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

 

 

 

Privies, Water Closets and Pan Closets: Sanitation in 19th century Christchurch

Toilet, loo, lavatory, water closet, restroom, bathroom –  no matter what you call it, they all refer to the same thing: the porcelain throne on which we spend an average of three hours and nine minutes a week. The flushing toilet is a quintessential part of modern life. The press of a button and our waste is whisked away, never to be seen again (unless you have to face the horror of working on wastewater pipe renewal projects). Yet it wasn’t always that way.

I won’t be so vulgar as to include a close-up photo of this drain, but let’s just say that there were some things in there that you didn’t want to get up close and personal with. Image: C. Watson.

Archaeologists studying ancient and more recent civilisations have shown that the principals of sanitation are basically the same no matter when or where you lived, those being: when people are living too densely for the ‘just find a bush’ method to work, collect the waste in something and find a way to dispose it. In Ancient Greece, Rome and Babylonia latrines with pipes that connected to cesspits or drains were installed in cities. Ancient Egypt also had latrines, but these drained directly into sandy soil, with waste sometimes then collected and used as fertiliser. People from the Harrapan civilisation in India also collected waste and used it as fertiliser, while in Mesopotamia, privies had a portable pot that was removed and emptied once full (Genc 2009).

Of course, while the broad principals of sanitation may be transcultural, some cultures did it better than others. As with anything engineering related, the Romans did it best. Nearly every Roman city dweller had access to a toilet (unlike some of the other ancient civilisations where it was only the wealthy and elite), and Roman latrines were connected to an elaborate drainage and sewer system, with the Cloaca Maxima draining into the River Tiber.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the engineered drainage systems they had constructed fell into disrepair. Those living in cities in the Middle Ages likely collected waste in a bucket or chamber pot that was emptied into the street or river –  if they weren’t just finding a private spot outside to go. Latrines did exist (with public latrines that emptied directly into the River Thames located on the London Bridge), but they weren’t as common nor as engineered as those from the earlier Roman period. This approach to sanitation led to stinky, disease ridden cities, that worsened as population density increased. The Great Stink of 1858 refers to a particularly hot summer when the Thames River water level dropped, exposing centuries of waste and a stench so offensive that it apparently caused people miles away to throw up when the wind changed.

You might be, by this point, wondering what has inspired today’s blog post on the humble toilet. Well, it’s because we recently found one. Our toilet was made by Twyfords in 1889 and likely dates back to when flushing toilets were first introduced to Christchurch. But more on that soon. For now, let’s look at what came before the porcelain potty.

I won’t be so vulgar as to include a close-up photo of this drain, but let’s just say that there were some things in there that you didn’t want to get up close and personal with. Image: C. Watson.

Privies, cesspits, closet pans, earth closets and water closets were all different options available to our 19th century counterparts when nature called. Early settlers to Christchurch built privies (or long drops) that discharged into cesspits. These privies proved problematic as they were smelly and prone to leaking, which contaminated soil and sources of water. As early as the 1860s, councils were requiring people to seek council permission before constructing a cesspit to ensure that the cesspit would not leach into drinking water (Press 30/08/1862: 4; Press 31/03/1863: 2). Councils weren’t big fans of cesspits, for obvious reasons. Instead they encouraged people to use closet pans (Press 31/03/1863: 2). These were essentially a bucket (or similar receptacle) that collected the waste, rather than being stored in a cesspit. This waste was collected by nightsoil men and scavengers, who would empty the pans onto a cart and remove it from the city.

An 1877 advertisement by the City Council calling for closet pan designs. Press 14/05/1877: 1.

The chamber pot was used within the house for those not wanting to venture outside at night. We find chamber pots regularly on our archaeological sites, indicating that they were commonplace in most households. These would have been emptied into the privy or closet. Image: C. Watson.

