Cutting Edge: The Banks Peninsula Timber Industry

We have often mentioned on the blog how Christchurch was built on a swamp (and the inevitable drainage problems that this caused!), but another big issue for early settlers living in a swamp was the lack of available timber and firewood. There were, of course, the small areas of bush standing at Riccarton and Papanui, but these were not sufficient to sustain a developing township, and it was not long before these sources were felled or reserved. A significant amount of timber was actually imported into Christchurch – from elsewhere in New Zealand, from Australia, or from further afield – but that is a topic for another day (hopefully by our magnificent leader Kirsa Webb who just finished her Masters degree on the topic). By far, the largest wooded area within close proximity to the Christchurch settlement was on Banks Peninsula, and so, for a number of decades, timber milling was the dominant industry on the Peninsula.

Long before the arrival of Europeans, Tangata Whenua had cut timber to build dwellings, forts, canoes, and other structures in native woods, but the level of this felling had little impact on the natural forests. During the 1830s, sailors who came to New Zealand as whalers also began to fell the native bush, often assisted by local Māori, and this began the origins of European timber milling in New Zealand. By the mid-1830s, about a third of the European men in New Zealand worked in the timber industry (Swarbrick, 2007).

On Banks Peninsula, former sailors had begun to settle in the numerous bays by the 1840s and mill the dense bush. Following the arrival of the Canterbury Pilgrims in 1850, other landless drifters and squatters soon joined them (Ogilvie, 2007: 119). By the 1860s, there were numerous timber mills in operation throughout the Peninsula (Ogilvie, 2007: 5).

Map of Banks Peninsula, with the shaded area representing forest cover in c.1860 and the location of sawmills indicated with stars. Image: Wood and Pawson, 2008: 455.

Many of the earlier timber mills were of a more temporary nature than those established at a later date. For example, George Holmes mill in Pigeon Bay that he established in 1862, appears much to be a more haphazard building than William Coop’s second mill and home complex that he established at Little River in 1873, further up the valley than his original 1863 mill. Many of these early millers were contracted by governing bodies to fulfil specific orders. Ebenezer Hay of Pigeon Bay was contracted by Canterbury Association in 1850 to supply timber for the new township of Lyttelton, and George Holmes was constructed to supply timber for the Lyttelton Tunnel in the early 1860s.

George Holmes timber mill at Pigeon Bay in c.1865. Image: William Locke, 1865.

William Coop’s home and timber mill at Little River. Image: Cantage – Canterbury Heritage

The bushmen who worked for the mills were often landless drifters and squatters who built primitive whares adjoining the bush they felled. Ogilvie notes that it wasn’t uncommon for most of their earnings to go on grog and they were an unruly element in the small Peninsula communities (Ogilvie, 2007: 119). A survey plan of Okains Bay in 1860 shows the footprint of numerous buildings located within the vicinity of the modern Okains Bay township, which are believed to be the location of the various whare occupied by early bushman in the area.

Photograph of bushman John Raddings outside his slab and totara bark whare located on the spur above Okains Bay. Image: Ogilvie, 2007: 121.

Detail from Black Map 120 showing Okains Bay in 1860, indicating the location of a number of small buildings believed to be the whare of early timber millers (blue circles). Image: Archives New Zealand, 1860.

Initially, the early sawyers concentrated their operations at the heads of the various bays, where they could more easily ship their cargo to their destinations. From the mid-1850s, as the bushmen moved up the valleys, they began to employ the use of mechanical mills, with the first water-driven mill being established near the head of Akaroa Harbour in 1854, and the first steam-powered mill at Le Bons Bay in 1857 (Wood and Pawson, 2008: 453-454). As techniques improved, more and more timber on Banks Peninsula began to be cut. The two largest mills (in terms of potential output) constructed prior to 1880, were William White’s at Little River and John Thacker’s at Okains Bay, which could produce up to 60,000 and 70,000 super feet per week respectively (Wood and Pawson, 2008: 454). By the 1920s, the vast majority of the timber on the Peninsula had been felled.

Deforestation of Banks Peninsula between 1830 and 1920. Image: Boffa Miskell, 2007: 27.

As milling operations moved further and further inland, the bushmen were required to transport their timber cargo over greater distances. The most common form of bush transport was to ‘skidd’ the logs along the ground using teams of bullocks harnessed together in wooden yokes. Sometimes this method brought bushmen in conflict with their local road boards, as logs skidded over roads often caused significant damage to the road’s surface that the road boards worked hard to maintain. John Thacker, for example, was brought before the Magistrate on a number of occasions by the Okains Bay Road Board for just such an offense (Lyttelton Times, 14/8/1875: 3; Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 30/1/1877: 2). To speed up the timber delivery system, larger sawmills began to construct wooden tramlines to connect their mills with the bush they were felling and to the jetties from which they dispatched their cargo. John Thacker was again in trouble with the Okains Bay Road Board in 1875, when he constructed a tramline along a public road reserve to his mill in Okains Bay without obtaining permission (Lyttleton Times, 21/8/1875: 3). In some cases, the wooden trams required timber viaducts to traverse streams, rivers or particularly unaccommodating terrain. In Thacker’s case he constructed a timber viaduct over the Opara Stream to reach the jetty.

Photograph of a 16-bullock team pulling a log through bush in Northland. Image: Mahoney, 2007.

Photograph of a three-horse team pulling a trolley with a rimu log along a wooden bush tram, probably in Taranaki. Image: Mahoney, 2007

Photograph of a John Thacker’s wooden mill tramway viaduct over the Opara Stream in c.1889. Image: Ogilvie, 2007: 120.

Ship with a consignment of timber on a jetty in the 1910s, probably located in the Nelson district. Image: Frederick Nelson Jones.

From Banks Peninsula timber could be shipped around New Zealand or further abroad. Significant consignments of the Banks Peninsula timber were shipped to Lyttelton and then transported via train into the Christchurch township where it was offered for sale at various timber yards in the city.

Front cover of the Kauri Timber Company’s catalogue for their Auckland factory in 1906. Image: Swarbrick, 2007

The development of steam powered timber mills was an important advancement for the New Zealand timber industry from the 1860s. During the first decades of settlement in Canterbury, the majority of timber used in the interior of houses was still being imported from overseas. This was because it was cheaper to import foreign finished timber than it was to prepare domestic timber by hand. The development of machine timber processing in New Zealand meant that not only was the cost of domestic timber lowered, but it also materially increased the consumption of timber grown in New Zealand, lowered imports, and provided local employment. The first large scale use of steam power for timber sawing in Christchurch was by Mr F. Jenkins in the early 1860s. Jenkins later extended his business to use machinery to also prepare the timber. But it was not until the early 1870s that this industry really took off in Christchurch, with about five companies branching into the steam timber milling industry during this period (Lyttelton Times, 15/2/1875: 2).

