Walton, Warner and Co.

In yet another segue (there’s clearly a theme to my blogs this year), today on the blog we’re going to go into more detail on something we touched on in last fortnight’s blog. Last time on the blog we broke down the different types of companies that were involved in exporting beer to New Zealand. One of those that we mentioned, but didn’t go into too much detail on, was the agent. To recap from our last blog:

“The agent was essentially the middleman between the export bottler in England, and the seller in New Zealand (or they were the seller themselves). Typically based in New Zealand, agents ordered stock from exporters and sold it to local hotels, storekeepers and grocers (depending on what the stock was). They could sell stock by auction or sell directly to other businesses and consumers.”

In this blog we are going to talk about a site we excavated on Hereford Street last year (everyone lets out a sigh of relief that we’ve moved on from Akaroa and bottles), that was occupied in the 19th century by Walton, Warner and Co. Richard Walton, George Warner and James Shand partnered together in 1863 to form the general merchant business, Walton, Warner and Co. By 1864 they had offices on Hereford Street and a bonded warehouse on the corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace. In 1870 Richard Walton left the business, leaving George Warner and James Shand operating under the name George Warner. In 1872, George Warner passed away and James Shand partnered with William Wood and John Beaumont to become Wood, Shand and Co. In 1874, the business built a new bonded warehouse on Oxford Terrace, behind their 1864 warehouse. The partnership continued until 1896, when the company filed for bankruptcy. James Shand bought out his partners and continued under the name James Shand and Co. James Shand and Co., continued operating from Hereford Street until 1922, when they moved to a new premise further along Hereford Street. The business continued up until at least the 1940s (Garland et al. 2014; Trendafilov et al. 2019).

The corner of Hereford Street and Oxford Terrace from Strouts 1877 map. Outlined are the locations of Walton Warner and Co.’s store, offices and warehouses. Image: Strouts 1877.

A view of Hereford Street in 1884. Walton and Warner’s store can be seen near the centre of the image. Also note the location near Shand’s Emporium, now located in Manchester Street. Image: Hereford Street, Christchurch, Dunedin, by Burton Brothers studio. Te Papa (C.011593).

When researching businesses like Walton, Warner and Co., old newspaper advertisements are one of the best resources we have for determining what products the company was selling. The business imported alcohol, farm machinery, groceries and nearly anything else you could think of. They also purchased grain and wool from local farmers and exported those overseas. Walton, Warner and Co. (and later iterations of the company) organised the shipping of overseas goods to Lyttelton, with advertisements often mentioning the ship they arrived on in the title. Goods were stored in their bonded warehouse on Oxford Terrace. The designation of their warehouse as a ‘bonded warehouse’, meant Walton, Warner and Co. paid a customs bond to the Provincial Council, meaning the goods stored in the warehouse were exempt from duty. Duty was paid on them only when they were withdrawn from the warehouse and sold. Auctioning appears to have been a common selling method, with Walton, Warner and Co. often employing local auctioneering firms to sell their goods. Goods were also likely for sale at their store on Hereford Street, and probably through private agreements.

Advertisements, such as these, list the range of goods available to purchase from Walton, Warner and Co., and Wood, Shand and Co. They also provide helpful information to us as archaeologists as they tell us the range of products that were readily available in the 19th century. Long-time followers of the blog might recognise names of bottles that we’ve posted about before, like Hennessey’s brandy, castor oil, Crosse and Blackwell, JDKZ gin, hock wine, salad oil, Lea and Perrin’s, and Old Tom gin among others. Image: Press (clockwise from top left): 07/08/1893: 1, 08/09/1891: 1, 06/11/1863: 2; 25/11/1865: 1; 22/02/1866: 3, 07/10/1869: 4).

Walton, Warner and Co., Wood, Shand and Co., and James Shand and Co. were agents for a variety of products, everything from scotch whisky to sheep dip to fire insurance. Image: Press (top to bottom, left to right): 14/02/1891: 7, 05/10/1863: 3, 15/10/1864: 3, 03/03/1922 : 1, 14/02/1891: 7, 24/02/1894: 5, 27/05/1895: 4, 28/04/1894: 6, 15/05/1924: 18, 21/12/1936: 3, 22/12/1888: 2).

I love literally any excuse to include alcohol advertisements in blogs (they’re the crème de la crème of ads). James Shand and Co. were agents for Robert Porter and Co.’s Guinness Stout, who liked to target nursing mothers and the elderly in their ads. Isn’t it interesting how much things change over the course of one hundred years? Image: Press 07/02/1924: 6 and 11/12/1923: 4.