In 1870 Bylaw No. 10 under the Municipal Corporations Act 1867 gave council governance over all privies, cesspits and house drains (Press 06/05/1870: 4), and later pieces of legislation required that all houses needed their own privy (Press 22/02/1873: 2). Council employed an Inspector of Nuisances (an amazing job title) who was responsible for inspecting privies and cesspits. The inspector’s reports to the Board of Health in the late 1870s often complained that cesspits were unsanitary and recommended that they be replaced with closet pans or earth closets (Press 08/08/1871: 3; Press 30/11/1878: 2; Press 01/02/1879: 5).

An 1871 Inspect of Nuisance’s report complaining about the condition of cesspools belonging to properties located between Tuam and Lichfield Streets. Image: Press 08/08/1871: 3.

The cleanliness of the privy was dependent on nightsoil men and scavengers doing their jobs. In 1879, W. J. White was summoned for causing a nuisance on his premises in Tuam Street by allowing a closet pan to overflow and for burying night soil in his backyard; something that was illegal under the Local Board of Health Act. At the proceedings, White said that the nuisance was not his fault but instead that of the nightsoil man who had failed to collect the nightsoil, despite White having paid him to do so. White was forced to bury the nightsoil on his premises as the nightsoil man had not collected it in seven months (Press 15/02/1879: 5). While the services of the nightsoil men were contracted by the council, individual households still had to pay for the service. Today’s landlords will be horrified to hear that in 1880, the Christchurch City Council had the gall to try and seek payment from property owners for this service after some tenants defaulted on their payments (it turns out that landlord’s complaining about providing liveable properties is not unique to the 21st century).

The work charged for was done for the benefit of the tenant, and it was absurd to charge it to the landlord. If the landlord could be charged for one closet pan, there was no reason to prevent him being made to bear the cost of any number of pans his tenant chose to scatter over the house.

-Press 09/09/1880: 3

Relatively often we find pit features that only have a few small, fragmented artefacts in them. I often wonder what happened to the rest of the objects and if people were throwing their rubbish into what was collected by the nightsoil or dustmen, and what we find are the small pieces that didn’t make the rubbish/waste collection. Image: C. Watson.

As early as the 1860s, calls were being made to introduce water closets to Christchurch (Press 30/08/1864: 2). The problem with privies, closet pans and earth closets was that they relied on nightsoil men to remove the waste. The advantage of water closets was that the refuse was flushed into a sewer and carried out to sea (good for public sanitation, bad for river quality and marine life). The problem with water closets is that cities needed to have a good drainage and sewage system in place to give the waste somewhere to go.

The water closet dates back to the late 18th century (although credit for the first flushing toilet goes to Sir John Harrington, godson of Elizabeth I, who in 1592 installed a water closet of his own design in his house), when Alexander Cummings took out a patent for a flushing water closet (Eveleigh 2008). Like most inventions of the Georgian and Victorian era, once the first water closet was patented different inventors and engineers patented their own versions, with improvements made over time. Cumming’s toilet had an outlet that was controlled with a mechanically operated sliding valve. The bowl was filled with water and once one had finished their business, they opened the slider (causing the water and waste to discharge), and then closed it, which triggered an inlet valve to open and refill the valve. The fundamental flaw in this design was that the waste valve was never cleaned by fresh water, meaning that over time it built up a coating of encrusted dirt (Eveleigh 2008: 30). Excrement sticking to the toilet bowl was a problem in many early toilet designs. Improvements such as Edmund Sharpe’s 1855 flushing rim patent, and later wash down closet designs helped this problem (Eveleigh 2008: 37-45). New patents in toilet design were introduced in the 1850s, but it was really between the 1870s and early 1900s that the modern pedestal toilet rose to popularity (Eveleigh 2008).

By the 1880s and 1890s, sanitary manufacturers were regularly patenting new designs. Unlike our toilets, which are boring white, late 19th century toilets could be purchased with elaborate transfer printed decoration that I definitely think should come back into fashion. Image: Twyfords 1894: 15.

