaeology at the Underground Overground office comes Malaise. A few of our funnier moments caught on camera.

That’s all for now folks. Merry Christmas!

2019: The Best of The Best

The temperatures are heating up, there’s Christmas decorations in shops around the city and we’re on the countdown to summer holidays. In our penultimate blog post for the year we’re going to look back on some of our best artefacts from the past year. Enjoy!

Big is always better, or at least that’s the case when we’re talking about meat platters. Whoever threw away this gorgeous Royal Cottage patterned meat platter really must have needed the cupboard space, because how could you just chuck out such a beautiful piece. Image: C. Watson.

 

Meat platters aren’t the only ceramic artefacts we’ve found complete this year. Here’s a small section of the many complete or near-complete ceramic vessels we’ve uncovered during our excavations in 2019. This year we’ve analysed two assemblages from well-to-do families, and there definitely seems to be a correlation between wealth and willingness to throw away perfectly good dishes. I’m half of BURN THE RICH mindset, because how could people just throw these out, but also praise the rich because wealthy people throwing out vessels in the 19th century trickles down to archaeologists digging them up in the 21st century (like what I just did there, see last month’s blog for more witty socialism puns). Image: C. Watson.

 

And while we’re on the subject of ceramic vessels, we can’t ignore that we’ve found THREE vessels this year that are fruit and vegetable themed. I give you the Pineapple Jug, the Eggplant Flowerpot and the Corn Jug. I don’t really have anything else to say other than they’re all a big yes from me. Image: C. Watson.

 

Whilst bigger is always better in the case of meat platters, the opposite is true when we’re talking about children’s artefacts. Here’s a few of the various dolls, marbles, miniatures and other things we’ve uncovered this year. No matter what expression is on a doll’s face, they always seem to be blushing. Image: C. Watson.

 

I am notoriously bias for being a big ceramic lover, but we have found plenty of bottles as well. SO MANY BOTTLES. Far more than ceramics. And many more that were complete. But also lots of fragmented ones as well. Here’s a few. Image: C. Watson.

 

I probably shouldn’t be so hard on bottles, there are some cool ones out there. Take this bad boy for example. We’re pretty sure it’s an ink well that is shaped like a baby carriage (but open to other suggestions on the shape). Why? Who knows. But if you need a corn jug to serve milk (or water, or something else- I’m not sure if there’s a specific connection between corn shaped jugs and the specific task they were used for), then you damn well definitely need a baby carriage shaped ink well. Image: C. Watson.

 

This bottle is also very cool. It’s a hock wine bottle (typically assumed to hold wine), but it’s got a label for vinegar on it! This was cool for two reasons. Firstly, because the label meant we knew what the bottle held. Here’s our blurb from the report (because when it’s less than four weeks to Christmas you bet I’m copy and pasting).
The malt vinegar bottle was a hock wine bottle with a label reading “SIR ROBERT B…/ MALT V…/ VAUXHALL D…”. Sir Robert Burnett and Co. were distillers and rectifiers, wine and spirit merchants and vinegar brewers operating out of the Vauxhall Distiller and Vinegar Works in London. The company was initially established as Fassett and Burnett in 1770 and were best known for their product Burnett’s Old Tom Gin (Grace’s Guide 2019). The Burnett’s brand was first advertised in New Zealand in 1863 (Southland Times 30/10/1863: 5), with the malt vinegar first advertised in New Zealand in 1872 (Lyttelton Times 2/07/1872: 4).

Now the second reason why the bottle is cool is all to do with this advertisement here. It tells us that George Warner was the SOLE AGENT for Sir Robert Burnett and Co’s Malt Vinegar (which is what the bottle was). We found that bottle on the site of the business George Warner ran, called Walton, Warner and Co. Which means, we can 100 percent, for definite (no maybes or it’s likely or is strongly possible here), link the bottle with the occupant of the site. And that’s cool. Image: Lyttelton Times. 

 

We found an almost complete ginger jar. It might not be anything that special but I’m including it because I love ginger jars and it’s my blog so I’ll do what I want. Image: C. Watson.