As well as advertising the sale of products, Walton, Warner and Co. and Wood, Shand and Co. also acted as exporters, purchasing wool, grain, flax, hides, tallow and other produce and selling it overseas. Image: Press (clockwise from left): 06/05/1867: 1, 13/10/1873: 1, 14/08/1863: 4, 18/04/1870: 3).

Advertisements are one way to see the range of products for sale by merchant businesses such as Walton, Warner and Co. Another is through archaeology. In 2013, Underground Overground monitored the excavation of the site of Walton, Warner and Co.’s warehouses on Oxford Terrace, and in 2019 we excavated the site of their store and offices. Both sets of excavations resulted in large assemblages of artefacts being recovered, and through those we can see some of the products available for purchase from the store.

The artefacts we found at the site likely represent goods that were dropped or damaged during the shipping and handling process. These broken artefacts were unable to be sold, and so were discarded on site. These clay pipes are a perfect example. A total of 238 fragments, representing at least 49 pipes, were found in a rubbish pit on the site. They were all identical, suggesting that Wood, Shand and Co. had placed an order for clay pipes, but they broke before they could be sold. Image: C. Watson.

One of the pipes refitted. All the pipes had a moulded finger rest at the junction between the bowl and the stem, and the number “312” stamped at the top of the stem. This number was probably a mould number. Image: C. Watson.

During the excavation of the bonded warehouse, we found evidence for bottles of alcohol being thrown away, presumably because the contents had spoiled on the journey to New Zealand. In one rubbish pit we found 126 black beer bottles that were still sealed with metal capsules identifying the contents as J. and R. Tennent’s Pale Ale, and indicating they were never opened and drunk. Deposits such as these show the risks that importers and exporters took in the 19th century. Image: Garland et al. 2014: 184.

We found these stoneware seltzer water bottles during both excavations. They were imported from Germany and were marked with “O. SELTERS/NASSAU”, referencing the Ober Selters spring in Nassau, Germany. The waters from the springs were believed to have healing properties and were consumed for their supposed medicinal benefits. Image: C. Watson

Three identical blue dyed-body ware chambersticks were found at the site, two in a rubbish pit associated with the store and office, and one in a rubbish pit associated with the warehouse. Whilst not rare by any means, these artefacts are distinctive enough that finding multiple vessels across the two sites suggest they likely relate to the business of Wood Shand and Co., and give an indication of the types of ceramic vessels available for purchase. Image: C. Watson.

Just a few of the many bottles found at the site. Given Walton, Warner and Co. advertised themselves as spirits merchants, it should be of no surprise that we found so many bottles during our excavations. Image: C. Watson.

We posted this artefact last year in our 2019 best of the best blog. This hock wine bottle was found during our excavations of the store and office and was interesting for two reasons. The first was that the bottle had a vinegar label on it, when the shape of the bottle is typically associated with wine. The second, and more relevant in this case, was that we found advertisements for the brand of vinegar, Sir Robert Burnett and Co., referencing George Warner as being the sole agent for the product. I love this bottle because it provides a perfect example of the archaeological record and the historical record coming together to illustrate the various points we’ve talked about in all of our blogs so far this year. Image: C. Watson and Lyttelton Times.

The artefacts we found from both sites are able to provide a deeper understanding of what it was like to run a merchant business in Christchurch in the 19th century. Whilst newspaper advertisements probably give a better idea of specifically what products were available for sale (we’ve yet to find tinned lobster at a site) they don’t provide much more than that. Through the archaeological record we’re able to see the struggles that businesses like Walton, Warner and Co. faced, with spoiled or damaged goods having to be thrown away. I might be being a little bit sentimental here (having just written four blogs on the topic, and given the exact same thing happens today and we don’t think twice about it), but it’s sad to think of all the effort that went in to manufacturing and exporting products to New Zealand, only to have them thrown away on arrival. The archaeology of merchant businesses, like Walton, Warner and Co., also give us a greater understanding of the archaeology of wider Christchurch. These merchant companies were responsible for providing goods to the occupants of Christchurch and studying the objects that they were importing helps us to understand if the products we find on domestic sites were readily available, or if they might have been hard to come by.

Clara Watson


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

Trendafilov, A., A. Gibson and C. Watson. 2019. 92 Hereford Street, Christchurch- Volume I. Final report on archaeological work under authority 2019/006eq. Unpublished report for The Terrace Carpark Ltd.




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