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

References

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.

 

 

 

In which bottles are used, beer is drunk, and graphic design atrocities are committed

Over the past two blog posts we’ve been looking at a large assemblage of labelled bottles found under a house in Akaroa. Today on the blog we’re going to take a step back and look at how the bottles travelled from England to New Zealand. It’s something we’ve touched on a little bit already, but today we’re going to really break it down. It’s a little complicated, so to make things simple I’ve created an absolute masterpiece of a diagram to explain things. We’re going to focus specifically on beer exported from England, but a lot of the groups and cycles we’re going to talk about today can be applied to both other types of alcohol and other countries exporting to New Zealand in the 19th century.

Might as well just leave the blog here. A picture says a thousand words, and when it’s one that has had as much thought and graphic design put into it as this, then really it says nothing at all. Image: C. Watson (not that anyone should ever reproduce this monstrosity).

Export Brewer

Export brewers were British breweries that were manufacturing beer to export to the colonies. We already talked about them in our first blog post on the assemblage, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. For those of you who missed that first blog post (you should go back and read it) export brewing was never a large market for British breweries. Exporting beer was a risky business for obvious reasons, only certain types of beer were suitable to be exported, and there was enough demand in the local market that most breweries had no need to look to the export market for business. Two breweries come to dominate the British export market: Guinness and Bass and Co. Bass and Co. exported 30,446 cases of beer to New Zealand, worth £45,417, in 1873 (Hughes 2006: 295).

Bottle Manufacturer

As we’ve mentioned many times before on the blog, there was no successful local bottle manufacturing industry in New Zealand until 1922. Instead, bottles were imported from England and Europe in large numbers, with two million bottles imported in 1873 alone (Tasker 1989: 15). These bottles were manufactured by large glass factories. These factories were literally producing millions of bottles a year. Richard, Cooper and Co. of the Portobello glass works in Scotland were making 6,000,000 a year in 1898. Unfortunately, unless a bottle has a maker’s mark, we generally don’t know which factory made the bottle. If we talk about beer specifically, then most beer in the 19th century was packaged in either black beer or ring seal bottles (see this blog for more information on these specific bottle types).

Export Bottler

The British-based export bottler would purchase beer from the brewer, bottles from the bottle manufacturer, bottle the beer and then export it to the colonies. Again, we talked a bit about this in the first blog, but we’ll still go into more detail here as the bottling companies played such a pivotal role in getting beer from England to New Zealand. Exporting beer was a risky business. The journey from England to New Zealand took well over 100 days and during that time the beer often went off due to shipping delays, temperature and humidity changes and contamination. Unlike the export brewery industry itself, which was essentially a duopoly between Guinness and Bass and Co., the export bottling industry was full of competition with Bass selling beer to over 50 different export bottlers by 1873 (Hughes 2006: 89). These bottling companies all competed with each other in the export market with the same products. The point of difference being, how the product was bottled and shipped, and if it had gone off along the way.

Robert Porter and Co. were one of the many export bottlers shipping beer to New Zealand, and we found several of their labels in our Akaroa assemblage. This 1891 account describes their bottling process. The beer was sent to Porter and Co. in butts of two hogsheads each via the railway, with Porter and Co.’s bottling factory conveniently located at Pancras-road, London, at the terminus of the Midland Railway Company. The beer remained stored in the barrel until it was ready to be bottled.

The first stage in the bottling process was washing the bottle. Whilst new bottles could be used, it was more common for old bottles to be reused and refilled. The 1891 account says that these were most often old champagne bottles (ring seals) and that bottles were imported from the continent for this purpose. The bottle was washed three or four times to remove the past contents, and then stored ready for filling.

Bottles were filled, corked then packed, at a rate of around 1500 dozen a day. A tin foil capsule was placed over the cork and the bottle was labelled with the brewer label and Porter and Co.’s Bulldog label. Bottles were left to stand for a day to make sure they weren’t going to explode, and then were packed, with eight dozen pints in a case and four dozen quarts in a barrel. The packers name was recorded inside the case, which was then loaded back onto a train for transport to the docks and then shipped to New Zealand.

