“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” -Alfred Charles Barker and his photography

When it comes to researching properties and places around Christchurch, we historians review and compare a wide range of resources in order to figure out exactly what was happening there during the 19th century. By far one of the most valuable resources we have are photographs – as the saying goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” When it comes to early photographs of Christchurch, there is one man to whom we are forever indebted: Dr Alfred Charles Barker (1819-1873). So, this week on the blog we thought we would give a wee overview of Dr Barker’s life in Christchurch and some of the amazing photographs that make up his legacy.

Photograph of Alfred Charles Barker with his camera in 1864. Image:Canterbury Museum, 1864.

The Barker family arrived in Canterbury on board the Charlotte Jane in December 1850, and Dr Barker was among the first colonists to come ashore. Barker selected Town Sections 717 and 718 (located on the northeast corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace) as the site for his family home. In preparation for the family’s departure to New Zealand, Barker had purchased a consignment of timber with which to build a dwelling. But upon his arrival in the colony, he found that his timber had been sold. As an alternative, Barker purchased the studding sail from the Charlotte Jane and used it to construct a dwelling for his family on Town Sections 717 and 718. This early dwelling was affectionately known as Studdingsail Hall. Barker did a good deal of sketching during his first years of settlement in Canterbury, and some of his earliest sketches provide views of the exterior and interior of Studdingsail Hall. The outdoor stove being tended by the women on the righthand side of the sketch is also believed to a cooking stove taken from the Charlotte Jane (MacDonald, 1952-1964: B124).

Sketch by Dr Barker in January 1851, showing the Barker family’s first dwelling ‘Studdingsail Hall’. Image: Alfred Barker, 1851.

The Barker family’s residence was in close proximity to Christchurch’s earliest public building, the Land Office, which was located on the opposite side of Oxford Terrace, where the Municipal Chambers building currently stands. As such, the Barker’s home witnessed a number of important public events in the history of the fledgling township. For example, when rural land was first made available for selection by the Canterbury pilgrims in February 1851, large crowds gathered around the Land Office building and the Barker family provided hospitality to those who gathered. The Lyttelton Times records:

Dr Barker’s tent, which stands immediately opposite the land office, and is constructed of an immense studding-sail, formerly belonging to the “Charlotte Jane,” was remarkable for its seasonable hospitality (Lyttelton Times, 22/2/1851: 5).

Dr Barker was Christchurch’s first doctor, making Studdingsail Hall Christchurch’s earliest medical surgery. His practice is known to have been innovative, with Dr Barker being an early adopter of chloroform as an anaesthetic during surgery, as well as designing and building his own steam bath (Turner, 1990). Barker’s tent does not appear to have remained long on the property before he replaced or converted it into a more substantial timber dwelling. A sketch drawn by Barker in December 1852, shows the Barker family’s timber dwelling standing on the corner of Oxford Terrace and Worcester Street.

Detail from a photograph of Alfred Barker’s 1852 sketch of Christchurch, showing the Barker family’s timber dwelling (red arrow). Image: New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal, 1897.

Dr Barker’s early sketches of Christchurch show his artistic side, but it was not until 1856-1857 that he discovered what would be his lifelong artistic passion: photography. It is not clear exactly when Barker was first introduced to photography, but he is believed to have been taught the art by his friend Benjamin Mountfort, who was himself advertising as a portraiture photographer from April 1857 (Lyttelton Times, 7/3/1857: 9; MacDonald, 1952-1964: B124). Photography itself appears to have begun to take off in Christchurch in 1857, with the Lyttelton Times proclaiming in May 1857:

Photography has broken out like an epidemic among us. Quite unknown in the place a year ago, we have now a professional artist well known in the northern provinces, and another on the point of coming; two students practising the art, and, we believe, one amateur. Canterbury will now be able to look itself straight in the face (Lyttelton Times, 9/5/1857: 7).

It is possible that Dr Barker was the ‘amateur’ mentioned by the Lyttelton Times, but despite his amateur status, Barker appears to have been infatuated with the artform and began dedicating much of his time to his new hobby. It did not take long for Dr Barker to start losing interest in his medical practice, and by the end of 1858 he had given it up entirely (Turner, 1990). As photography had only just reached Christchurch in 1857, he had to get creative to obtain the equipment he needed. He is said to have built a camera from a tea chest lined with paper and with a lens barrel made from a large empty pill box whose lid was used as a combined lens hood and shutter (Early Canterbury Photography, 2008). When he couldn’t get his hands on the glass he required, he was known to cut panes of glass from his windows to make wet plates, and when he couldn’t get hold of the necessary gold and silver salts used in the photographic process, he use to melt down sovereigns, silverware, and cutlery to make his own (MacDonald, 1952-1964: B124). He even cut his own paper and treated it with egg white (Early Canterbury Photography, 2008). Many of Barker’s early photographs are domestic images – portraiture of his family and friends around his home and garden – and so he constructed a dark room in his home on Worcester Street in which to develop these domestic images (Turner, 1990).

Photograph of the Barker family playing croquet at their home in Worcester Street in the 1860s. Image: Alfred Barker, 1860s.

Photograph looking west along Worcester Street in 1872, showing Dr Alfred Barker’s house. Image: Alfred Barker, 1872.