One such Christchurch yard that converted into steam powered milling was the Victorian Sawmills and Timber Yard located on Lichfield Street between Durham and Colombo Streets. Established by James Booth in c.1863, these yards covered half an acre of land. By 1872 Booth had converted his sawmill into steam power and offered a wide range of timber products that could be planed, grooved, beaded, and bevelled to the purchasers needs (Star, 15/2/1875: 2). The business continued to run on the site under various management until 1895. In June 2014 we excavated the site of the former mill and uncovered a large complex of paved brick that is believed to be the main working floor of the sawmill buildings. In addition, we found other paved brick surfaces outside the building, stone and brick footings onto which we suspect the sawmill’s machinery was once fixed, as well as the foundations of the sawmill’s chimney and the likely location of the timber storage yard. You can read more about our excavation of Booth’s sawmill on our blog here.

Photograph showing part of the paved brick floor complex of the Victorian Steam Sawmills and Timber Yard in 2014. Image: Hamish Williams.

Another timber yard that harnessed the power of steam for its sawmill was William Montgomery’s yard located on the southeast corner of Colombo and Tuam Streets. Established in 1873, Montgomery’s business is an example of a successful timber import business from 1862 adapting into a domestic timber milling business in 1873. Montgomery’s business was very successful and in 1876 he constructed a handsome stone office building on his mill premises at the corner of Colombo and Tuam Street. The business continued to run on the site under various management until the 1930s. Between November 2020 and March 2021 UOA excavated part of the former sawmill and timberyard premises and encountered a number of features associated with the old mill, including a brick floor associated with one of the factory buildings, part of the tramline used for transporting timber around the site, and other brick and concrete foundations associated with the various machinery that were used on the site.

Photograph looking southeast towards W. Montgomery and Co.’s brick office building on the corner of Colombo and Tuam Streets in c.1876, not the stacks of timber on the right-hand-side. Image: Early Canterbury Photography, 2009

Detail from Strouts’ 1877 map of Christchurch, showing the footprints of the buildings present on W. Montgomery’s premises (outlined in red). Image: Strouts, 1877

Photograph showing part of the paved brick floor associated with Montgomery’s steam sawmills and timber yard. Image: Michael Healey.

Photograph of part of the tramline used to transport timber around the timber yard. Image: Michael Healey.

The Banks Peninsula timber milling industry impacted the way in which the City of Christchurch was constructed. Although the timber industry pre-dates the settlement of Christchurch, the arrival of the Canterbury colonists in 1850 led to an increase demand for timber and provided the manpower needed to fell it. For decades timber milling was the dominant industry on the peninsula. It resulted in technological developments, provided cheaper materials with which to construct Christchurch, and ultimately changed the environment and landscape of the peninsula. Today we encounter the remains of the 19th century timber mills right in the heart of the city. These mills not only show a direct link between the city and peninsula, but they also provide a sense of the scale of the industry which was so crucial to the development of Christchurch in the 19th century.

Lydia Mearns

References

Boffa Miskell, 2007. Banks Peninsula Landscape Study: Final Report. Prepared for Christchurch City Council by Boffa Miskell Ltd.

Ogilvie, G., 2007. Banks Peninsula Cradle of Canterbury. Christchurch: Phillips & King.

Swarbrick, N., 2007. ‘Logging native forests’. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, [online] Available at: <http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/logging-native-forests>

Wood, V., and Pawson, E., 2008. The Banks Peninsula Forests and Akaroa Cocksfoot: Explains a New Zealand Forest Transition. Journal of Environment and History. Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 449-468.

 

2022 – Turns out it can get worse.

With the dawn of a new year (yes, we know it’s already April May June July, no we are not accepting constructive criticism at this time) the Under Over team has hit the ground running. The dream of a leisurely start back to the working week was quickly dashed with the rise of the new Court Theatre build. Kirsa assured us it would be a straightforward and easy site. Kirsa was in fact wrong. We have also been juggling many other sites, as per usual.

So, what have we all been up to? Our historians are hysterically working their magic, Clara is buried somewhere in the lab, while Jamie and Carly are sticking it out in Moncks Bay and the redzone. Nigel is in a brick barrel drain and Ashburton AND Akaroa (at the same time?!), Hamish is covered in rust, and Tristan is glued to a microscope. Our lovely lab team, Wendy and Naquita have frantically been washing shoes and torpedo bottle bases, Kirsa has been on field school (lucky) and invoicing (unlucky), and Neda, Rebecca, and Alana can be spotted in the wild somewhere in the CBD. All in all, the whole team has been putting in some major mahi these past few weeks months, and we thought we’d kick off the blog this year with some of our cool finds (It’s still technically the start of the year because we haven’t hit June July August yet, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it). We’ve summarised it down to our most dastardly sites and exciting finds for you (translation: we wrote most of this in early March… we’ve been busy).

Buckle up kids.

Court Theatre – Performing Arts Precinct

If any of you readers have been watching or reading the news recently (yes, we are famous now) you may have heard about the Court Theatre site. Additionally, if you  visited the library in January or February you may have spotted us working at the new Court Theatre site on the corner of Colombo Street and Gloucester Street. We were easy to spot given we were in full cover white asbestos suits – which are great in 30-degree heat (Rebecca here, did you know you can still get sunburnt through a full coverage suit? *Single tear smiling face*). Fun fact: asbestos itself is one of the few weaknesses of the archaeologist (along with alcohol free beer and snakes – naturally).

Figure 1. An archaeologist in the wild. If you listen carefully, you can hear them begrudging the asbestos.

The new Court Theatre site was originally home to Cookham House, a boot factory in operation from 1851. Many other businesses were soon established on the site facing Colombo Street. These included grocers, a butcher, a jeweller, a China and glassware shop, a confectioner, photographers, solicitors, drapers, and more. Essentially, this was a major boujie shopping centre, comparable to The Crossing or Merivale (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Colombo Street looking south in the 1880s. Image: Burton Brothers Studio, c.1884c.

With it being the site of a former boot factory, we had initially joked about how we would find large pits full of shoes. Unfortunately, the joke was on us as this was literally what we found (Figure 3). Feature 1 was a very large rubbish pit with “an entire archaeological layer of compressed shoes” (any Douglas Adams fans out there?). How many shoes you ask? Two fridges full.

Figure 3. Feature 1 half sectioned with the compressed layer of archaeological shoes, some bottles, and underlying roofing slate.