Our toilet dates to this period. It is a pedestalled water closet, made by Twyfords. The Twyford family has a long history in the Staffordshire region, and since the 17th century there have been Twyfords producing commercial pottery. In 1849, Thomas Twyford began to make sanitary ware at his factory in Hanley, but it was not until the 1870s under the direction of Thomas Twyford’s son, Thomas William Twyford, that Twyfords became established as one of Britain’s leading sanitary ware manufacturers (Eveleigh, 2008: 46). In 1887, Twyford opened his Cliff Vale factory, which exclusively produced sanitary wares (Birks, 2021). Twyfords is still in operation today. The toilet is made from what Twyfords referred to as their “C V Porcelain Enamelled Fire Clay” (Twyfords, 1894), with ‘C V’ standing for Cliffe Vale. This was a stoneware body covered with a thick white enamel glaze, also known as vitreous china (Birks, 2021). The ware type ‘sanitary porcelain’ is used to catalogue this specific ware type, reflecting the 19th century terminology that often referred to the ware as “sanitary porcelain” or just as “porcelain” (Twyfords, 1894). It should be noted though that the body is not a true porcelain but is a glazed stoneware imitating porcelain.

Our toilet. The base of the toilet would have been fastened to the ground, with holes for screws included in the base. A wooden toilet seat would have sat on the rim. The top outlet would have connected the toilet to the cistern via a pipe running up the wall. The trap closet is exposed, rather than being enclosed inside the pedestal base as became common in the 1890s. The trap sits higher than the bowl, indicating that the toilet flushes using the wash-down method rather than the wash-out. In the wash out method the trap sits lower than the bowl, meaning that water does not sit in the bowl between uses and leading to the build-up of dried excrement. In the wash down method, introduced in the late 1870s but becoming common in the 1880s, the trap sits higher than the bowl meaning that the water level fills both the bowl and the trap, creating a more hygienic experience (Eveleigh, 2008: 53). Image: C. Watson.

Maker’s marks seen on our toilet. The printed mark on the inside of the bowl, “THE VALE” likely refers to the specific design on the toilet. This design is not shown in Twyford’s 1894 catalogue, suggesting that the firm had discontinued the model by this time (Twyfords, 1894).. The numbers ‘8’ and ‘9’ are located either side of the impressed Twyfords Staffordshire knot mark. This indicates that the toilet was made in 1889, with the various Twyfords marks proving they were the maker.

In 1882 the Christchurch District Board introduced an amendment to The Christchurch District Drainage Act of 1875, which would enable the construction of water closet drains to be connected to sewers and the construction of a pump station to run the system (Star 14/06/1882: 3). Every house within 200ft of a sewer was required to have its privy or closet connected with a drain (Press 29/04/1880: 2). Interestingly, this decision was met with some pushback from residents. People thought that the connections between houses and sewers would lead to filth and disease being brought into the household (Press 7/05/1880: 3; Press 27/05/1882: 3; Press 04/08/1882: 2). Throughout the 1880s, the Drainage Board regularly reported on the progress of constructing drains. In 1884 Christchurch had 293 water closets. By 1901, there were 1915 spread across the city (Wilson 1989: 29). If you’re interested in these developments, we’ve already written several blogs about Christchurch’s drains and sewers. You can read them here, here, and here.

Perhaps what I find most interesting about our toilet, is that is appears to have been thrown out not too long after it was made. The toilet was found in a rubbish pit that contained black beer bottles, ring seal bottles and transfer printed ceramics, all things that are typical of 19th century Christchurch assemblages. There were no artefacts in the pit of later manufacture dates, and, at the absolute latest, I would date the pit to the early 1900s, but really it fits better with an 1890s disposal date. We don’t normally find toilets on our archaeological sites simply because most weren’t introduced until around the 1880s, and they have a long lifespan meaning most weren’t disposed of until well after the 1900 cut-off date that we operate under. The site the toilet was found on was occupied by a working-class family who probably weren’t the sort of people that were replacing their water closet so soon after purchasing it. Which begs the question, why was it thrown out so soon? My current theory is that the toilet was damaged, perhaps during shipping, or installation, or shortly after having been installed, and that meant it had to be replaced. The faulty toilet was then disposed of in a backyard rubbish pit. And we dug it up over 100 years later.