It was not long before Dr Barker began to adventure out to take photographs around the Christchurch township and further afield. As the wet plate process required the images to be developed almost immediately after taking the photograph, he constructed a four wheeled buggy with a dark room on the back so that he could develop his plates wherever he might be. One story told is that when Barker was processing photographs in his mobile dark room in Sumner, the horse was startled and took off with him trapped inside. When the horse was finally recovered, he emerged looking like a Dalmatian dog covered with blotches of nitrate of silver (MacDonald, 1952-1964: B124).

Photograph of Dr Alfred Charles Barker and his homemade photographic trap in April 1869. Image: Alfred Barker, 1869.

Photograph of Dr Alfred Charles Baker at Cave Rock in Sumner with his photographic trap in 1867. Image: Alfred Baker, 1867.

Dr Barker’s extensive portfolio of photographs taken throughout his life has become a significant source of information for researching early Canterbury. Some of his most valuable images are the early photographs of Christchurch, which show how much the settlement has grown from a small timber township to a thriving city.

Photograph looking northeast towards the Victoria Street bridge in 1860. Image: Alfred Barker, 1860.

Photograph looking south over Cathedral Square on Market Day in 1871. Image: Alfred Barker, 1871.

Photograph looking along High Street in 1872, Image: Alfred Barker, 1872.

Dr Barker died at his Worcester Street residence in March 1873 (Lyttelton Times, 21/3/1873: 3). Shortly after his death, the Barker family moved away from the property, and the family’s household furniture and goods were sold off (Lyttleton Times, 16/4/1873: 4). Dr George Lilly Mellish temporarily took up occupation in Barker’s former premises, but in July 1878 the trustees of Barker’s estate decided to remove the house from the property (Press, 2/7/1878: 4). Dr Barker’s house was purchased for removal by Mr. Furhmann in July 1878, and was finally removed from the section in February 1879 (Lyttelton Times, 20/2/1879: 4; Press, 19/7/1878: 2). A photograph taken from the spire of the Cathedral in early 1881, shows Dr Barker’s former property after the removal of his house and garden.

Photograph looking west from the Cathedral’s spire in 1881 showing no buildings present on Dr Barker’s former property. Image: Wheeler and Son, 1881.

While Dr Barker’s photographs are an amazing resource for researchers today, they are not the only material left behind by photographers for us to view. The photographic process requires all manner of equipment, chemicals, and other sundries in order to produce an image, and these items also come to form part of the material culture of early Christchurch. Unfortunately to date, we have not encountered any of Dr Barker’s photographic equipment, but our archaeologists have encountered other examples of photograph material from time to time.

When excavating a site occupied by Mr Samuel Charles Louis Lawrence, photographer, in Oxford Terrace in 2013, out team encountered the usual material culture relating to Lawrence’s occupation of the property in the 1860s and 1870s: tea and table wares, food containers, alcohol bottles, personal hygiene items, pharmaceutical bottles, smoking pipes and shoes. But among these typical items, our team also found evidence of Lawrence’s photographic pursuits – a bottle made by R. W. Thomas who made all manner of chemicals and other sundries used in the practice of photography  – Check out the full blog on Lawrence’s site here.

R. W. Thomas bottle from the site on Oxford Terrace. R. W. Thomas operated as a photographic merchant from 1851 until 1894, becoming R. W. Thomas & Co. and then R. W. Thomas & Co. Ltd in the 1880s. Thomas sold all manner of photographic equipment, from dry plates, dark tents and cameras to the chemicals and products necessary for the development of the photographs. Image: J. Garland.

When excavating a well in Invercargill’s CBD a few years ago, our New Zealand Heritage Properties partners encountered a wide range of photographic equipment relating to a photographic studio which occupied the site during the early 20th century. The material includes parts of a wooden camera, bottles which held ink, glue, lubricating oil (possibly for the camera parts), and mascara (theorised to have been used for editing photographs as Victorian and Edwardian formulas generally consisted of coal and petroleum jelly, providing a thicker consistency than many inks), and glass plates (Check out the excavation here).

Timber camera components. (A) front and back of handmade camera component. (B) shutter mechanism closed (left) and open (right). (C) part of shutter mechanism. (D) front standard. (F) bone page turner/spatula. Image: N. Woods.

Selection of photography related glass vessels and blank plates in two sizes and materials (glass and porcelain). Bottles clockwise from top left: oval cross section bottle, ink, square cross section bottle, perfume/mascara bottle, cobalt blue chemical bottle top and small phial. Image: N. Woods.

Photography came early to Christchurch, with a number of studios being established from 1857. But one of the earliest and most dedicated amateur photographers was Dr Alfred Charles Barker, who took numerous shots around Canterbury between 1857 and 1873. His legacy of photographs is one of the most valuable resources we have to view early Christchurch, and we researchers are forever indebted to him. Thousands of his photographs are available to view on the Canterbury Museum website and we encourage you to check them out! But it is not just the photographs themselves which our early photographers have left behind, but also a unique material culture of photographic equipment that we are looking forward to uncovering more of in the future.