The Agent

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.

A few of the many advertisements for Robert Porter and Co.’s bottled Guinness and Bass and Co. ale. Most advertisements had the brand of alcohol, who bottled it and the agents name (if you think this is complicated wait until we start talking about bottle reuse). Images clockwise from top left: Daily Telegraph 21/07/1899: 1; New Zealand Herald 09/04/1880: 7; Daily Southern Cross 15/11/1865: 7; Otago Daily Times 12/08/1893: 3; Press 16/09/1896: 3; Press 01/11/1894: 4.

The local brewer

Alongside all the imported beer and spirits that were available for purchase, there were also locally manufactured beers. Local breweries had serious advantages over export brewers- namely that their beer didn’t need to be shipped halfway across the world to reach the consumer- but also had to compete with the notion of “British is Best” and the familiarity that Bass and Guinness had in a foreign world. We’ll talk more about local breweries below in the bottle reuse section, for now it’s just important to remember that there were other beers available than Guinness and Bass (unlike spirits which relied on the export market).

Seller and Consumer

Finally we reach the end of the chain. The beer, having been brewed by the manufacturer, bottled by the exporter, sold by the agent, was now available for purchase by the consumer. Consumers could purchase beer direct from the agent, or importer, but most of the general public likely brought their beer from hotels (who in turn would have purchased from the agent).

An 1888 advertisement for the infamous Occidental Hotel, stating the hotel kept only the best brands of wines, spirits and ales in stock. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this blog, the ad doesn’t say specifically which brands were in stock, but they probably included imported Bass and Guinness. Image: Press 25/10/1888: 8.

Joe Dicks was a Sydenham based wine and spirits importer. The above advertisement gives their 1891 prices for Bass and Guinness beers, along with other spirits. If you read the ad, you’ll notice that you could purchase bottled beer, or you could take along an empty bottle and fill it yourself. This brings us to bottle reuse. Image: Press 30/01/1891: 1).

Bottle Reuse

When we think about just the beer, the journey from England to New Zealand is a relatively straightforward one. It’s brewed in England, passes hands through a bunch of different people and companies, and gets drunk in New Zealand. The same cannot be said for the bottle it was contained in. Unlike today, when packaging is so ridiculously cheap that it’s killing the planet, packaging in the 19th century was expensive. Because of that, bottles were used more than once, in a cycle of bottle reuse.

The (simplified) bottle reuse cycle. The start of the cycle is what we’ve talked about so far, with a bottle being filled with alcohol and sold to the consumer. Once the consumer had consumed their beer, the bottle could be sold or returned and then washed and filled again. Image: C. Watson.

Sold or returned to whom, you might have been wondering. Advertisements by local breweries, hotels and importers for bottles were a common sight in 19th century newspapers. Image, clockwise from top left: Press 23/03/1870: 1; Lyttelton Times 11/10/1895: 1; Press 25/11/1863: 1; Star 15/06/1869: 1; Press 20/02/1874: 3.

There are two points of bottle reuse in the journey of the beer bottle from England to New Zealand: one in England and the other in New Zealand. In the bottle exporter section above, we mentioned that the bottles exported to New Zealand were washed by the bottling company, as most often they were old bottles that were being reused. As we mentioned in our first blog on the assemblage, the export market made up only a minor proportion of brewers’ sales. Most English beer was bottled in England and consumed in England, meaning the bottles could go through the re-use cycle indefinitely.

Quitting being an archaeologist to become a professional diagram maker. This masterpiece shows the two cycles of bottle re-use. Image: C. Watson.

Once the original contents of the bottle were consumed, then the bottle was sold. From there it was washed, refilled and re-sold. Local breweries were reliant on the continual import of bottles into New Zealand as a source of bottles. Whilst they could purchase empty bottles directly from bottle manufacturers in England and import them to New Zealand, all bottles whether empty of filled carried a 1 penny import duty (Tasker 1989: 39), making it cheaper to buy already imported, used bottles.