Clara Watson

References

Birks, S., 2021. The local history of Stoke-On-Trent, England. [online] Available at: <thepotteries.org>

Eveleigh, D., 2008. Privies and Water Closets. Oxford: Shire Publications.

Press [online]. Available at <https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers>

Star [online]. Available at <https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers>

Twyfords, 1894. Twyford’s 1894 Catalogue of Sanitary Specialities in porcelain earthenware & porcelain enamelled fireclay sanitary appliances & fittings. Cliffe Vale Potteries Hanley Staffordshire. Hanley: Twyfords.

Wilson, J., 1989. Christchurch: swamp to city. A short history of the Christchurch Drainage Board. Christchurch: Christchurch Drainage Board.

“The New Zealand Dream”

When Edward Gibbon Wakefield developed his theory of colonisation in c.1827 (while imprisoned for abducting a young woman) he envisioned for New Zealand the formation of an idealised English rural society, in which all hard-working labourers could aspire to rural land ownership on a modest scale. Within this society the ideal form of ‘landownership’ was to be owning a small self-sufficient farm, while urban properties were to be viewed as simply embarkation points for the countryside. This aspiration for land ownership would eventually become known as “The New Zealand Dream” (Ferguson, 1994: 8, 14; McAloon, 2008). With property values in Christchurch having recently achieved their strongest  monthly growth rate in 17 years, making the possibility of achieving this dream difficult for many first home buyers, we thought it might be opportune to take a look at the theory of Christchurch property value and ownership at the time of the founding of the Canterbury settlement in 1850, and how changing views of landownership during the 19th century altered the “Dream”, from rural aspirations to today’s suburban utopia.

Wakefield theorised that one of the key factors to achieving the ideal colonial settlement was the price at which land was to be sold to settlers. He believed that where land was given for free or sold too cheaply (such as was the case in the Australian colonies) there resulted in too many self-sufficient landowners and not enough labourers to work for wages. But if the price was too high, then only the wealthy would be able to afford land and labourers could never aspire to become landowners. To achieve his goal of a society of small independent rural landowners, Wakefield proposed that the price of land should be fixed at a value that was high enough to provide sufficient revenue to fund the emigration of labourers to a colony, but low enough that industrious labourers could aspire to become landowners after four or fives years work (Webb, 1965: 143).

It was upon the principals of Wakefield’s theory of colonisation that the Canterbury Association founded the Canterbury settlement in 1850. When the Canterbury Association announced their terms of purchase for land in the new settlement in April 1850, their proposal reflected Wakefield’s vision for modest land prices. Land prices were set at £3 per acre for rural allotments (which began at 50 acres) and £12 per quarter-acre for town allotments in Christchurch or Lyttelton. However, the Association’s selected immigrants were entitled to select a 50-acre allotment of rural land and an urban allotment in either of the townships for the combined price of £150. On the eve of the departure of the first Canterbury settlers to New Zealand in September 1850, 143 people had purchased land orders in the new settlement. Together these 143 land purchasers had bought 13,150 acres of rural land, 132 acres of town land, and had obtained the right to lease an additional 65,750 acres of pasturage. Although this was less land than the Association had projected selling, they actively congratulated themselves on the belief that the majority of the land that had been sold was purchased by those intending to settle in the colony, and not by land speculators who were intending to only make a profit off it (Webb, 1965: 168-169).

The Canterbury Association’s advertisement for working-class emigration to Canterbury in 1849

The first four Association ships arrived at Lyttelton between the 16th and 27th December 1850, bringing with them about 800 settlers to the new colony. The process of selecting the rural and town land that they had already paid for was not scheduled to take place until the colonists had been in the new settlement for three months. This provision was intended to allow the colonists time to survey the topography and farming possibilities of the Canterbury plains before making their selection. The downside of this provision was that the colonists could not begin the process of building their new permanent homes until they had made their selection of land. In the meantime, a few of the settlers chose to stay in their cabins on board the Association’s ships (which remained in port for three weeks while unloading their cargo), while others were forced to build temporary accommodation, such as tents, V huts, or other makeshift shelters in the townships. In preparation for the arrival of the colonists however, the Association did construct immigration barracks in Lyttelton, which could temporarily house between 300-400 immigrants (Lyttelton Times, 11/1/1851: 4; Schrader, 2012).