Lydia Mearns

Displaying Wealth and Status in Buildings: Part Two

Welcome back to Part Two of ‘displaying wealth and status in buildings’. Now, before we get into the interior of the building, I want you to use your imagination when looking at the upcoming photos. Prior to taking these photos, this grand old dwelling was rented out by room and when people moved out… well they left a lot of stuff. There were also squatters who broke in and appeared to have a party in multiple rooms (and a small fire or two). I’m sure it wasn’t the type of sendoff the Ballantynes envisioned for their house but it’s the one it got. I’ve tried to spare you all of some of the horrors I faced in this building, but some may have slipped in. It is surprising the things building archaeologists have to face in our line of work, but a lot of the time in Christchurch the damaged buildings we work in have been squatted in… so we find some very interesting and gross things. But they make great work stories and sometimes blogs!

Anywho, the Ballantyne dwelling surprisingly had many original features remaining in the interior, including a couple that I hadn’t seen before. This may be due to my limited years working as a building archaeologist or the fact I have mainly worked on smaller cottages and villas that were not owned by people of the same status as the Ballantynes.

First things first, the layout of the dwelling. The Ballantyne home was laid out similarly to almost every other Christchurch Victorian home. It had a central hallway with rooms coming off it on either side and a staircase that led up to more rooms. The dwelling would have had 15 rooms originally, with all of the public rooms and smaller utilitarian rooms on the ground floor of the building. Bedrooms and servant quarters would have been on the first floor. This hypothesis is based on the grand scale of the front rooms and smaller back rooms on the ground floor. On the first floor, it is probable that the larger front rooms were the bedrooms for the Ballantyne family while the smaller back rooms were the servant quarters. Below I have rejigged the floorplans for the ground floor to show my theory on how the dwelling was originally laid out.

My imagined floorplan of the Ballantynes original dwelling. Like most 19th century dwellings, it had a central hallway that connected the main rooms of the house and went all the way to the back. The three rooms that have been labelled as ‘public rooms’ were highly decorative and were likely the parlour, dining room and drawing room – rooms that the Ballantynes would host guests in but also would use in their daily lives. The two utilitarian rooms off to the side, I’m not sure what the exact use of these rooms were. I like to imagine that they might have been a small scullery that servants could use to serve guests from while the Ballantynes entertained in the adjoining room.

Now the fun bit of the blog. Below I have singled out some stunning decorative features (some were also functional) that showcase the Ballantyne’s style and shows how they portrayed themselves to their guests.

Textured wallpaper on the ceiling of the hallway. Screams wealthy to me!

Only four large ceiling roses remained. Ceiling roses doubled as beautiful decorative pieces as well as providing ventilation to the rooms. These ceiling roses were found in the central hallway, two public rooms and the master bedroom upstairs. There were likely more but had been removed over time.

Cornices, cornices, cornices. The Ballantynes seemed to love their cornices! There is a saying “the bigger the cornice the fancier the room”… ok maybe I just made that up but its true! Large decorative cornices are usually found in public rooms of larger homes and in the case of the Ballantynes, they even put these large cornices in their master bedroom upstairs. Fancy.

The classic Victorian divider. Found in many different 19th century homes, a type of divider was used in the hallway to show a physical divide between the front of the house and the back of the house (think public vs private rooms). Now this timber divider is one I had never come across. The Ballantyne’s used a lot of wooden detail in their house, so it makes sense they had this timber divider. The more common dividers we see are usually plaster archways or the use of plaster corbels.

Please ignore the man in the back and instead focus on this beautiful Rimu staircase. A grand staircase for a grand dwelling. Now you know a lot of money went into this beautiful thing. Don’t worry this staircase found its new home in the North Island. While I am always sad to see a 19th century building demolished, its nice when items are able to be salvaged and given a new life elsewhere.

This may be one of the most beautiful fireplace surrounds I have ever come across. The detail was amazing. This fireplace surround was in the larger front public room. The Ballantyne home had eight fireplaces, which would have been very expensive to put in. Typically, fireplaces were constructed in the kitchen and a public room, depending on the size of the house and the money available. Sometimes we find an extra fireplace in a bedroom or two. But for this house to have eight is extravagant, and truly showed their wealth. (This piece also found a new home before the demolition).

Don’t mind the cast iron register that has fallen out… As a comparison for the fireplace surround above, this one was in the public room at the back of the house. Still a nice wooden surround, but it does not have the grandeur of the first surround. The large front room may have been the main room to receive guests while the back public room was reserved for only some guests to see but was likely mostly used by the family.

While not in the best condition anymore… imagine this timber finger plate with brass inlaid decoration, the brass key escutcheon and timber doorknob with brass decoration in prime condition – they definitely added some elegance to the Ballantyne’s doors.

The true star of the hallway (it also continued up the stairs and onto the landing) was this decorative varnished rimu wainscoting, which had been stencilled with a Greek key variant for the boarder and a four-corner design inspired by classical motifs. This highly decorative feature was added to the central hallway as it would have been seen by everyone that entered the dwelling. Other wainscoting was featured in a public room, but it did not have the decorative stencilling.