 

Here’s a heart cut out of leather. I don’t know why someone made this, but I love that they did. Image: C. Watson.

 

Yes, you’ve all seen this glass basket a million times before. But I love it and it’s still my favourite artefact of the year (the cartridge shell from Metro Sports is a close second though), so here it is one more time. Image: C. Watson.

Clara Watson

 

Follow the Red Brick Path

Recently we’ve been working in Lyttelton at the intersection of Canterbury and Winchester Streets for the installation of a replacement stormwater. While Lyttelton isn’t exactly over the rainbow, for archaeologists it is a pretty fantastic place to discover heritage and archaeology that has survived to the modern day. We have written about a number of sites in Lyttelton on the blog before, and there is always a good chance of encountering something beneath the ground in any project we’re involved in. The subject of the blog today is this particular find on the corner of Canterbury and Winchester Streets, which was a little different to our usual finds within the roadway. No lions, tigers or bears (oh my!), but instead, along with two rubbish pits and the corner of what was likely the original stone kerbing, we uncovered an earlier brick footpath just below the modern asphalt one. Tap your ruby slippers together and let’s go to 19th century Lyttelton to get a bit of context first.

Figure 1. Looking along Canterbury Street at the brick path (and the contractors at work!). Image: M. Hickey.

Both Canterbury and Winchester Street are part of the original town plan by Edward Jollie in 1849. Construction of the roads within the Lyttelton township began soon after their survey, but it was not until 1875 that the council finally agreed to fix the level of the street so that “the proper steps [could] be taken for forming the portion of Canterbury street between London and Winchester streets” (Amodeo, 2001: 148; Globe, 5/5/1875: 4, 16/6/1875: 3, 7/7/1875: 3; Press, 13/5/1875: 3, 14/5/1875: 4, 30/6/1875: 3; Star, 23/6/1875: 2). This work was likely necessary as sanitation issues were arising from residents throwing soap suds, vegetable matter, and refuse into the roadway of Canterbury Street (Press, 3/6/1875: 3). This would likely explain our two rubbish pits, although we are yet to do the analysis of these to see if the dates align. Although the Lyttelton Borough Council also commenced the construction of a footpath at this time, the threat of legal proceeding from H. Wynn Williams (the proprietor of the Albion Hotel, formerly located at modern site of Albion Square), whose section boundaries would be affected by the alteration of the roadway, stopped the footpath being completed at this time (Press, 22/9/1875: 3). Finally, in May 1891, the Lyttelton Borough Council adopted the suggestion made by the Foreman of Works that “the footpath in Canterbury Street should be laid down in brick” (Star, 5/5/1891: 4). Although no further information regarding the exact location of the brick footpath is recorded in the minutes of the Council meeting (which were printed in the local newspapers), it is likely that the section of the footpath in our project area was included in these works.

Figure 2. Detail from a photograph looking west along Winchester Street in 1901. William Hatherley’s store is visible on the corner of Canterbury Street along with the adjoining small cottage. More information on Hatherley below. Image: Rice, 2004: 46.

With regards to the property at the corner of Canterbury and Winchester Streets, evidence suggests that by at least May 1880 the premises were leased by Mr William Hatherly, who advertised his grocery store from premises on the “Corner of Canterbury and Winchester Street”, which he called “The People’s Store” (Star, 19/5/1880: 2). In 1890, the premise was advertised for sale, at which time it was described as comprising a “a large store and dwelling of seven rooms with cellarage” and also a “comfortable cottage of three rooms adjoining” (Star, 13/3/1890: 2). Hatherly later purchased the section he had been leasing since 1880 and shortly after advertised for tenders for the “erection of four rooms and alteration to present building, corner of Canterbury and Winchester Streets” (Lyttelton Times, 23/10/1891: 8). These alterations coincided with the Lyttelton Borough Council’s decision to have the footpath in Canterbury Street paved with brick, which suggests Hatherly may have altered the building to best align with the new street frontage.