For many of the Canterbury pilgrims, the inability to take possession of their land and build permanent dwellings proved difficult, as they did not want to waste their limited resources and capital on temporary arrangements. At the first meeting of the Canterbury Land Purchasers (held on 20th December 1850 before the fourth Association ship, The Cressy, had even arrived in port) the settlers informed the Association’s representative, John Godley, of their desire to immediately begin the land selection process. Godley consented to a compromised outcome, in which the settlers could immediately begin selecting their town allotments, but still had to wait until the allocated time to select their rural allotments. The settlers agreed, and the selection of town allotments began quickly to allow the settlers to leave their temporary accommodations and begin developing their own properties (Lyttelton Times, 11/1/1851: 6).

Lithograph of J. Durey’s 1851 painting of the bricks landing site on the Avon River showing the first settlement within Christchurch city.

Unlike Wakefield’s vision of a rural society, it was therefore the town sections and not the rural properties that were first eagerly developed for occupation by the Canterbury pilgrims. Although the selection of town sections in Lyttelton appears to have been initially favored, by mid-January there was a shift in preference to the selection of town sections located in the settlement’s capital, Christchurch. The Lyttelton Times noted that “there can be no doubt but that the capital of the district will be rapidly peopled, and the town land acquire a considerable value” (Lyttelton Times, 18/1/1851: 5). Right from the beginning of the settlement, Canterbury town land was seen as a valuable and desired commodity.

The agricultural labourers that had immigrated to Canterbury in the hope of working their way into land ownership, were in a particularly difficult position during the first months of the settlement, as there were no agricultural labouring positions available for them until the selection of rural land took place. While those settlers with land purchase orders made their selection of town lands and moved onto their new properties, those settlers who did not initially have the capital to invest in land remained in the immigration barracks or their temporary makeshift shelters. However, for those non-landed settlers who did not want to stay in the makeshift accommodations for a prolonged period of time, there soon emerged an attractive alternative in the form of leasehold properties. In the second issue of the Lyttelton Times (issued on the 18th January 1851 just one month after the arrival of the first Association ship) there were already advertisements announcing town sections in Christchurch available for lease (Lyttelton Times 18/1/1851: 1). These leasehold sections offered the non-landed settler an opportunity to construct for themselves more permanent dwellings/commercial buildings (like their landed counterparts) without having to outlay the cost of purchasing a town section. The Lyttelton Times indicates that leasehold sections in Lyttelton were particularly popular, noting that “tenants at good rents still continue to come forward for the town lands of Lyttelton”, with sections along the commercial hub of Norwich Quay letting for 15 shillings per foot frontage (Lyttelton Times, 11/1/1851: 4; 18/1/1851: 5). Alternative rented accommodation was also soon to be found in the form of hotels, which began to be constructed in Lyttelton in early January and in Christchurch in early March (Lyttelton Times, 11/1/1851: 4; 8/3/1851: 5).

Advertisement in the Lyttelton Times 18/1/1851: 1 announcing town sections in Christchurch available for lease.

Until farmhand positions were available, some of the agricultural labourers joined their urban wage-earning counterparts in looking to the towns to obtain a source of income (particularly those who needed to pay for their newly rented accommodations). For many, this meant working on the Canterbury Association’s public works or helping their fellow settlers to construct their new homes. The towns therefore became the main center for both employment and residential activities.

Advertisement in the Lyttelton Times 25/1/1851: 1 from a labourer seeking contracts to help build settler houses in Christchurch and Lyttelton.