In total we encountered 49 archaeological features. I too was disappointed we didn’t have one more to get to 50 but believe me 49 was plenty. We encountered all sorts of features including rubbish pits of the large, extra-large, and outrageously large variety; multiple wells and artesian bores; building remains such as foundations and pile holes; a brick cesspit; a latrine; an infilled gully; and much more. With bulk earthworks only recently finishing we haven’t completed our analysis just yet, so stay tuned for future updates. But in the meantime, here are some photos!

Figure 4. X marks the spot of yet another very large archaeological feature.

Figure 5. A brick cesspit – don’t wonder too hard about what those layers are made up of.

Figure 6. A red brick well!

Figure 7. A yellow brick well! (follow, follow, follow, follow)

Figure 8. A clay smoking pipe recovered from a rubbish pit at the Court Theatre site – we may have an upcoming blog on clay pipes so stay tuned!

Superlot 15 – Cambridge Terrace

Much like the name suggests, there were many super things about Superlot 15. The ground was super hard, it was super hot, and the archaeology was super cool. Unlike the Court Theatre rebuild, which featured a fun viewing platform shaped like a large library, you probably didn’t see us digging at Superlot 15. This is because we were hiding a metre below the surface in the one corner on the site that was filled to the brim with archaeological features. Fun fact – the metre-high edge-of-excavation was to the west, so we spent a lot of time baking in the sun! Luckily, we had Brent on site who took it upon himself to build us a sunshade made up of various bits and pieces lying around on site, which we highly appreciated. We love an innovative king. He also gave us biscuits. Is he the best digger operator ever? We think so.

Figure 9. Local archaeologists grateful for shade on hot day. Photo also featuring variations of the ‘sexy sunhat’ and ‘naughty neckshade.’ Safety first, everybody! Make sure to bring electrolytes to site on a hot day (it’s got what plants crave).

The area currently dubbed ‘Superlot 15’ is an area originally made up of parts of 6 town sections, which was used for residential purposes. The houses were owned and built primarily by Edward Coxhead Mouldey and Charles Wellington Bishop. While the Bishop family likely lived on the section until the 1890s, Edward Mouldey owned Town Sections 229-233, and we suspect he did not personally live in all 8 houses on his own. Following his bankruptcy in 1888, ownership of Town Sections 229-233 eventually passed to Alfred Bullock, who leased the 8 dwellings. Aerial imagery from the 1940s suggests the 19th century houses survived well into the 20th century!

Figure 10. Detail from Strouts’ 1877 map of Christchurch showing buildings present on the relevant town sections. Town Sections 227 and 228 (coloured blue) were owned by the Bishops until the 1890s. The project area is indicated in red. Image: Strouts, 1877.

Figure 11. Aerial image from 1946, showing buildings previously on Superlot 15. 263 Cambridge Terrace (Town Sections 227 and 228) indicated in blue. The project area is outlined in red. Image: LINZ, 1946.

We had already spent quite a bit of time on Superlot 15 since works began and had found a scattering of archaeological features across the site, but nothing too dramatic. Turns out this gem was truly saving the best (?) for last. In the space of two days, we went from 10 features to 29, and we entered what I like to call ‘Survival Mode.’ There’s nothing quite like densely packed earth to push your excavation skills to the limit. The crew at Superlot 15 were very patient with us while we desperately tried to wrap our head around these features.

Figure 12. A small portion of our small area, showing rubbish pits in the fore, mid, and background.

Figure 13. Facing the opposite direction from the previous photo, some more features. A lot of the features on this site appeared to be connected for various reasons; these rubbish pits were connected/disturbed via a 20th century drainpipe. It made for some interesting digging!

A large amount of drainage features were encountered on site – earthenware pipes, a brick sump, and a brick chamber for an artesian well. This confirmed what we had suspected all along – whoever was living here did at some point have running water and plumbing – wow! The rubbish pits on this site came in all shapes and sizes, mostly containing a lot of household refuse typical to the 19th century including a wide range of ceramics, torpedo bottles, condiment bottles, tonnes of sheep bones, piles of oyster shells, and some other fun finds. Pictured below is Rebecca holding an anchovy paste jar. You can see by her expression that she is shocked people would eat something so repugnant. Another fun find was the Cavalier smoking pipe pictured below. This site is not yet finished, so stay tuned for more hard-packed earth.

Figure 14. Rebecca gasping at the anchovy paste jar recovered at Superlot 15. Endorsed by her Majesty Queen Victoria, we however, remain sceptical of the product.

Figure 15. Local French man featured on smoking pipe.

Figure 16. A half-sectioned rubbish pit with layers. From this view we can tell the rubbish was being deposited from the west (right) side of the feature. Feet included for artistic purposes only.

Updates from The Lab

The stoneware bottle pictured below is an unusual find. It was made for a specific pub, but not a pub in Christchurch, or even New Zealand. The impression on the bottle reads “BRAY/ Six Bells/ Chelsea base: FULHAM/ STONE/ POTTERY”. This tells us the stoneware flask was made by the Fulham Pottery, which was founded by John Dwight in 1672 and primarily manufactured stoneware up until the 1950s (Oswald, et al., 1982). Six Bells was a public house located at 197 Kings Road in Chelsea, that was established by at least 1722 and is still operating today as a restaurant. Members of the Bray family are listed as the publicans from at least 1823 until at least 1866. By 1881, a Christopher J. Aston is listed in the post office directories as the manager, indicating that the Bray’s association with the pub ended sometime after 1866 and before 1881 (pubwiki, 2022).

This suggests then that the stoneware flask was made by the Fulham Pottery specifically for the Bray family and the Six Bells pub – in Chelsea. It is hard to date the flask based on the available evidence, but a manufacture date range from approximately 1823 until 1866 is assumed.

While examples have been found on other Christchurch archaeological sites of table wares that have been commissioned specifically for hotels, there have not been any examples of stoneware bottles commissioned by, or for businesses located outside of New Zealand. Searches of Heritage New Zealand’s digital library revealed that it is probable that this is the first example of this type of bottle found on a New Zealand archaeological site. Google Image searches could not find a similar bottle, suggesting that either not many of the bottles were produced, or that not many have survived and that they are rare. It is likely that the stoneware bottle was brought specifically by Mr Bowley to New Zealand. Further historical research would need to be conducted into the Bowley family to determine what their connection to Chelsea and the Six Bells pub was, but the presence of the bottle would suggest that there was some connection.

Figure 17 . The stoneware bottle manufactured for the Six Bells pub in Chelsea.

To Conclude

All in all, the team have been working really hard (as per usual) and it’s been a rather exciting start to the year. Christchurch continues to surprise us with new archaeological discoveries and while we jest about how exhausting our sites have been recently, we wouldn’t have it any other way (Rebecca here – still advocating for a three-day weekend personally). While we quietly pray for a brief reprieve from field work to tackle our reports, we do in fact thrive in the chaos. Stay tuned for future finds as rumour has it, someone has a stadium to build or something.