Just as we find advertisements for bottles wanted in 19th century newspapers, we also find bottles for sale notices. All the advertisements listed here are from commercial businesses. It would make sense that aerated water manufacturers, hotels, and shops would be the biggest source of bottles given they were also the biggest consumers, but individuals could also sell their if they wanted to. Also interesting is the reference in the bottom right story of a Robert Gilmour being charged with selling bottles that still had old labels on them. This was presumably because he was refilling the bottles with a cheaper product than what they originally contained but was still selling them as containing the original contents. What a scoundrel. Image: clockwise from left: New Zealander 13/12/1848: 1; Westport Times 23/12/1871: 3; Star 14/12/1889: 2; Star 6/3/1897: 5; Cromwell Argus 16/3/1897: 4.

The cycle of reuse continued until the bottle was disposed of. The bottles we found at our site were interesting as they contained both imported and locally manufactured beer. The bottles that contained locally manufactured beer were likely once imported with Bass or Guinness in them, and then went through this cycle of reuse before being disposed of. The bottles that held imported beer appear to have never entered into the New Zealand cycle of bottle re-use, instead they were immediately consumed and disposed of (provided that they hadn’t been sold to the occupants of our house by a Robert Gilmour-esque figure who wasn’t replacing the labels on the bottles; proving the old adage of archaeology that we can never know anything for sure).

Clara Watson

References

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

Tasker, J. 1989. Old New Zealand Bottles and Bygones. Wellington: Heinemann Reed.

Gin, Cognac and Pencils

Last time on the blog we looked specifically at the beer bottle labels from our Akaroa site. Today’s blog post is essentially a part two, where we’re going to take a look at the other labels found on the site. Most of these were for spirits of various types. Unlike beer, which was brewed in New Zealand, spirits were almost always imported from overseas. Between 1841 and 1868 distilling spirits in New Zealand was illegal, and even after being made legal in 1868, the removal of protective duties in 1874 meant that the small local distilling industry, which had began to develop, immediately collapsed as it was unable to compete with imports. Of course, just because distilling spirits was illegal doesn’t mean it wasn’t done. Places like Hokonui Hills were infamous for their illegal grog. However, it’s very unlikely that we will ever find archaeological evidence for the consumption of illegal alcohol. Funnily enough when people break the law, they tend not to provide evidence for it, say like labelling their bottles of sly grog to read “this bottle contains illegally distilled spirits” (an archaeologist can dream though).

This spirits bottle contained my favourite type of alcohol: Gin! Brothers Walter and Alfred Gilbey founded their business in 1857 in London, as wine and spirits merchants and soon began to produce spirits, particularly London dry gin. The third brother, Henry, joined the firm in 1865. They opened branches in Ireland, Scotland and by the 1920s the company also had gin distilleries in Australia and Canada. Gilbey’s gin was widely advertised in New Zealand newspapers from the end of 19th century onwards (New Zealand Herald 7/09/1895: 1; Evening Post 11/07/1945: 4). Image: C. Watson.

The best thing about researching spirits are the advertisements. If James Bond was alive in the 1800s, he’d drink Gilbey’s Gin. Image: Press.

The Gilbey’s Gin bottle had three different labels on it. The bottom one, with all the writing on it, was a letter of endorsement by Sir Charles A. Cameron. Cameron was an Irish chemist and scientist, most well-known for his work in detecting food adulteration from 1888 onward. For manufacturers, operating in a time period with relatively loose food safety laws, providing endorsements was a way of legitimising their products. Interestingly, Cameron’s endorsement focuses on the health benefits of drinking gin, something I plan on remembering next time I’m sipping on a GnT. Image: Grey River Argus.