The selection of rural land had finally begun by early February 1851 (Lyttleton Times, 1/2/1851: 3). This gave the opportunity for the landowning setters to depart Christchurch and Lyttelton for their new country estates and begin turning their fields into production. As the land selection process progressed, Godley noted that “Each purchaser seems convinced that he himself had secured the best allotment of all; but the most satisfactory feature is that nearly the whole body have selected their land within a circle of four or five miles in diameter” (Webb, 1965: 177-178). This suggests that while some of the settlers may have looked forward to removing from the two townships to the country, the location of their selections being in such close proximity to the towns indicates that they were still intimately connection with the development of the towns. It is also not true that all of the rural sections selected by the first body of colonists were intended for rural development, as the very first rural section selected, Rural Section No. 1 (located on the northern boundary of the town of Lyttelton),  was taken up by the trustees of Christ’s College and  almost immediately opened up for residential development.  The Lyttelton Times noted in early February 1851 that “almost the whole of which has been applied for at high rents for building purpose” (Lyttelton Times, 1/2/1851: 3).

Although Wakefield had envisioned for New Zealand the formation of an idealised English rural society, his theory faltered on economic reality (McAloon, 2008). Life in the country was hard and the cost of bringing land into production was high. Although the large pastoral farms managed to make good profits, the profits of the smaller agricultural farms proved less lucrative. For agricultural labourers, work was generally seasonal with long periods of unemployment. This proved most difficult during the periods of economic downturn in the 1870s and 1880s, when periods of unemployment brought widespread distress. During this time, the landless gravitated to the towns where there was a greater variety of housing options and at least some hope of relief in the form of charitable aid. The population of the towns grew rapidly during the 1870s and 1880s, with the population of Christchurch growing from 7,931 in 1871, to 13,425 in 1878 (Ferguson, 1994: 15, 19). This population growth is evident in the comparison of maps of the city of Christchurch drawn in 1862 and 1877, which shows a significant increase in the number and density of buildings constructed in the township over this fifteen-year period.

Detail from Fooks’ 1862 map of Christchurch showing just two buildings present on the town block bound by Armagh, Gloucester, Barbadoes, and Madras Streets.

Detail from Strouts’ 1877 map of Christchurch showing a significant increase in the number of buildings present on the town block bound by Armagh, Gloucester, Barbadoes, and Madras Streets.

For the poorer classes of society, the towns offered a greater variation in the security of rental tenures than what was generally available in the country, with house leases being offered by yearly, monthly, fortnightly, or weekly agreements, or public lodging houses or rooms for board being offered on daily agreements. These short-term rental or lodging agreements offered a great deal more flexibility than living with a mortgage, as those on a daily, weekly or fortnightly tenancy could shift quickly to another location when employment opportunities arose, and could tailor the quality of the housing to fit uncertain incomes. There were, however, very few renting and lodging regulations during this period, and those laws that were in place tended to favour the landlord over the tenant. This meant that tenants were not always completely secure in their tenements, though some protections did come into effect later in the century such as The Lodgers’ Goods Protection Act 1880, which limited the power of landlords to take their tenant’s property in lieu of arrears of rent (Ferguson, 1994: 36, 47). Unfortunately, this system of short-term and informal rental agreements makes it very difficult for historical researchers to ascertain who was occupying certain properties during the 19th century, as the names of tenants were not always formally recorded in the Canterbury Deeds Books – this is particularly frustrating when trying to work out who might be associated with archaeological assemblages.

This burgeoning rental market in the 19th century allowed those landowners with a little capital to invest in housing. Town settlers would buy all or part of a town section and build a house for themselves, and then they could rent out rooms in their homes to lodgers, or if they had enough capital, they could build a second or third house which they could sell or rent to others (Ferguson, 1994: 47). While in Wakefield’s vision of rural utopia the rural property symbolised a reward for labour with the land as a source of income; for town-dwellers it was the house itself that came to be a major source of income (Ferguson, 1994: 35). Unfortunately, there was very little regulation regarding the construction of buildings in Christchurch and Lyttelton. City builders claimed that regulations inhibited growth, and Municipal governments (often the same people) tended to agree and so placed few restrictions on urban land use. Builders placed houses awkwardly on sites, with no guarantee of street access, water supply, or effective sewerage systems. As cities grew and land became scarcer, lanes and alleys were driven through the backs of properties and lined with poorly constructed cottages for workers. These soon became over-crowded and squalid, with rubbish and effluent festering in city streets and a rising death toll from diseases such as typhoid (Schrader, 2007). Some small attempts were made to address these issues, such as the Public Health Act 1872, which set up Local Boards of Health to monitor and improve health in their areas. Although they attempted to control overcrowding and to have filthy houses cleansed and whitewashed, the Act did not set housing standards and did not provide powers of enforcement.

