Bits and Pieces

Today’s blog post is a collection of bits and pieces that we have catalogued recently and thought were particularly interesting or unusual. Enjoy!


While many of the patterns that decorated ceramic vessels in the mid-19th century were formulaic in their design and consisted of a series of set elements, there were designs produced that were inspired by current and historical events. This fantastic pattern is aptly named Hannibal Passing the Alps and depicts the Carthaginian general Hannibal crossing the Aps to battle with Roman soldiers in the Second Punic War. Hannibal is front and centre in the pattern, his sword holding arm outstretched as he leads the charge, with a soldier to the right of him helpfully pointing the way to Italy. The almighty Alps provide a backdrop to the scene, but perhaps the best detail is the elephant behind Hannibal. The war elephants that were part of Hannibal’s army are often included in artistic depictions of the crossing and its presence is a nice touch by the artist to clearly convey that the scene depicts the historical event. This pattern was produced by Knight Elkin and Co., who were a partnership at the Foley Potteries in Fenton between 1826 and 1846. Given that the cup had to have been made by 1846, at the latest, the cup pre-dates the creation and settlement of Christchurch by European settlers in 1850. It is very likely that the cup was a treasured possession that was brought to Christchurch by a settler, perhaps a lover of history. While we know that the pattern wouldn’t have been able to purchase in Christchurch from the manufacture date, that this is the only cup to have been found with this pattern so far in the city also indicates to us that the cup was brought to the city by a settler, rather than imported by a retailer.

Similar to today, most bottles in the 19th century were sold with a paper label that advertised the contents of the bottle and the maker of the contents. While the use of a paper label was no doubt sensible to the manufacturers and retailers of the time, given that they were no doubt far cheaper to produce than purchasing specially designed embossed bottles, and they allowed for bottles to be reused by different manufacturers, they aren’t as helpful to us archaeologists given that by the time we’re digging back up the bottles, most of the time the labels are long gone. That made this small wine bottle fragment with a stamped blob seal all the more exciting, as it meant that we could identify the manufacturer of the wine that the bottle contained. Rodolphe Bay and Co. were a French company formed in April 1855 and based in St Estephe, Bordeaux. Unfortunately we were unable to find very little information about the company, other than some advertisements in a New Orleans newspaper. A New Orleans agent, V. and E. Maignan, imported French wines to the city between 1859 and 1861, indicating that the company had to have been in operation until at least 1861. No similar advertisements were found in New Zealand newspapers, suggesting that there wasn’t a similar agent here importing the wine, and online searches of the HNZPT digital library indicate that this is the only wine bottle with a Rodolphe Bay and Co. seal to be found in New Zealand, giving further evidence that the winery was not manufacturing for the New Zealand market. This makes the presence of the wine bottle all the more interesting. It may be that the bottle was purchased for a special occasion while the purchaser was overseas, and it was brought to New Zealand where it was opened in celebration.

This decorative porcelain tray was one of three matching vessels that we recently found that we were able to identify as being made by the Derby Porcelain Works. We don’t often find British porcelain vessels like these on our archaeological sites here in Christchurch. Most of the time we find cheaper whitewares, or we find cheap bone china that was decorated in common mass manufactured designs. To find vessels made by Derby then, was quite unusual. The Derby Porcelain Works were established in the mid-18th century and were well known to produce high quality porcelain wares. The factory was run by the Duesbury family, with the factory passing from generation to generation until 1815, when ownership of the factory passed outside the family to Robert Bloor. During the period of operation by the Duesbury family, the Duesburys were determined to ensure that the factory was well regarded for only producing high quality wares. Any vessel that did not meet their standards was not sold, and instead was stored in a back room of the factory. When Robert Bloor took over the factory in 1815, he held large auctions selling off this stock, resulting in a large quantity of Derby seconds flooding the market in the late 1810s and early 1820s. Under Bloor’s leadership, the quality of the porcelain produced decreased, particularly when compared to earlier years. Bloor operated at the pottery until 1845, after which the works were discontinued and sold. Some of the potters who worked at the pottery established their own business, based on King Street, producing Derby China. This operation continued until 1935 and operated under various names. In 1877, Edward Phillips purchased the old Derby factory and land and established the Derby Crown Porcelain Co., with this company still in operation today. Based on the maker’s mark that was found on this tray, which depicted a painted red crown with the letter D below it, the tray was made during Bloor’s period of operation. It may be then that the purchaser of the set knew that Derby porcelain was regarded as being of high quality and expensive, and purchased it knowing that while the vessels they were purchasing were not of the same quality as the earlier wares, they would still be able to gain social standing off the Derby reputation and social kudos by being the type of family that owned Derby Porcelain.

Sometimes it’s the simple things about an artefact that make it interesting. In the case of this glass bead, it was its similarity to a blackball lolly, albiet a slightly longer shape, that we enjoyed. From the copper metal accretions that were stuck to the bead, we suspect that it likely once had a brass attachment and was part of a piece of jewellery or something similar.

This saucer came from an 1850s feature. We don’t often find features dating to the first decade of Christchurch’s settlement. Most of our assemblages are from the 1860s onwards, which does make sense as by this time the population had increased and the city was well established. It is always interesting when we find features that date to the 1850s, as there are subtle differences in the material culture from this decade when compared to the 1860s assemblages that make it quite distinctive. Take this saucer, for example. While it didn’t have a maker’s mark, there were subtle differences in the ceramic body and the ware that helped to identify it as probably having been made in the 1840s or early 1850s. The design of the pattern, entitled Chase, is very different to the floral and romantic patterns that were popular at the time, and is quite unlike any pattern that I have ever seen from a Christchurch archaeological site. The British potteries were producing for a number of global markets, and would sometimes produce patterns and designs that were specially sold to a certain market. The design of the pattern is quite similar to other patterns that I have seen that were produced specially for eastern markets, such as those exported to countries like India, Singapore, and Indonesia among others. While it may be that the unusual design of the pattern is simply a temporal matter, and that we don’t see similar patterns because design styles and fashions had changed by the 1860s, I can’t help but wonder if this saucer was produced specifically for one of those eastern markets, but some how ended up in Christchurch instead.


And finally, these fragments from a bone china can that had A Present from Canterbury in gilt writing on it. No doubt these were sold as a souvenir for visitors to Christchurch to purchase and take home with them to remember their trip, or for residents to send to loved ones back home in Britain as a reminder that they had not forgotten them.