-Rebecca and Alana <3

Hall’s Oriental Turkish Bath

It’s very easy to think of 19th century New Zealand as being a place isolated from the rest of the world. Yet as we research and investigate colonial Christchurch, we are constantly being reminded of the connections that existed between New Zealand and the rest of the British Empire. Most often we see those connections archaeologically through artefacts, but every so often we see them in a different way. Today’s blog is on a Turkish Bathhouse we excavated at the end of last year. When I think of 19th century Christchurch, a Turkish Bathhouse is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind. Yet Turkish Bathhouses became fashionable in Britain in the 1860s and from there spread to the rest of the empire, with Turkish Bathhouses opened in New Zealand in the 1870s (Press 31/12/1874: 2).

The Turkish Bath, or Hammam, is a public bathhouse that is associated with Muslim culture and found across the Islamic world. Hammam have been in existence for over a thousand years and evolved from similar public bathhouses used by the Ancient Romans. The Hammam was both a place to get clean, and a place to socialise and conduct business. The introduction of the Hammam to the British Empire was down to one man: David Urquhart. David Urquhart was a Scottish diplomat and politician who worked in Constantinople (Istanbul) in the 1830s and travelled throughout Europe and the east over his lifetime. In 1850, Urquhart wrote a book, The Pillars of Hercules, based on his travels through Spain and Morocco in 1848. Urquhart dedicates two chapters of his book to bathhouses, describing both the history of the bathhouse and the bathhouse process.

“The operation consists of various parts: first, the seasoning of the body; second, the manipulation of the muscles; third, the peeling of the epidermis; fourth; the soaping, and the patient is then conducted to the bed of repose. These are the five acts of drama. There are three essential apartments in the building: a great hall, or mustaby, open to the outer air; a middle chamber, where the heat is moderate; the inner hall, which is properly the thermae. The first scene is acted in the middle chamber; the next three in the inner chamber, and the last in the outer hall. The time occupied is from two to four hours, and the operation is repeated once a week.”       

-Urquhart 1850: 31

To call Urquhart passionate about bathhouses would be an understatement. His chapter on the bathhouse process begins with a very Victorian description of the morality of cleanliness, followed by an extensive description of the bathhouse process. Urquhart bases his description of bathhouses on the Hammam he had visited in Turkey and is quite critical of the Moorish bath he visited on his travels, providing a comparison between the Moorish bathhouse, the Turkish bathhouse, and Roman bathhouses. Urquhart ends his chapter with a very lengthy description of the benefits of introducing bathhouses to Britain. Richard Barter, an Irish physician who established St Ann’s Hydropathic Establishment, read Urquhart’s book and collaborated with him to open Britain’s first Turkish Bath in Ireland in 1856. In 1857 a Turkish Bathhouse opened in Manchester and in 1860 another opened in London. Over the next 150 years, over 600 Turkish Baths were opened in Britain.

I visited a Turkish Bath when I was in Turkey. I didn’t take any photos, but thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to find a picture of the one I went to. It was a few years ago now, but I remember both enjoying the experience and finding it a wee bit strange being washed by a stranger. My experience started with a sauna. Following that we went to this room where we were scrubbed and washed. We then had a massage and ended with face masks. All in all, it was relatively similar to what Urquhart describes – particularly the “peeling of the epidermis” and the “soaping”. Image: Tripadvisor

In August 1884, John Charles Fisher and Duncan Beamont Wallis leased a section of land on Cashel Street and constructed a Turkish Bathhouse. Construction was completed in October 1884 and the baths were open for business by the 21st of October. While Fisher and Wallis constructed the baths, they did not operate it for long and management was taken over by W. Dation in January of 1885. Dation himself did not operate the baths for long, and by June of 1885 was advertising the sale of a large amount of the bath’s furniture and fittings (suggesting he may have had financial difficulties).

Robert Hall announced he was taking over the proprietorship of the Oriental Turkish Baths on the 1st July 1885. He described the premises at this time as being “Now in First Class Order”, having been “Fitted and Furnished in the very Best Style”, which suggests that Hall replaced much of the furniture and fittings that had been sold by Dation (Star 29/6/1885: 2). He undertook various alterations and repairs to the premises during his proprietorship, adding a third hot room that could reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Hall was the proprietor of the bathhouse until 1905, when the business was taken over by Messrs. Young and Co., who operated the bathhouse until the property was sold in the 1920s (Trendafilov et al. 2021).

Photograph printed in 1902, showing the street frontage of Hall’s Oriental Turkish Baths in Cashel Street. Image: Davie, 1902: 304.

An advertisement from 1886, advertising the baths. Image: Star, 27/12/1886: 2.

The construction of the bathhouse was clearly of interest to the residents of Christchurch, and a thorough description of the building was relayed in the newspapers of the time:

The building will be of brick, and will cover a ground area of 60ft by 33ft. In the front are the hair-dressing rooms. A passage runs right through the building from front to back; to the right of this from the entrance are six chambers for hot, cold, and shower baths. On the left are the rooms for the special feature of the establishment – the Turkish baths. The person wishing to enjoy the Oriental luxury will first enter one of the dressing-rooms, of which there are eight, very neatly fitted up; he then passes to the first hot room, at which the temperature is maintained at about 125 deg Fah., and having become accustomed to this, he is prepared to pass to the hotter chamber, of 150 deg on an average. Both these hot rooms are of the same size — 12ft by 9ft 6in, floored with red and white tiles, and plastered; they are heated by hot-air flues passing round them, and connected with a furnace at the back. Special attention will be paid to ventilation, not only in these rooms, but in all connected with the baths. Disc ventilators in the walls and ceiling, that can be opened or closed at will, are the description made use of for the purpose. After he has had enough of the hot-air process, the visitor will pass to the shampooing room, in which is the “needle bath.” The operation of this is to throw from a number of small jets sprays of water gradually decreasing from warm to cold, thus preventing the danger to the bather of suffering a chill after he has finished his Turkish bath. Sulphur and vapour baths are also provided in the shampooing room, on leaving which the visitor pushes aside a crimson curtain and finds himself in the “cooling room,” a large, handsomely furnished apartment, in which files of the illustrated and other papers are kept, and where one can enjoy the dolce far niente till he feels disposed to return to the dressing-room. All the rooms, except those in front, are lighted by skylights (Lyttelton Times 15/8/1884: 6).