The decision to pave the footpath with brick at the corner of Canterbury and Winchester Streets shows the important of the foot traffic in the area. While gravel footpaths were more commonly constructed in 19th century Canterbury, the use of brick-paved footpaths were more favourable in areas of heavy foot traffic as they were more pleasant to walk on and provided a better foothold in winter than smooth flagged or asphalted pavement (a very important consideration for Lytteltonians). Bricks were also favourable as they were easily laid, and also easily removed when it was necessary to lay or repair water-pipes or make connections with house drains. In England, brick footpaths were quite ornamental, often being laid in diamond or rosetta patterns (Hasluck, 1904: 76). While none of the bricks we found were quite that ornamental, it has been noted that only the best work would have the bricks at the corners of streets radiate around the street corner in a fan, rather than have two courses of bricks meet at right angles as was more common (Hasluck, 1904: 83).

The brick path exposed during works was a very short one to follow, comprising two sections at a maximum length of 3.5 and 3.8 m each. The path had been disrupted by services laid in the 20th century but the laying of the modern asphalt footpath directly on top of the bricks had done a great job at preserving the remaining sections. All of the bricks were marked with a ‘W’, the manufacturers mark for the Wigram Brothers brickmakers. Wigram Brothers began manufacturing and selling bricks in 1886 when they purchased the brickyard formally owned by Royse, Stead and Co. and the New Zealand Grain Agency Company and Mercantile Ltd in Heathcote (Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser 9/7/1886: 3, Cyclopedia Company Limited, 1903: 292). “W” marked bricks stopped being produced in 1903 when Wigram Brothers merged with T. N. Horsley to form the Christchurch Brick and Tile Company (Press 14/7/1903: 1). The bricks at the corner were laid differently in more of an angled pattern to fit the corner. Although we could only see part of this section, they appeared to radiate out from the corner – more like the fan pattern described above.

Figure 3. Part of the south portion of the bricks, in straight courses. Most of this section was able to be left in place after the completion of the recent works. Image: M. Hickey.

Figure 4. Part of the northern section of the bricks, with a lot of fill material marking the service which cut through the pathway. Image: M. Hickey.

Figure 5. The brick path was just below the modern asphalt surface, as seen here. Image: M. Hickey.

Figure 6. The northern section of the path at the corner. The bricks here are angled to go around the corner rather than have two straight courses meeting at right angles – probably a mark of good brick laying. Image: M. Hickey.

Figure 7. Out of the ground and all cleaned up: one of the Wigram Brother bricks from the path. Image: J. Jones.

This all the information we have for now, as these finds are pretty recent and we’re yet to complete the report on the project. As the project was concentrated on the intersection of the two streets, we don’t know how much of the path remains along the rest of Canterbury Street, although we didn’t encounter it again on the northern side of the intersection. It was great to see that previous asphalting of the footpath kept the bricks in situ and in good condition for us to find later. We’re big fans of heritage fabric being left in place when there is no need to remove it to carry out a project, so it was fantastic that someone had come to the same conclusion in the past.

Megan Hickey and Lydia Mearns.

References
Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 1877-1939. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Amodeo, C., 2001. Forgotten Forty-niners: Being an account of the Men & Women who paved the way in 1849 for the Canterbury Pilgrims in 1850. Christchurch: The Caxton Press.

Cyclopedia Company Ltd, 1903. [online] The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]. Available at: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-corpus-cyclopedia.html
d4.html.

Globe, 1874-1882. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Hasluck, P.N., 1904. Road and Footpath Construction. Cassell & Company.

Lyttelton Times, 1851-1914. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Press, 1861-1945. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Star, 1868-1920. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Rice, G.W., 2004. Lyttelton: Port and Town – An Illustrated History. Canterbury University Press.

Seize the means of production! The archaeology of tools and labour.

For a lot of us, Labour Day is celebrated in the same way as a lot of public holidays: not thinking about work, catching up the gardening and odd jobs around the house, going away for a long weekend, having a barbie, that sort of thing. But unlike say, New Year’s Day, or Boxing Day, or The Day After New Year’s Day, or Queen’s Birthday (Down with the Monarchy!), Labour Day is a public holiday with actual historical and national significance beyond an excuse for a day off. Labour Day is among our oldest holidays and was first celebrated on 28 October 1890, a year after the establishment of the Maritime Council, a collection of transport and mining unions (Atkinson, 2018).