I have found that it is quite rare to find a 19th century toilet still in use in a house I’m recording. So, I was surprised to find one! Lucky for you I did not take a photo of the lid up… but trust me it had the original porcelain toilet! It was a ‘Unitas’ which was a one-piece ceramic pedestal closet that was manufactured from 1883. Also, very impressive that the Ballantynes had this toilet connected to the main house.

The Ballantyne dwelling is a great showcase of a dwelling built for a family with some wealth and status in the community. As touched on in Part 1, the exterior of the dwelling was well decorated and would have been impressive to view. The features they chose to have on the exterior set the tone for the rest of their house and it was the first impression a guest would have of them and their status. They clearly wanted to give a very prominent impression. On the interior there were decorative elements throughout the rooms, but they were mainly focused within the public rooms. This shows the Ballantynes were conscience of the way their house was viewed by their guests and that they made an effort to make the rooms that guests would enter be highly decorative, showing the Ballantynes as upper class.

Now, while all these features together are impressive, and they would have cost the Ballantynes a bit of money, these features can be found throughout different 19th century homes of families with different wealth and status. What makes the Ballantyne’s dwelling impressive is the combination of all of these features and the use of them throughout the dwelling.

Jamie-Lee Hearfield

Bonus content!

Our very lovely historian found deep in her files two photographs that I wanted to share with you all.

The first is this photograph from ca.1912 of Josiah Ballantine and his family in front of their stone motor garage in their new 1912 Unic. The stone garage behind them was sadly demolished prior to our involvement. There was a local legend about this stone building, that it was actually a small chapel, sadly this is not the case and instead it was just a very impressive garage! Image: Ogilvie, G., 2004. Ballantynes, The Story of Dunstable House 1854-2004. J. Ballantynes & Co.

The second is of this model of the Ballantyne house! Apparently, it is housed somewhere at the Canterbury Museum, but we have only ever seen this photo of it. As you can see this was created prior to enclosing the veranda and balcony. Image: Christchurch City Council, 2020. Property File. 

 

 

Displaying Wealth and Status in Buildings: Part One

The act of showing off wealth and status through material is a concept that has been happening throughout human history. This does not necessarily mean that the person had the wealth and status they were portraying, instead some people just wanted to give the illusion that they were more well off than they actually were (known nowadays as ‘keeping up with the Joneses’). The Victorians were well involved in the concept of showing off their wealth and status to the public through how they decorated and organised their buildings both inside and out.

We see this in many of the Christchurch buildings we record. Depending on the person’s budget, a Victorian dwelling in Christchurch would have the street facing façade as the decorative exterior elevation (sometimes the sides of the dwellings also had decorative features – dependent on the view from the street and/or if the owner could afford to). Inside the dwelling, the decorative features were mainly focused on the rooms that guests would view and use (sometimes referred to as ‘public’ rooms).

Before we jump in let’s first familiarise ourselves with common features of a 19th century building. Luckily, I have prepared this one below (full disclosure this drawing is three different buildings I’ve recorded combined into one so I could show different features that we find on 19th century buildings in Christchurch. This is not a legit building…):

A diagram showing different decorative elements on 19th century buildings. Purely for educational purposes.

The case study in this blog today was a dwelling built for a member of the Ballantyne family, a wealthy family in Christchurch who established the well-known Ballantyne’s drapery business in central Christchurch. The land was purchased by Jessie Montgomery Ballantyne, the wife of Josiah Ballantyne, in October 1889. The Ballantynes appear to have constructed their residence on the section ca. 1892 and remained there throughout the remainder of the 19th century. The property was then sold by the Ballantynes in 1927. The dwelling was a two-storey timber framed weatherboard bay villa with a T-shaped gable roof clad in corrugated iron. Unusual for such a grand building, no architect could be found connected to the design of this dwelling.

So, with the background of the dwelling complete, I hope you are now thinking ‘what does a dwelling owned by a member of a wealthy family in the 19th century look like?’ Well, lucky for us, a fantastic photograph was taken of the building in 1898.

Photograph of Josiah and Jessie Ballantyne’s house in c. 1898. Image: Canterbury Museum, 1898.

Now, as a comparison, this is how the dwelling looked when I started recording it in 2020 (122 years later):

Photograph of Josiah and Jessie Ballantyne’s house in c. 2020. Image: J. Hearfield.

It may initially be a bit of a shock to see the state in which the grand house ended up, but when you look past the modifications, you can see many of the remaining decorative features the Ballantyne’s put into their home. I’ve compiled a few comparisons below to show these features.

If you ignore the tv dish, the hole and the plyboard in the right photograph – this gable hasn’t really changed! The highly decorative gable features circular designed carved bargeboards finished with rosettes, and decorative timber stickwork detailing. The first-floor triple sash window set had a traditional style architrave, a moulded flat pediment and decorative aprons. Very fancy.

Once again: ignoring the modern additions (this time modern material to stop the squatters from getting back into the building…). The bay window appears original with dentils under the roof and decorative aprons underneath the sills. The bay window featured three sash windows and it’s not super obvious in these two photos but above each sash window was a coloured glass leadlight window with a geometric floral motif reminiscent of the Art Nouveau style (I’ll post a photo of the windows below because they are beautiful).

The beautiful Art Nouveau style leadlight windows, photo taken inside the dwelling. Now, don’t worry, these windows were all salvaged prior to the demolition.