Sadly, the original bathhouse was long gone when we excavated the site last year. However, we found a couple of features that we were able to associate with the bathhouse, which was most exciting. One was a large brick structure, found at a depth of 750 mm. The feature was a trapezoid shaped lined brick pit, 3.4 m long and 1.4 m, which was located within the footprint of the bathhouse and was interpreted as being one of the baths.

The bath feature, first exposed by the digger. The feature didn’t look like much when it was first uncovered, but careful excavation revealed something interesting. Image: A. Trendafilov.

The bath emerges. Image: A. Trendafilov.

Angel does some phenomenology and puts himself in the place of a visitor to the baths. Image: site contractor.

We suspect that the bath was constructed as part of the purpose built building and was probably sunk into the ground which has led to it surviving. Interestingly, as Angel was excavating the feature he found several bits of radiator, along with a lead pipe with evenly distributed holes along the side. The 1884 description of the new bath house mentions that there were two hot chambers available, with temperatures of 125° Fahrenheit (51° Celsius) and 150° Fahrenheit (65° Celsius), connected to a furnace at the back of the building. It is probable that the radiators were used to transfer the heat to these chambers, either through the use of steam or hot water. The small lead pipe found in the feature may have been part of the ‘needle bath’ described in the same account: “the operation of this is to throw from a number of small jets sprays of water gradually decreasing from hot to cold” (Lyttelton Times 15/8/1884: 6). It is highly likely that the evenly distributed holes, which measured six mm in diameter and were spaced at intervals of approximately 50 mm, in the pipe are those small jet sprays described in the article.

The radiators were clustered down on end of the bath. Image: A. Trendafilov.

The radiator pipes. Image: A. Trendafilov.

The lead pipe with evenly spaced holes. Image: J. Garland.

We also found several coffee and chicory bottles in the feature, and overall coffee and chicory bottles made up 13% of the total glass assemblage (normally they might make up around 1% of a total glass assemblage). The ‘Oriental Turkish Bath House’ served tea and coffee to customers, with an article from September 1884 stating that “the room in which, what is, perhaps, the most pleasant part of the process takes place is a large, handsomely furnished apartment, with Brussels carpet on the floor and luxurious couches and chairs around the walls…and small tables disposed in various parts of the room can be used either as card tables or to bear the cup of tea or coffee presented to the visitor” (Star 21/10/1884: 3). It is however surprising that they may have been serving coffee and chicory or coffee extract, both of which can be considered substitutes for ground coffee or the equivalent of ‘instant’ coffee. Their use in the 19th century is often associated with economic hardship and coffee shortages, particularly in Napoleonic France and Civil War era North America (Smith 1996; Smith 2014). It may be that the Turkish Bath House was using coffee substitutes as a matter of taste preference, but it may also have been that they were economical in what they were serving to visitors.

One of the coffee and chicory bottles found in the feature. The bottle was embossed with the mark of Thomas Symington and Co., an Edinburgh based beverage manufacturer. Symington’s Coffee and Chicory, a blended coffee beverage, is relatively common on archaeological sites in New Zealand dating from the 1880s onwards. Image J. Garland.

We also found this Cyprus patterned ewer, which was likely used in the bathhouse. The ewer was made by Thomas G. Booth, a Staffordshire potter who operated the Church Bank Pottery in Tunstall between 1876 and 1883 (Godden 1991: 86). The date of manufacture for this vessel pre-dates the construction of the Turkish Baths, but ceramic vessels during the 19th century often had uselives of up to 15-20 years (Adams 2003), which would overlap with the construction and use of the Turkish Baths. It may be that the name of the pattern decorating this vessel, the Cyprus Pattern, was a deliberate choice on the part of the owners of the baths, as a nod to the geographical location of Cyprus, south of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, but it may also have been a coincidence in which the visual appearance of the pattern determined the choice of its use in the Turkish Baths. Image: J. Garland.

Hall’s Oriental Turkish Bath provides a fascinating insight into the cultural melting pot of the British Empire. It’s interesting to see the introduction of Turkish Baths into Britain in the 1850s, and from there, as they became fashionable, spreading through the Empire to reach New Zealand in the 1870s. A Turkish Bath was opened in Dunedin in 1874 (Press 31/12/1874: 2), one in Auckland by 1877 (New Zealand Herald 14/07/1877: 4) while an earlier bath opened on High Street in Christchurch in 1878 (Press 22/02/1878: 1). The collision of different cultures that resulted in the spread of ideas and practices across the empire is perhaps best illustrated in the below article.

A collision of culture. Image: Evening Post 12/07/1879: 3. 

Clara Watson, Jessie Garland, Lydia Mearns

References

Davie, Mort., 1902. Tourists’ Guide to Canterbury. P. A. Herman. Christchurch Press Company Limited.

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

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

New Zealand Herald, 1863-1945. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/

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

Smith, S. D., 1996. “Accounting for Taste: British Coffee Consumption in Historical Perspective”, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 27: 2, pp. 183-214.

Smith, A. K., 2014. “The History of the Coffee Chicory Mix That New Orleans Made It’s Own”, Smithsonian Magazine. [online] Available at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/chicory-coffee-mix-new-orleans-made-own-comes-180949950/ [Accessed March 2021].

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

Trendafilov, A., Mearns, L., Garland, J. 212 Cashel Street, Christchurch (Superlot 6c): Final report for archaeological investigations under HNZPT authority 2020/811eq. Unpublished report for Fletcher Residential Living.

Urquhart, D. 1850. The Pillars of Hercules. Harper and Brothers, New York.  

The Sum of a Life

Today on the blog we’re taking a look at a pair of neighbours, Joseph Rowley and David Scott. The pair lived next to each other on the south side of St Asaph Street- with Rowley owning Lot 7 DP 51 and Scott owning Lot 8 DP 51.

Following the Kemp purchase in 1848, the land that would become Christchurch’s central city was subdivided into town sections and reserves, and sold off to European settlers. Town Reserve 4 was a four and a half acre section fronting onto Montreal Street, St Asaph Street, and Durham Street. The Town Reserve was sold in 1860 and passed hands a few times until it was purchased by Edward Louis Clogstown and Lancelot Walker in 1875, along with the neighbouring Town Reserve 5. Clogstown and Walker subdivided the town reserve into 40 residential lots in January 1875 and in February 1875 they advertised the 40 building sites for sale.

Town Reserves 4 and 5 are outlined in blue on the 1862 Fook’s map. What would become Lots 7 and 8 is outlined in red. Image: Fooks, 1862. 

Details from DP 51, showing Clogstown and Walker’s subdivision of Town Reserve 4 and 5 into 40 residential lots. Lots 7 and 8 are outlined in red. Image: LINZ, 1875c. DP 51, Canterbury. Landonline.

The sections advertised for sale. Image: Star 01/02/1875: 4. 