Union members march in the first Labour Day, Dunedin, 1890. Generally, I try and avoid a large group of people wearing white, but these guys seem alright. Derby, 2016.

The day was not yet a public holiday enshrined in law, but instead a day of collective action.  In Christchurch, newspapers report that “the crowds of merry-making children were scarcely happier than parents and elder relations” (Star, 29/10/1890: 2). The Star described it as “the greatest popular demonstration seen in Christchurch since the day when the people of Canterbury assembled in thousands to demand the West Coast Railway” (Star, 29/10/1890: 4). There was a procession of unions, too many to list, but including carpenters, joiners, plasterers, tailors, butchers, labourers, bookbinders, shipwrights, shop assistants, bricklayers, carriers, bakers, boilermakers, engineers, plumbers, gasfitters, and bootmakers. The annual parades and recognition of Labour Day were political in nature, with workers and unionists lobbying for the enforcement of a universal eight-hour working day (among other advances), a right that workers in some industries already enjoyed, while others did not. Though the eight-hour working day never made it into the legislation, Labour Day was made a public holiday by act of parliament in 1899 (Atkinson, 2018).

Eventually ‘Mondayised’ to make everyone’s lives easier.  (Evening Post, 2/11/1899:2).

As Christchurch archaeologists, most of the material culture we find is domestic, and related to consumption- both the commercial consumption kind, and the ‘nom nom nom’ kind. When excavating a domestic Pākehā site in Christchurch, we’re most often faced with a bevy of teacups, plates, platters, bottles and other refuse in a rubbish pit; all products, all artefacts of consumption. In contrast, the reverse is true of Māori archaeological sites, where the majority of artefacts we find are by-products from the manufacture of tools. In the case of Pākehā sites, it can seem a stretch to reconnect these products to their production, and to the hands, machine, and labour that created them. Today’s blog attempts, in honour of good old Labour Day, to reconnect artefacts to labour and production (the first step in the life-history of an artefact), by looking at some of the common tools we find in Pākehā archaeological sites in Christchurch. I won’t be talking about the processes of artefact manufacture per se (but if you’re interested in that, check our earlier blogs here and here).

I’m of the opinion that no shed is complete without a spade, a shovel, a family of spiders that refuse to give you their name or say a polite hello in the mornings, a rake, and a jar of snake specimens in formaldehyde that you stole from your last job (don’t worry, they won’t read this). Digging tools are crucial for construction, agriculture, and household chores, and would’ve been the tool of choice for digging the rubbish pits that are our bread and butter here at Underground Overground Archaeology. Canterbury’s first industry was agriculture, and many of the suburbs surrounding the central city have been converted from market gardens, orchards, and farms (Wilson, 2005). Even as the residential area spread, many people kept animals and gardens, and it’s no surprise that some of the most common tools or implements we find are representative of the agricultural labour that formed early Christchurch’s backbone, the construction associated with the city’s gradual expansion, and the conversion of the surrounding farms. Just as the last eight years have seen a construction boom in Christchurch, construction was a burgeoning industry in the early decades of settlement thanks to steady growth, as the Pākehā population grew from stuff-all to over 50,000 over the course of six decades (Thorns and Schrader, 2010).

Truly ground-breaking tools. Spade and shovel blades from the Justice Precinct, F38. Ca. 1860s-1870s. Williams, et al., 2017.

A very toothless rake from a site in Johns Road, Harewood. Bradley et al. 2016.

Stop.

Hammer time. Also, a sweet pair of pliers. Both from a site on Oxford Terrace,, F45. Ca. late 1860s-early 1870s. Garland et al. 2014.