The same post just 122 years between the photos. The timber worked chamfered post was incorporated into the enclosed veranda and only one fretwork bracket remained for this post. Above the post you can see the fretwork lace still in situ.

The veranda and the balcony were extremely detailed with fretwork lace and brackets. It would have been very eye-catching for the public walking past. While the right photo is the west elevation of the balcony, it shows the original timber fretwork for the balcony, and it was the same as the street-facing elevation fretwork. It also shows that the original posts in the 1898 photo were still in situ, they were just incorporated into the enclosure of the veranda and balcony. This photo also shows the closed west wall of the balcony (the original leadlight window was removed prior to demolition but look below to see it before it was removed)

I don’t know about you, but I think this was the original leadlight window. A lancet-shaped window isn’t super common, let alone a lancet-shaped window with a colourful leadlight pattern for a balcony! This was also salvaged and is hopefully living a new life in someone’s home for the next 100 years.

The front façade of the dwelling was the first impression the public and guests would have had of the Ballantynes. Based on the exterior of their house, it appears image was important. As you can see from the images above, they put a lot of effort (and money) into the presentation of their home. This dwelling would have been very impressive to look at from the street. For comparison I’ve added below another historic photograph of another dwelling I have recorded in Christchurch, an 1880s dwelling owned by the Whitehead family.

Photograph of George James and Mary Ann Whitehead outside their house, Kilmore Street, Christchurch in c..1920. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1920. Just a side note: this is actually one of my favourite photos I’ve come across because if you look real closely you can see George James Whitehead looking lovingly at his wife Mary.

This dwelling had decorative elements such as fretwork on the barge boards, fretwork brackets on the veranda and sash windows with decorative moulded pediments in a classical style. While these decorative features are nice, they are nowhere near like the conspicuous features the Ballantynes presented. George James Whitehead was a post-office clerk, so it’s likely the Whitehead family were more middle class and their dwelling gave the appearance of some wealth on the exterior but had a small simpler interior. Unlike the Ballantynes, who went all out on the interior of their home. However, I must stop here as this concludes Part One of this blog – to see how the Ballantynes decorated the inside of their home (well what remained of the original features) tune in next time.

Jamie-Lee Hearfield

References

Alexander Turnbull Library, 1920. George James and Mary Ann Whitehead outside their house, Kilmore Street, Christchurch. Whitehead, Henry Norford, 1870-1965 : Negatives of Napier, Hastings and district. Ref: 1/1-022247-G., Wellington, New Zealand./records/29948500

Canterbury Museum, 1898. Houses, Linwood, “Waverley” Worcester Street. Christchurch City Council Property File

The Christchurch Public Library

When you take a walk or drive around a city, certain buildings often stand out as recognisable landmarks. Sometimes it’s because of their distinctive architecture, their height or size, or their location, and sometimes it is because of nostalgic memories you associated with it. As a result of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes, Christchurch lost a number of its recognisable building landmarks around the city. While many of these buildings were readily identifiable to Cantabrians who frequented the city prior to the quakes, not all of us know the story of how they came to be. Today on the blog we are outlining the process by which one of the Christchurch’s most recognisable former public buildings – the Christchurch Public Library – came to be constructed during the 19th century and early 20th centuries.

Photograph looking west towards the former Christchurch City Library building located on the corner of Hereford Street and Cambridge Terrace. Image: Christchurch City Libraries, 2023.

When the city of Christchurch was surveyed into town sections and reserves by the Canterbury Association’s surveyor, Edward Jollie, in 1850, the land that would later become the site of the Public Library was surveyed as Town Sections 405 and 406.

Detail from Jollie’s 1850 map of Christchurch showing future Public Library property surveyed as Town Sections 405 and 406. Image: Jollie, 1850.

Charles Thomas Maunsell, one of the original subscribers of the Canterbury Association, owned Town Sections 405 and 406 between 1851 and 1863 but did not develop the sections during his ownership. Fooks’ 1862 map of Christchurch shows no buildings present on Town Sections 405 or 406.

Detail from Fooks’ 1862 map of Christchurch showing no buildings present within Town Sections 405 and 406. Image: Fooks, 1862.

The Christchurch Mechanics’ Institute purchased Town Sections 405 and 406 in July 1863. Mechanics’ Institutes were educational organisations established for the purpose of disseminating knowledge on a wide variety of topics through lectures and libraries. The Christchurch Mechanics’ Institute had been established in 1859. They initially utilised premises within the Town Hall, but they always intended to obtain premises of their own (Lyttelton Times, 21/5/1859: 4, 1/6/1859: 4, 15/6/1859: 4, 9/11/1859: 3). When the Provincial Council granted the Mechanics’ Institute £250 in 1862, they were able to purchase Town Sections 405 and 406 for the sum of £262 10s (Lyttelton Times, 7/12/1861: 4, 9/7/1862: 4).