Joseph Rowley, a tin slate worker, purchased Lot 7 of the subdivision from Clogstown and Walker in 1875. Rowley, who was originally from Warwickshire, arrived in Canterbury with his wife and eight children on board the Mystery in 1859. Prior to the purchase of the St Asaph Street section, Rowley and his family were living in Montreal Street. Rowley announced in the local newspapers that he had accepted the tender of Mr Verrall for the construction of his house in St Asaph Street in February 1875 and three months later advertised his house and land on Montreal Street as being for sale, suggesting that the St Asaph Street house was completed by May 1875. The Rowley family lived at the St Asaph Street house for the remainder of the 19th century. While Joseph passed away in 1888, and his wife, Mary, in 1895, their daughters continued to live at the property and the house remained in the ownership of the Rowley family until the 1920s.

Rowley’s advertisement in the newspaper that he had accepted Mr Verrall’s tender to build his how on St Asaph Street. Image: Press 13/02/1875: 1

David Scott purchased Lot 8 of the subdivision from Clogstown and Walker in 1875. Scott, originally from Selkinkshire in Scotland, arrived in Canterbury on board the David G. Fleming in 1863. Scott was a builder and it is likely that he constructed a residence on the section himself. When his eldest daughter, Lilly Bell, married Donald Munro in July 1888, Scott’s residence was referred to as ‘Abbotsford House’. Similar to the Rowley’s, the Scott family lived at the house for the remainder of the 19th century. When David passed in 1899, the section passed to his wife (also called Lilly Bell), and his son, Richard Linton Scott, and remained in the ownership of the Scott family into the 1960s.

The announcement of Scott’s daughter’s marriage, in which their St Asaph Street house is referred to as Abbotsford House. Image: Lyttelton Times 13/17/1888: 4. 

The two houses shown on the 1877 Strouts Map. Rowley’s house in on the left and Scott’s on the right. Image: Strouts, 1877. 

From aerial photography, we know that the two houses were still standing in the latter half of the 1950s, but had been demolished by the early 1960s and replaced with a commercial building. This building, in turn, was demolished following earthquake damage, and replaced with a new commercial building. We monitored the earthworks for the construction of this new building, leading to our investigation into Rowley and Scott’s former sections.

A photograph from our monitoring. The contractors excavate the areas of the site that they need to for the new building foundations. We watch them dig and if they hit any archaeology, we have them stop and wait while we investigate it by hand. Image: J. Hearfield.

We found 15 archaeological features during our archaeological monitoring. Most of these were rubbish pits located near the rear of the properties, which is typical for 19th century Christchurch domestic sites. While municipal rubbish collection did exist, people continued to bury at least some of their household rubbish in pits dug in the backyards. The contents of these pits are able to tell us more about the lives of the people who deposited them.

Some of the rubbish pits we found at the site. Once they have been exposed like this by the digger, the archaeologist investigates them by hand. Image: A. Trendafilov.

A mid-excavation photo of one of the rubbish pits from the site. Image: A. Trendafilov.

Because the Rowley and Scott families both built the first houses on their respective sections, and lived at them into the 20th century, we can safely assume that any 19th century features found at the site were created and deposited by them. As an artefact specialist, domestic sites like these are some of my favourite archaeological site types. Quite often we have domestic sites that were rentals in the 19th century with a high turnover of occupants, meaning that while we might know who was living at the site in the 19th century, we are unable to associate the artefacts we find at the site with specific tenants. That’s not a problem with sites like these where there was only one occupant over the course of the 19th century. When we’re able to associate artefact assemblages with specific occupants then we can take a look at some of those more interesting questions, like what the artefacts say about the social and economic status of the people who deposited them. Now is the point in the blog where you might be expecting me to show you all the amazing things that we found that belonged to Rowley and Scott, after all, we usually choose to only share the interesting stuff on the blog. However, if I’m honest, the stuff we found at the site was kind of boring, and says more about the period that Rowley and Scott lived in than their personal choices.

Firstly, we didn’t find a lot at the sites. At Rowley’s site we found 133 artefacts, represented by 444 fragments, and at Scott’s site we found 109 artefacts, represented by 548 fragments, so pretty similar small assemblage sizes. Here are most of the ceramic artefacts found at the two sites. Rowley’s is shown on the left and Scott’s on the right. In terms of similarities, the Asiatic Pheasants, Rhine, and Willow patterns were found at both sites, as were sprigged and gilt banded tea ware vessels. These are decoration styles that we find across the city, and are very typical of the 1875-1900 period. However, like most of our sites, we found a range of different patterns suggesting that the two families were likely purchasing individual items that they liked, rather than focusing on maintaining sets (the teacup with the blue floral pattern from the Scott family assemblage is particularly nice). There are some interesting things in the Scott family assemblage. We found six penny ink bottles and an ink well. A search through the newspaper records show that school lessons were being advertised from the Scott’s house on St Asaph Street. A C. M’Farland is recorded as being the one offering the lessons. I haven’t quite been able to work out how he relates to the Scott family, but it seems likely that the ink bottles found at the site related to M’Farland’s school lessons at the property. We also found a miniature cup and jug, and a child’s plate in the Scott family assemblage.

The Scott’s weren’t the only ones to be offering lessons from their house. Next door, Miss Rowley, Joseph Rowley’s daughter, was offering piano, singing, drawing and painting lessons. Image: Lyttelton Times 17/09/1890: 8. 

Similar to the ceramic assemblages, the glass assemblages from Rowley and Scott’s sites are very typical of the 1875-1900 period. At both sites, alcohol bottles were most common, followed by pharmaceutical bottles and then condiment bottles. These bottles were types we often see on our archaeological sites, such as black beer, case gin, ring seal, hock wine, salad oil, castor oil, and rectangular bevelled pharmaceutical bottles, as well as pickle jars. As you can see from the photos, more complete bottles were found at Rowley’s site rather than Scott’s site. It may be that the Scotts were returning complete bottles back to retailers so that the bottles could be refilled and reused, and were only choosing to throw away bottles that broke, but it also may be that taphonomic processes have resulted in bottle breakages.

In terms of what else was found at the site, the Rowley’s assemblage was quite interesting as we found the soles from seven shoes in one of the rubbish pits. Most of these shoes were made using slightly older shoe making techniques, with the soles of the shoes attached using wooden pegs rather than nails, and at least two had been re-soled. This suggested that the Rowley family wore their shoes until they were completely worn out. That several shoes were found in the one feature perhaps suggests that most of the family got new shoes at one time, with the old shoes finally thrown away. Other finds from the Rowley site included writing slate, a doll’s arm, a safety pin, and a glass cruet bottle. We also found shoe fragments at the Scott’s site, however these hadn’t survived well and were very fragmented. We also found two bone toothbrushes, two porcelain Prosser buttons, and fragments from a basket weave moulded clay pipe. I like artefacts like these as they are such personal items and provide a real connection to the past.