Of course, not all labour is hammers and shovels. In the first decades of Christchurch settlement, ‘industry’ largely involved small-scale manufacture of products like beer, soap, shoes, and dairy-products (Burnard, 2000; Pickles, 2000). Many of the commercial and/or industrial sites we encounter in Christchurch reflect this small scale, often being small businesses and the homes of their operators. To contrast with picks and spades, we also find the archaeological remains of planning, drafting, and other sketchy workplace behaviours (you’ll see what I did there when you get to the photos). We also often find artefacts commonly  associated with the manufacture of clothing, like scissors, bobbins, pins, sewing machine fragments, and off-cuts of cloth and leather. Sometimes these are from sites of professional tailors and dressmakers, but often they are from households of other occupations, and represent the often-unrecorded, unpaid, and underappreciated labour of the domestic sphere, largely done by women. These are a helpful reminder that even though the majority of artefacts we find are associated with consumption of the ‘nom nom nom’ type, they also represent the uncredited labour of those who prepared food and drink throughout the past.

Left:  A hinge from a folding ruler, Tuam Street. Right: a set of “Studley” (I’ll say) callipers from the Justice Precinct.  Ca. 1860s-1870s. Williams, et al., 2017.

A drawing compass, and a protractor, complete with measurements incised on the surface, St Asaph St, c. 1860s-1870s. Dooley et al. 2016.

A feature of leather off-cuts from shoe manufacture. Ca. 1860s-1870s.  Williams et al. 2017.

Half of a pair of scissors (a scissor?), from a site on Kilmore Street. Williams and Watson, 2019.

Tailoresses at work, clothing factory, Christchurch. Ref: 1/1-008930-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22763367.

Of course, Christchurch was founded during the western industrial revolution, with artisanal and  small-scale manufacture gradually giving way to larger factories, like that shown above, and increasing mechanisation of what had previously been handmade (Pickles, 2005). We’ve excavated sites of smithies, workshop and foundries in central Christchurch, places where tools and machinery were forged, perhaps including some of those shown above.  Initially, most of the city’s tools were imported from the UK, but the development of local foundries soon filled the gap, and between the late 1800s and early 1900s, Christchurch was New Zealand’s major manufacturing centre (Williams, 2005: 131). Foundry workers forged the agricultural implements and machinery that farmers used to produce the food that fed the labour force and drove a major portion of the economy. The foundries and workshops also produced and assembled the carriages and locomotives that formed the backbone of New Zealand’s early transport network, making vital connections to distant towns. On foundry sites, we not only find rubbish pits chocka with scrap metal, off-cuts and extras from the manufacturing process, but we’ve also been lucky enough to find the remains of furnaces, factory floors, and other structural features that help to bring these workplaces to life, and to illustrate the lives of the workers that produced the tools and machinery that ran the colony.

Foundry workers at the firm of P. & D. Duncan, Christchurch, possibly their Tuam Street premises. Webb, Stefano, 1880-1967: Collection of negatives. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. Ref. 1/1-019285-G. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23193943.

Two of a row of five brick features surrounded by ash and charcoal-stained soil,  likely representing furnaces, at the site of the P. and D. Duncan foundry. These may be the same furnaces shown in the photo above. Dooley et al. 2018.

A rubbish pit filled with scrap metal, from a central city foundry site.

Remains of farming machinery from a central Christchurch foundry site.

One of the challenges in archaeology is trying to connect the artefact to the person that made or used it. It’s a little easier in historical archaeology, where we can use documents to roughly equate the dates of features to the occupants of a property at that time, but it’s an imprecise process. Rarely do we get an artefact that we can directly infer, rather than suggest, a connection with a particular individual. Well, if you didn’t think the previous sentences were a lead-up to a picture of an artefact with a specific person’s name on it, YOU ARE SORELY MISTAKEN AND BAD AT READING FORESHADOWING.

Boom. Check this out. A broken file with an embossed handle reading “J. GILL” and a second illegible word reading “B(or R)OW..S..”. Williams and Watson, 2019.