The six terrace houses outlined on the map were constructed by John Ponsford in ca. 1876 as investment properties that were leased out.

While the living conditions of some of the town dwellers devolved into squalid and unsanitary conditions, for others the towns became a source of wealth and advancement and a profitable alternative from the hardships of rural settlement. A wealthy industrial and mercantile class therefore began to develop in the towns. Although traditionally, manufacturers and tradesmen would live next to their businesses in the central city (with their workers living in poorer housing nearby), during the 1880s more and more of the affluent town-dwellers began to move their homes away from the older centres of the town to the periphery. As the city slums continued to grow, many politicians and reformers began to fear that the increasing number of slum-dwellers would have a bad effect on the respectable town workers who ought to be pursuing that rural vision. As a solution, they looked to the example set by the wealthy mercantile class, and they began to rework the rural vision into a new suburban dream, one not just for the affluent but for respectable skilled workers as well. If labourers could not become rural landowners, the next best life they could aspire to was to own a home in a respectable suburb. Speculators began to buy up the rural lands adjoining the townships and promote the subdivision of land into suburban settlements (Ferguson, 1994: 24-25, 29-31; Press, 24/2/1882: 2). In this way the “New Zealand Dream”, which Wakefield originally imagined to be owning one’s own self-sufficient farm, was transformed into the desire for a suburban settlement near-to but not within the city’s main commercial centers. City planners continued to promote the classification of separate commercial and residential areas throughout the 20th century – and for many this idea of the “New Zealand Dream” as owning a slice of suburban utopia persists today.

Lydia Mearns

References

Ferguson, G., 1994. Building the New Zealand Dream. Palmerston North: The Dunmore Press Limited.

McAloon, J., 2008. ‘Land ownership’. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. [online] Available at: <http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/land-ownership/print> Accessed February 2021.

Schrader, B., 2007. ‘State housing’, New Zealand Geographic. Issue 086 (July-August). [online] Available at: <https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/state-housing> Accessed February 2021.

Schrader, Ben, 2012. Housing. In: Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. [online] Available at: <http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/housing/print> Accessed February 2021.

Webb, L.C., 1965. Section III – The Canterbury Association and its Settlement. In: J. Hight and C.R. Straubel, eds., A History of Canterbury, Volume 1. Christchurch: Whitcombe & Tombs.

 

All Sherds are Equal

Modern archaeology, in New Zealand at least, is a democratic science. By this, I mean that as archaeologists we investigate and record ALL deposits, features, and artefacts we come across on sites. We don’t cherry pick our sites to only excavate those that represent the wealthy and elite of society (looking at you classical archaeologists *cough* Heinrich Schliemann *cough*). Instead, in Christchurch, we excavate sites where the working classes lived, along with those from the middle and upper classes.

This means we don’t privilege any people of the past, or at least not when we’re looking at artefacts (buildings are sometimes a different story). The archaeological deposits we find that relate to a butcher and his family who lived in a small four room cottage are equally as important as those we find that relate to an ex-mayor who lived in a large house. I personally think that this is important, as whilst we typically view our sites in an archaeological and academic context representing the history of New Zealand and Christchurch (and discuss them as such), they can also hold a personal connection for any descendants wanting to learn more about their ancestor’s lives (hot tip for anyone doing family research, archaeological reports are now available online from Heritage New Zealand if you know where an ancestor was living and want to see if any archaeology has been done at the site).