Normally, when we think about gin with medicinal benefits in the 19th century Udolpho Wolfe’s Aromatic Schnapps is what immediately springs to mind (read “schnapps” in quotation marks- it was a grain-based alcohol flavoured with juniper berry essence, a.k.a gin). Unfortunately, the Udolpho Wolfe label we found at our site was in fragments (note the bottle pictured here is from a different site), but from what we can read the label promotes the medicinal benefits of the product. This makes sense given the bottle held “schnapps” not gin… Image: C. Watson.

An 1875 account of the “medicinal” benefits of Udolpho Wolfe. Image: Press 27/10/1875: 3.

But wait, there’s more. We also found a JDKZ gin bottle label on the site (note the bottle is from a different site). JDKZ gin was produced by the De Kuyper distillery in Rotterdam. The De Kuyper distillery has a long history, having been established in 1695 when the family began making wooden casks for transporting beer and gin. From 1729 they began to use characteristic square shaped gin bottle and in 1827 began exporting their products to Europe and the colonies. In 1911 the distillery moved to Schiedam. Image: C. Watson.

It seems have taken until 1926 for the De Kuyper’s to have realised the medicinal wonder drug they had on their hands. Luckily once they did, they made sure to advertise its many benefits. Image: clockwise from top left, Press 18/03/1926: 11; Press 19/03/1926: 4; Press 23/03/1926: 4; Press 25/05/1926: 13.

Gin not your cup of tea? We had two different Hennessy Cognac bottles at the site, one embossed and the other labelled. Hennessy’s Cognac was founded by Richard Hennessy in 1765, made famous by his son James, and continued to be produced throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Hennessy was advertised as being imported into New Zealand from at least 1843 (New Zealand Gazette and Wellington Spectator 20/09/1843: 1). The embossed Hennessy bottle we found at our site was imported into New Zealand by the Neil Brothers. Neil and Company was a Dunedin company founded in 1886 by Mr P. C. Neil. The company acted as general importers, merchants, and ship and insurance agents (Cyclopedia Company Ltd 1905:350). Image: C. Watson.

I like this advertisement for two reasons. Firstly, the artefact nerd in me appreciates that the label pictured in the advertisement is the same label that we found on one of our bottles. Secondly, there are many different interpretations of what the effects of a “universal stimulant” are, but the one that I’m picturing in my head does not go well with being in the middle of a golf course wearing a suit… Image: Press 12/07/1924: 7.

And just to mix things up, a pencil box label. Prior to the beginning of the 19th century, pencil making was a specialist craft in Nuremberg, with pencils manufactured exclusively by the Nuremberg carpenters’ guild. In 1806 Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the administrative restructuring of Bavaria, resulting in the Nuremberg carpenters’ guild being stripped of their power and pencil manufacture available to anyone. In the wake of this, Johann Froescheis registered as a pencil manufacturer. In 1868, Johann Froescheis II registered the brand Lyra, along with the Greek lyre trade mark. The company still operates today. Image: C. Watson.

Unlike the other brands, which had thousands of advertisements in the newspapers, I couldn’t find a single advertisement for J. Froescheis and the Lyra brand. The closest I came was to German pencil cases (which came in silver and gold cases #fancy). This ad is from a larger advertisement from a Mr Alport who was selling off his household in 1854 as he was leaving New Zealand. Our pencils are likely to be from later on in the 19th century, or possibly the start of the 20th century, when pencils were more common, but it’s an interesting reminder that something we take for granted, such as a pencil, was once an expensive commodity.Image: Lyttelton Times 18/03/1854: 2.

And to end the blog I couldn’t not put this in, because how amazing is the thought of a giant pencil tombstone (I’m thinking of a 10-foot high trowel for my grave). In a complete tangent that’s not related to anything else in this blog, the advertisement on the left is from 1895 and the one on the right is from 1905. The fact that something that happened 10 years earlier was still considered recent in 1905 really shows how much the news-cycle has changed in the past hundred years…

Clara Watson

References

Cyclopedia Company Ltd. 1905. The Cyclopedia Company of New Zealand [Otago & Southland Provincial Districts]. Available [online]: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-corpus-cyclopedia.html

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!