Having secured a building site, the Mechanics’ Institute utilised the common practice of holding an architectural competition to find a suitable design for a building. From December 1862 to January 1863, they advertised for competitive designs for a building to be erected on their recently acquired site, with £20 to be the prize for the winning entry and £10 for second place (Press, 13/12/1862: 10). The competition was won by Christchurch architect, Samuel Charles Farr, whose offices were located in Lichfield Street (Lyttelton Times, 5/8/1863: 3). Farr had spent the previous twelve years in Akaroa, before coming to Christchurch in 1862. The Mechanics’ Institute is believed to be the first building Farr designed when he moved to Christchurch.

Farr advertised for tenders to construct the Mechanics’ Institute building according to his designs in February 1863 (Press, 14/2/1863: 7). The tender for the construction of the building was won by local builders, Augustus Balcke and Daniel Brouard, for the sum of £1169 (Lyttelton Times, 5/8/1863: 3). Balcke and Brouard worked on a number of prominent construction jobs in Christchurch during the 1860s, including Matson and Torlesses stone buildings in Cathedral Square, Kiver’s stone buildings in Cashel Street, and Church of St John the Baptist in Latimer Square (Lyttelton Times, 12/11/1864: 11, 13/4/1865: 5, 14/7/1865: 7).

At the fourth annual meeting of the Mechanics’ Institute in early August 1863, it was reported that the new building was rapidly advanced toward completion, with the hope that by 1st of September it would be ready for occupation (Lyttelton Times, 5/8/1863: 3). By the following month the building was completed, and the Mechanics’ Institute held their first meeting in their new building to consider a general statement of the affairs of the Institute (Lyttelton Times, 9/9/1863: 3). The requisite books and papers were then placed on the shelves in the new premises, and finally, in October 1863, the Mechanics’ Institute’s new reading room was opened to its various members (Lyttelton Times, 31/10/1863: 5). A photograph taken from late 1863 shows the Mechanics’ Institute building present on Town Section 406 fronting on Hereford Street. The building was somewhat plain in design, resembling a dwelling house more than a public institution, but the link dormer and rounded hood windows add a touch of elegance to the otherwise plain building.

Photograph looking north to the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street in c.1863, showing the Hereford Street frontage of the original Mechanics’ Institute building on Town Section 406. Image:Hocken Collections, c.1863.

The ‘Christchurch Mechanics’ Institute’ changed their name to the ‘Christchurch Literary Institute’ in January 1868 (Press, 9/1/1868: 2). Dartnell’s 1868 map of Christchurch shows the ‘L’ shaped footprint of the newly renamed Literary Institute’s building present on Town Section 406. A photograph taken some time after January 1868, shows a sign displaying the new ‘Literary Institute’ name on the side of the 1863 building.

Detail from Dartnell’s 1868 map of Christchurch showing the footprint of the Literary Institute building present on Town Sections 405 and 406. Image: Dartnell, 1868.

Photograph looking north to the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street after 1868, showing a sign baring the building’s new name ‘Literary Institute’. Image: Wilson, 1982.

The Canterbury Provincial Council were seriously discussing the need to establish a free public library in Christchurch in 1873 (Lyttelton Times, 3/5/1873: 3). The public were quick to support the idea, and by May of that year private promotors had already raised more than £600 in subscriptions for the purchase of books for the proposed project. The Literary Institute were also in favour of the proposal, and they entered into negotiations with the Council to hand over ownership of the Literary Institute building and premises for the purpose (Press, 29/5/1873: 2). The Council placed the sum of £5,000 in their budget and drafted the Canterbury Public Library Act, 1873 for the purpose of purchasing the Literary Institute’s premises (Press, 14/11/1873: 2). By the end of 1873, the Council had successfully negotiated the purchase of Town Sections 405 and 406 and the associated literary buildings (Lyttelton Times, 24/12/1873: 3). The Canterbury Provincial Council placed the management of the newly acquired Public Library premises under the authority of the newly established Canterbury College Board of Governors at the beginning of 1874. The Canterbury College Board of Governors would continue to manage the public library premises and facilities for the next seventy years.

The reading room in the new Public Library was opened to the public in January 1874 (Press, 13/1/1874: 2). The library’s lending services took a further month to prepare before they were ready for the public, as the Board of Governors needed to take stock of and catalogue their new inventory (Press, 30/1/1874: 2). Finally, on 7th February 1874, the Board of Governors published their rules for lending books and the full functionality of the Public Library was made available to the public.

The Canterbury Public Library’s rules first printed in the Press in February 1874.

It was not long after the Board of Governors took over management of the Public Library in January 1874, that they began discussing the need to provide additional facilities on the premises (Press, 30/1/1874: 2). The Board requested four well-known local architects (William Armson, Samuel Farr, Benjamin Mountfort and Frederick Strouts) to submit designs for a new building in April 1874, with the sum of £15 to be paid to each of the architects for the designs they furnished (Lyttelton Times, 1/5/1874: 3). The Board accepted William Armson’s design on the condition that a few modifications were made in July 1874 (Press, 10/7/1874: 2). Armson’s appointment was not without its controversy. Firstly, because he had handed in his initial design after the specified deadline, and secondly, because it was over a year before the Board and architect could finalise the design and associated building costs (Lyttelton Times, 19/7/1875: 3, 15/9/1875: 2; Press, 10/7/1874: 2). But, in September 1875, the Board finally approved Armson’s design for a simple brick and stone building that was to be connected to the extant 1863 library building by a wooden corridor. A detailed description of the building was provided in the Star later that month:

 

The new building is to be erected thirty-four feet North of the present one, the two being connected by a covered corridor built of wood and 7ft 6in wide. In the centre of the corridor and fronting on Cambridge Terrace, there will be an ornamental porch to serve as the entrance to both the new and old buildings. The visitor, on entering the porch, by turning to the left, will gain admission to the old building through the present doorway, or by turning to the right will gain admission to the new building. The latter, it may be said, is to be 60ft x 40ft in the clear, with a space of 20 ft from floor to ceiling. The front elevation looks on to Cambridge Terrace, and has a triple light window in the centre, with a single one on each side. The windows have stone sills, arches, and mullions, the latter having carved capitals and bases of the same material. These with a stone cornice, on which the words “Public Library” are to be carved, will form a pleasant contrast with the brickwork of the walls (Star, 16/9/1875: 2).

Architectural plan showing the proposed extension to the Public Library premises in 1875. Image: Armson, 1875.

Architectural plan showing the proposed extension to the Public Library premises (right) in relation to the existing 1863 building (left). Image:Armson, 1875.

Tenders were called for the construction of the new Public Library building designed by Armson in September 1875, and the tender of Joseph Wood for just under £4000 was accepted by the following month (Press, 17/9/1875: 4). Wood lost no time in making a start on the construction of the building, and by June 1876 it was noted to be ‘fast approaching a state of completion’ (Lyttelton Times, 14/6/1876: 2). In December 1876 that the Board finally took possession of the premises and began moving the designated books and periodicals from the old library premises into the new building Press, 15/12/1876: 2).

The new Public Library premises was opened to the public on 28th December 1876 (Press, 28/12/1876: 2). Strouts’ 1877 map of Christchurch shows the footprint of the original 1863 portion of the library and the 1876 extension present on the property. A photograph said to have been taken in 1897 (but likely taken prior to 1893) shows the 1863 timber portion of the library and the 1876 brick extension present on the property at this time, connected by the timber corridor and porch fronting Cambridge Terrace. Armson’s design was in the Venetian Gothic style, with red brick walls set with bands of contrasting glazed brick and decorative roundels. The French pavilion roof was capped by a ventilator turret and wrought-iron cresting. Although the red brick was somewhat austere in its appearance the decorative roundels, the pointed sash windows with stripped voussoirs, and the detailed turret, gave the building an inviting and unique appearance which would be easily recognised by visitors for generations to come.

Detail from Strouts’ 1877 map of Christchurch showing the footprint of the two phases of the Public Library building (indicated with dashed lines) present on Town Sections 405 and 406. The third building on the property is the Librarian’s House. Image:Strouts, 1877.

Photograph looking northwest to the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street in c.1897, showing the original 1863 Literary Institute building fronting Hereford Street and the 1876 brick addition on the right. Image:Christchurch City Libraries, 1897.

The building premises constructed in 1863 and 1876 continued to provide ample space for housing the Public Library until the early 1890s, by which time the accommodation was beginning to be inadequate for the growing collection of books (Lyttelton Times, 11/7/1893: 2; Star, 9/12/1893: 6). In 1892 alone the library reported adding over 1087 books to their collection (Lyttelton Times, 30/1/1893: 4). The need for additional space was apparent, and the Board of Governors approved a design by the architectural firm of Collins and Harman for an additional building to be added to the premises in March 1893 (Lyttelton Times, 28/3/1893: 2). Collins and Harman, being the architects for the new addition, appears to have been an organic choice for the Board, as the firm had originally been started by the Boards’ former architect of choice, William Armson, who had employed John James Collins in 1871. Following Armson’s death in 1883, Collins took over the firm and brought Richard Harman into partnership in 1885. Collins and Harman continued to be the Board of Governors choice of architectural firm for several decades into the 20th century (University of Canterbury, 2023). Collins and Harman designed a rectangular brick building with concrete foundation that connected into the southwest corner of Armson’s 1876 building. The building was in the Neo-Gothic style, which reiterated some of the materials and motifs of Armson’s 1876 building.

Architectural plan showing the addition of a reference library in the southwest corner of the library complex in 1893. Image:Collins and Harman, 1893.

Tenders were called for the construction of Collins and Harman’s additional wing in April 1893, and a tender for £684 was accepted the following month (Lyttelton Times, 14/4/1893: 8, 30/5/1893: 2). The new building was to function as the library’s ‘Reference Library’. Formerly, Armson’s 1876 building had functioned as both the library’s ‘Reference Library’ and its ‘Circulating Library’, with the building being divided in the middle to create two separate areas. The addition of a separate building to house the library’s reference collection, meant that Armson’s 1876 building could be altered to allow for the circulating collection to utilise the full space of the older building with the room divider removed and the building redecorated (Lyttelton Times, 11/7/1893: 2). The additional building was completed in December 1893, at which time a description of the building was provided in the Star:

 

The reference library […] is newly erected. It is 49ft x 31ft, the walls 25ft high, with an open roof with varnished beams and timbers and lit by six large skylights. It has 1500ft of shelving, with accommodation for about 10,000 volumes. These shelves are in cases about 8ft high, so made that at some future time a gallery may be built round the room. They are arranged in the alcove system, and the necessity for the old objectionable, noisy ladder-steps exists no more. The room is warmed by an extension of the hot air pipe system by which the other room is heated. Gas is laid on and fourteen burners give ample light during the evening. In the centre of the room large tables are arranged, on which magazines, art journals, musical periodicals, &c, are laid. It will be seen that in both rooms there is ample space for the number of books which are being constantly added to the libraries (Star, 9/12/1893: 6).