In one sense, I find the two assemblages quite sad. Both the Scott and Rowley families lived at the site from 1875 into the 20th century, and yet all there is to show from their lives are some broken glass bottles and bits of ceramic plates. On other sites that we’ve excavated that have had people living at the property for a long period of time, we’ve found large assemblages with elaborate ceramic sets and unusual items. But that wasn’t the case here.

The small and fragmented assemblages may be a result of taphonomic processes and archaeological excavation strategies. The site was developed in the 20th century, and this may have wiped out some archaeological features from the site and disturbed others. It was also fossicked overnight by bottle diggers during our time at the site, and most of the material from two of the pits was stolen. Knowing bottle diggers, they only go for the complete items which may explain the fragmented condition of what was left in the two pits they dug out. Our excavation strategies also mean that some material was left in situ or not collected. We only excavate features that date to the 19th century, as the legislation we operate under only protects pre-1900 archaeology. We did find rubbish pits that dated to the 20th century at the site, but we didn’t excavate them. We also only excavate within the boundaries of what our client needs to excavate. We had some features that extended beyond the new building’s foundations, meaning that we only excavated the halves of these features that were within the extent of the new foundation, and left the rest in situ.

However, even if we only view what we collected as a sample of what was there, we still have to assume that the sample is relatively representative of the overall assemblages. Both the Rowley and Scott families were working class families, and I’d say that is definitely reflected in the artefacts from the site. The artefacts are all things that we find all the time in Christchurch, suggesting that both families were purchasing things that were cheap and readily available.

Something that is quite interesting is that there was no evidence that any of the rubbish pits represented ‘clean out’ events. We sometimes find large rubbish pits containing lots of complete artefacts where the material has obvious been thrown out intentionally because the occupants don’t want it anymore, as opposed to something being thrown away because it has broken. Sometimes, we’re able to associate these ‘clean out’ events with members of a younger generation throwing out items belonging to the older generation after the older generation has passed away. Both Joseph and Mary Rowley, and David and Lilly Bell Scott passed away at their St Asaph Street properties. With the exception of Lilly Bell, these deaths all occurred in the 19th century. Yet there is no evidence that the children of the two couples that continued to live at the site threw away their parents belongings. This may have been an economic decision as they may not have had the means to buy all new dinner sets, but could also have been for sentimental reasons.

The artefacts we found from the two houses on St Asaph Street represent the sum of Rowley and Scott’s lives. On one hand, some broken black beer bottles and Asiatic Pheasants patterned plates might not say much about those lives. But on the other hand, they speak to what life was like as a working class family living in 19th century Christchurch.

Clara Watson, Lydia Mearns

 

 

 

A Curry Paste Jar, a Keepsake, a Symbol of British Colonialism

Hello loyal blog readers, welcome back to another year of posts on the history and archaeology of 19th century Christchurch. I thought we’d start the year off by looking back at one of our more interesting finds from the very end of 2020 and talking a bit about how we catalogue and research the artefacts we find, and how we then interpret them .

The artefact in question is this ceramic jar. The jar is made from earthenware and is glazed inside and out. Ware-type is one of the main attributes that I record when cataloguing ceramic artefacts. It describes the fabric of the vessel, what it is made out of, with there being three main ware-types: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain. These main ware-types relate to the temperature at which the vessel was fired at, which in turn affects the fabric of the vessel. As well as recording the ware type, I also record the glaze and form of the vessel. In the case of our jar here, it has a clear (or clear with a slight tint) glaze inside and on the rim, and a teal-coloured slip-glaze on the outer body. The form is a jar, which I would describe as having a rolled rim, a concave neck, a convex shoulder and body, and a flat base.

The jar in question: Shaik Fyzool Kurreem’s True Bengal Curry Paste. Image: C. Watson.

Once I’ve recorded the fabric and form of the vessel, I then record any decoration and marks. In the case of our jar here, it’s not decorated as such, but the body is textured, like a golf ball, and so I recorded that as decoration because it’s unusual. Written on the body of the jar is: SHAIK FYZOOL KURREEM’S/TRUE BENGAL/ CURRY PASTE. There were no other marks on the base of the jar.

A close-up of the writing on the jar. Image: C. Watson.

To say I was surprised at the jar would be an understatement. When it landed on my desk, I had no idea who Shaik Fyzool Kurreem was, and I wouldn’t have had a clue that it was a curry paste jar if it hadn’t been labelled as such. Everything about the jar, from the ware type and glaze to the decoration, was unusual. Almost all the ceramic jars we find on our archaeological sites are stoneware or whiteware and if they’re decorated, it’s only with a simple moulded band.

A selection of more typical 19th century stoneware and whiteware jars. Image: C. Watson.

As part of our artefact analysis process, we research any marks on the artefact to help us date it. Normally with ceramic vessels, this means looking in Geoffrey Godden’s Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. The book is essentially a bible when it comes to ceramic marks and it makes my job very easy most of the time (if you have ceramic marks that you want to date but don’t have a copy of Godden, then Steve Birks’ The Potteries Website is a close second). In the case of our jar though, the mark isn’t describing the manufacturer of the jar, but rather the contents, which makes things a bit more complicated.

Whenever I come across something I haven’t seen before, I always begin my research by looking through UOA’s internal artefact databases to see if we’ve found the artefact/mark/pattern before. These were of no help for researching my jar, and just confirmed my initial view on the artefact that it was ‘cool but strange’. If it isn’t something we’ve found before, then I turn to our trusty friend Google. This returned a whopping three results.

Hot tip for searching on google, if you include something in quotation marks it searches that phrase. When Google searches without quotation marks, it searches for the words but not in relation to each other- meaning the bottom two results were not relevant.

The top Google search result gave me my first lead! This was a jar, similar to mine, that was posted in an antique bottle forum. The jar was the same form as my one, but was a different shade of blue and had written on it: SHAIK FYZOOL KURREEM’S TRUE BENGAL MULLIGATAWNY PASTE. The poster on the bottle forum was asking for information on it. Sadly, nobody on the forum had any information, only the advice to give it a rub to see if a genie came out. Image: BeachComber, AntiqueBottles.Net.

This told me that whoever Shaik Fyzool Kurreem was, he was making multiple types of curry pastes. Unfortunately, Google wasn’t very helpful with figuring out who he was.

PapersPast is invaluable when researching 19th century artefacts. A lot of the time if I can’t find something on Google, I can find it in old newspapers. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case here.