It also means we are able to do comparative research. How can we say (using the archaeological record) that a person was wealthy and that this is demonstrated in what they have thrown away, if we don’t have deposits from working-class sites to compare with? How can we know what items were typical for a period if we don’t have a representative sample from across society? From this viewpoint, everything is important. The rubbish pit containing unusual complete and near-complete vessels from a household clean-out event has as much information potential as the small pit with a few broken fragments of common items. Both can provide specific information on the occupants of the site and how they lived their lives, as well as being used to look more broadly at life in Christchurch through comparative studies.

This has been a very long introduction to basically say that today’s blog is show-casing some of the artefacts we’ve found over recent months. But unlike previous blogs, where we normally focus on complete or unusual objects, today I’m going to be sharing the small, broken fragments that we don’t normally talk that much about, because they’re just as important as the unusual artefacts.

Ooooh yeah, Asiatic Pheasants. We couldn’t do a blog talking about ceramic sherds and not include the Asiatic Pheasants pattern. We find this pattern on almost every archaeological site in Christchurch. It doesn’t matter who you were, what you did for a living, how much money you had, if you lived in Christchurch from the 1860s onwards then you probably owned Asiatic Pheasants patterned vessels. One of the best things about the pattern being so common is that it also doesn’t matter how small the fragment is, we can almost always identify the pattern. Image: C. Watson.

 

Fragments can also be frustrating though, in that you get a tiny glimpse into the pattern but it’s too small to work out what’s going on. Take this flow blue pattern for example. The figure in the centre of the sherd is clear. But is she facing another figure who’s much larger than her? Does that mean the central figure is a child and the larger figure is her mother? And why does the central figure not have legs? Is she a ghost? Has she come back to haunt the figure on the right? Have I been watching too many horror moves? So many questions, but unfortunately with such a small sherd we’ll probably never know what the pattern was. Image: C. Watson

 

Sometimes a fragment will have distinguishing elements (like a lot of the patterns pictured below), meaning that there’s something to start with when trying to identify the pattern. Others, like this one, I generally won’t even bother searching for. There were literally thousands of different patterns made by the Staffordshire potteries that had floral elements, meaning that unless you’re super familiar with a pattern (like Asiatic Pheasants), it’s near-impossible to identify a sherd that just has the edges of a flower on it. Image: C. Watson.

 

I think this sherd is made 100% better by the fact that the horse and rider are missing their heads *insert headless horseman pun here*. Image: C. Watson.

 

When it comes to random patterns on sherds then this is definitely the best. My favourite part is the smoking pipe the figure on the right is holding- that’s one long pipe stem. We weren’t able to identify the pattern, but I imagine that it’s probably based on an 18th or early 19th print that was adapted into a ceramic pattern by a Staffordshire pottery. Image: C. Watson.

 

Houses, but miniature, so they’re better. This is likely from the background of a romantic pattern. Image: C. Watson.

 

It’s very satisfying when you’re able to identify a pattern from only a small sherd. This plate is decorated with the Royal Exchange pattern and the central scene (which was missing) shows the third Royal Exchange building, opened in 1844 (Coysh and Henrywood 1982: 311). Image: C. Watson.

 

And what is perhaps even more satisfying than identifying the pattern from a small fragment, is identifying the manufacturer. All my time spent lurking in pottery groups on Facebook is paying off because when I saw these sherds my gut instinct was that this was Mason’s Ironstone with Imari pattern. A google search revealed a near-identical dinner set, with details like the small spines on the gilt spirals and slightly uneven painting of the flowers exactly the same as the fragments we found. The best part though was that the dinner set had the Mason’s Patent Ironstone China mark, making me pretty confident that my gut instinct was correct. Image: C. Watson.

 

And to end the blog, a scene from where we would all rather be: at home, lounging on the couch, patting a dog. Image: C. Watson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clara Watson

References

Coysh, A. W. and Henrywood, R. K., 1982. The Dictionary of Blue and White Printed Pottery 17801880, Volume I. Antique Collectors’ Club, Suffolk.