A carpenter’s tool associated with a particular named carpenter! There is a 1909 reference to J. Gill from Christchurch who was a carpenter and joiner, but there is no known association between Gill and the site where this was found (Star, 05/08/1909: 3). The file was part of an underfloor deposit at St Luke’s Vicarage on Kilmore Street, and it is possible that Gill lost or discarded the file between the floorboards while at work at the vicarage. We may not know much about Gill, but this file is a tangible remnant of the man and his work. When we talk about putting all our ability and effort to a task, we talk about putting all our “blood, sweat, and tears” into it. Though these things leave no (or little) trace behind to tell of the labour and effort we expend over our lifetimes, many of the physical remains of this labour remain, as do the tools we use to produce them. The archaeological record preserves these remains, and can give us an insight in to the labour that went into the formation of Christchurch, and the lives of its inhabitants.

Here are a couple of my favourite tools: a sickle that I liberated from my Grandad’s when we cleared it out, and my trusty trowel.

Possibly been in the family for generations. I primarily use this now to take the heads off of thistles.

An archaeologist’s best friend.

Finally, I wish you good weather, good company, good food, and good times for the Labour Day weekend. I leave you with a photo of some folks celebrating Labour Day the way many New Zealander’s have for decades, and a poem from the first Labour Day.

“Farmers and friend, having a beer at the end of the day (note the beer being poured from a glass half gallon jar) Labour Day, Southbridge, 1949, at an agricultural fair.” Source: Kete Christchurch.

Tristan Wadsworth

References

Atkinson, N., 2018. ‘Labour Day’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/labour-day, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 19-Jun-2018. Accessed 23 October 2019.

Bradley, F., Webb, K. and Garland, J., 2016. 448 Johns Road, Christchurch: report on archaeological monitoring. Unpublished report for the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Burnard, T. 2000. ‘An Artisanal Town – The Economic Sinews of Christchurch’ in Cookson, J. and Dunstall. G. 2000. Southern Capital – Christchurch: Towards a city biography 1850-2000. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Derby, M. 2016. ‘Strikes and labour disputes – Early labour disputes’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/artwork/20469/first-labour-day-procession-dunedin (accessed 24 October 2019).

Dooley, S. Haley, J., and Dickson, C. 2018. Laneway area, 93, 103, and 105 Manchester Street, 196, 204, and 206 Tuam Street, 221 and 227 St Asaph Street, Christchurch (M35/1132): report on archaeological monitoring. HNZPT authority 2016/701eq. Unpublished report for Ōtākaro Ltd.

Dooley, S., Whybrew, C., Garland, J. and Mearns, L. 2016. 150 St Asaph Street, Christchurch (M35/1164, M35/1165, M35/1166): report on archaeological monitoring. HNZPT authority 2016/435eq. Unpublished report for Southbase.

Evening Post, 2/11/1899:2. Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Garland, J., Carter, M. and Geary Nichol, R., 2014. The Terrace, M35/1050, Christchurch: Report on Archaeological Investigations, Volumes 1-2. Unpublished report for Hereford Holdings.

Pickles, K. 2000. ‘Workers and workplaces – industry and modernity’ in Cookson, J. and Dunstall. G. 2000. Southern Capital – Christchurch: Towards a city biography 1850-2000. Canterbury University Press, Christchurch.

Star, 29/10/1890: 2. Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Star, 29/10/1890: 4. Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Star, 05/08/1909: 3. Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/.

Thorns, D. and Schrader B., 2010., ‘City history and people – The appeal of city life’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/graph/23512/population-of-the-four-main-cities-1858-2006. Accessed 23 October 2019.

Williams, H., Garland, J. and Geary Nichol, R., 2017. Christchurch Justice and Emergency Services Precinct, Volumes 1-3. Archaeological Report.  Unpublished Report for the Ministry of Justice by Underground Overground Archaeology Ltd.

Williams, H., and Watson, C. 2019. St Luke’s Vicarage (former), 185 Kilmore Street, Christchurch: report on archaeological work under HNZPT authority 2017/757eq. Unpublished report for Maiden Built Ltd.

Wilson, J. 2005. Contextual historical overview for Christchurch City final draft report for comment. Christchurch; Christchurch City Council.