When something cool lands on my desk, generally other people in the office will stop by and have a look. I can’t remember who suggested that “shaik” might be a different spelling of “sheikh”, but whoever it was, was bang on the money. Sheikh is an honorific title in Arabic that literally translates as “elder”, but was commonly used for chiefs, royalty, and religious scholars (thanks Wikipedia). I re-tried my Google search, and this time had a bit more luck.

A 166.67% increase in results by just searching “fyzool kurreem”. The top hit was the Mulligatawny paste jar that I’d already seen. The second and fourth results were from a British newspaper search engine that I needed to pay to access, so I ignored them. It was the third and fifth results that proved most interesting.

The third (and fifth) result was from Peter J. Atkins article “Vinegar and Sugar: The early history of Factory-Made Jams, Pickles and Saucers in Britain” in the book, The Food Industries of Europe in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. The relevant page of the book was talking about Crosse and Blackwell, a British foodstuffs company that is still around today. “The products named in Crosse and Blackwell’s own advertisements came and went in a rapid cycle of innovation. In the 1830s it was Soho Sauce and Dinmore’s Essence of Shrimps… By 1845 Abdool Fygo’s Chutney and Fyzool Kurreem’s Currie and Mulligatawny Pastes had been added to the list.” (Atkins 2013: 46).

Now, up until this point, I had been picturing an old Bengali man in India stirring large earthenware pots of paste over a fire and bottling them into jars that he carefully painted his name on (ugh how colonial of me). I should have known that it was British. Crosse and Blackwell’s products are pretty common on our sites. They were a foodstuffs company based in Soho, London, who made products for both the domestic and export markets. The company was founded in 1829 when Edmund Crosse and Thomas Blackwell bought West and Wyatt, located at No. 11 King Street, having been apprentices there since 1819 (Jeffries et al. 2016).

We are lucky enough to have a book specifically on Crosse and Blackwell that covers the excavation of their factory. This is Crosse and Blackwell 1830-1921: A British Food Manufacturer in London’s West End by Nigel Jeffries, Lyn Blackmore and David Sorapure. The book discusses Crosse and Blackwell’s Indian products: “…by taking an unusual step in sending a representative with the first troops that were shipped out to India by the East India Company. This unnamed individual sent back new spices and other ingredients for the firm to experiment with. This resulted in Crosse and Blackwell’s Captain White’s Oriental Pickle and Curry Powder. Col Skinner’s Mango Relish also appears to have been developed at this time, together with Abdool Fygo’s Chutney and Mulligatawny Pastes” (Jeffries et al. 2016: 44).

I decided to google Abdool Fygo, since both books made reference to the product. What do you know, another jar with an ‘oriental’ appearance. This one says: “BENGAL CHUTNEY PREPARED BY SHAIK ABDOOL FYGO CALCUTTA IMPORTED ONLY BY GROSSE & BLACKWELL 21SOHO SQARE LONDON”. The style of text on it is almost identical to that of our jar and the mulligatawny paste, and the rolled rim and glazed body is also very similar in style. Image: WorthPoint.

At this point in my search, I’d successfully identified that Crosse and Blackwell were the manufacturer of the jar’s contents (which pottery made the jar for them remains a mystery). From the Atkins article I knew that the curry paste was introduced in or around 1845, but I didn’t know how long it was made for. Searches on Papers Past for “fyzool kurreem” and “abdool fygo” resulted in no results, while those for “curry paste” and “mulligatawny paste” returned hundreds. I tried similar searches on Trove, the Australian version of Papers Past, but these were also a dead end. I returned back to my google search results for “fyzool kureem” and clicked into the newspaper results.

From what I can gather, British newspaper archives are hidden behind a paywall and you have to pay to access the original- a big disappointment when you’re used to the free access from Papers Past. Even though I couldn’t see the original articles, the search engine gave the newspaper name and date along with a short snippet of where the phrase occurred in the newspaper. Scrolling through these previews showed that Abdool Fygo’s chutney was advertised alongside Fyzool Kurreem’s curry and Mulligatawny pastes. What was most interesting though, was that the advertisements began in 1845, and ended in 1850. Atkins said that Crosse and Blackwell cycled through product names quite quickly, and it seems as though Fyzool Kurreem’s curry paste was only produced for approximately five years, between 1845 and 1850. The newspaper advertisements also show that Crosse and Blackwell were advertising the product in British newspapers, but clearly not Australian and New Zealand newspapers, suggesting the product might have only been made for the domestic market.

It was at this point I ended my search. I had learnt that the jar was made for Crosse and Blackwell and likely dated some time between 1845 and 1850. I think that the jar epitomises some of the reasons why I find historical archaeology so interesting. There’s the research process itself. Being able to use tools like Google and newspaper archives to research products and people is something that’s unique to historical archaeology. Then there’s what the artefact says about the occupants of the site. This jar came from a small cottage on Barbadoes Street. The cottage was built in 1865/1866 and rented out for most of the 19th century. Assuming that the jar was deposited by one of the tenants, it was likely at least 20 years old by this time, if not older. It’s safe to say that any curry paste the jar held had long been eaten, and that the jar probably had a secondary function. Maybe as a small vase, given its decorative appearance, or possibly a keepsake. Regardless, the jar seems to have been brought over from Britain, suggesting it must have had some sentimental value for whoever owned it. Unfortunately, the tenants that rented out the cottage changed regularly, meaning we weren’t able to match the jar with a specific person.

There’s also what the artefact says about culture and society in the 19th century. While we’re excavating the archaeology of Christchurch, in many ways we’re also excavating the archaeology of the British empire. Crosse and Blackwell, a British company, were selling Indian style pastes and condiments, and were doing so in a way that commodified Indian culture to make their product seem authentic. The jars were deliberately designed to look foreign, especially with the blue glaze and textured surface. The brand names are Indian names, which were probably foreign “funny sounding names” (to quote NZ politicians from a few years ago) to British citizens, likely adding to the “authenticity” of the product. Which leads me to the final reason why I find historical archaeology so interesting, the impact of 19th century (and earlier) colonialism on our own culture and society. If Crosse and Blackwell were to release ‘Shaik Fyzool Kurreem’s Cury Paste’ today, people would probably call it out for what it is, cultural appropriation.

Back in 2018 some British breweries started selling New Zealand inspired beers and used Māori culture as part of their branding. They were called out for cultural appropriation, and commercialising Māori culture at the time. The comparisons with our jar are easy to make- especially with the Indian names and oriental inspired jar forms. Image source: TheSpinoff.

A curry paste jar, a keepsake, a symbol of British colonialism. One artefact, but multiple different stories and perspectives on what it represents.

Clara Watson