 

As the new building was located at the rear of the two early buildings, very few contemporary photographs could be found showing the 1893 addition. However, a photograph taken from the Hereford Street bridge in c.1895 shows the corner of the new brick building peeking out from behind the 1863 timber building and connecting into the 1876 building. The three connected buildings which made up the Public Library premises (constructed in 1863, 1876, and 1893 respectively) continued to be utilised for the remainder of the 19th century.

Photograph looking northwest to the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street in c.1895, showing a small portion of the brick addition constructed at the rear of the Public Library premises in 1893 (red arrow). Image: Hocken Collections, c.1895.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Board of Governors were already discussing the need to make considerable additions and alterations to the Public Library premises (Press, 14/6/1900: 4, 25/9/1900: 2). Collins and Harman were again called upon to design additional building premises for the library. They designed a new reading room along with additional librarian’s office and rooms which were to replace the older 1863 portion of the extant buildings as well as the wooden corridor and porch that had been constructed to connect the older building to the 1876 Armson building. It is interesting to note that the Collins and Harman’s plan included the option to extend the building along the full Hereford Street frontage at a later date.

Architectural plan showing the proposed new Reading Room in the southeast corner of the library complex in 1901. Image:Collins and Harman, 1901.

Tenders were called for the construction of the new building designed by Collins and Harman in April 1901, and the tender of Andrew Swanston for £4307 was accepted the following month (Lyttelton Times, 26/3/1902: 3; Press, 23/4/1901: 2). As the new building was to replace the old 1863 building and adjoining porch, the wooden buildings and their stone foundations were sold at auction in June 1901 and they realised the sum of £80 3s 5d (Lyttelton Times, 14/6/1901: 8; Press, 28/5/1901: 2). Although the old building had been simple in its design and had by no means been considered an imposing structure, it had stood on the property for thirty-eight years (a long time in a young colonial town) and was already considered by many of the public as an “old land-mark” (Lyttelton Times, 18/6/1901: 3). However, the public do not appear to have been particularly upset about the loss of the old building (especially after significant rot was found during its demolition) and instead appear to have been eagerly anticipating the new structure (Star, 25/6/1901: 3). The wooden buildings were required to be removed from the premises by the 1st July 1901, by which time the library was renting a room across the road to act as a reading room until the new building was completed (Lyttelton Times, 26/3/1902: 3).

Once the old buildings were removed, Swanston quickly got underway with the construction of the new building and by March 1902 the Board of Governors were indicating the building was approaching completion (Lyttelton Times, 26/3/1902: 3). The building was officially opened on 1st May 1902 (Star, 2/5/1902: 1). A photograph taken in 1904, shows the new brick building standing on the corner of Hereford Street and Cambridge Terrace. Part of the 1876 Armson building is visible on the right-had-side of the photo, and part of the 1893 building on the left-hand-side. The new building was designed in the Neo-Gothic style and reiterated some of the materials and motifs of Armson’s earlier 1876 building. Unlike the old wooden building, the new building was visually striking and ornate. The contrast of the red brick and white Oamaru stone gave the building a bright and distinctive pattern, and the conical pinnacles and pyramidal turrets added an imposing height. The new Public Library was a building Cantabrians could be proud of, and it appears that the premises were well patronised with the Christchurch Library estimated to have had about 800 more subscribers than any other similar institution in the country (Lyttelton Times, 14/4/1902: 3).

Photograph looking northwest to the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street in 1904, showing the newly constructed reading room building at the Public Library premises. Image:Kinnear, 1904.

When Collins and Harman had designed the new reading room building in 1901, they had included on their architectural plans the option to extend the new building into the southwest corner of the property along the Hereford Street frontage. By 1922 the Board of Governors were ready to construct a new building in this location, and called upon Collins and Harman to design it (Press, 27/6/1922: 11, 26/9/1922: 4, 20/10/1922: 10, 28/11/1922: 5). The plans they produced in January 1923 allowed for the construction of a new juvenile library department and an extension of the reference library wing.

Architectural plan showing the proposed new children’s library and reference library extension in the southwest corner of the library complex in 1923. Image: Collins and Harman, 1923.

Tenders were called for the construction of the new children wing of the library in February 1923, and the tender of Mr H. Hinkey was accepted by the following October (Press, 24/2/1923: 18, 18/10/1923: 4). Hinkey made good progress with the construction of the building, and by March 1924 it was reported that the roof was being added to the new building and the floors constructed (Press, 20/3/1924: 4). The building was far enough advanced by October for the children’s books and the reference collection to begin their migration into the new premises (Press, 1/10/1924: 5, 29/10/1924: 12). The building was complete by November 1924, at which time a description of the premises was provided in the Press:

 

The new juvenile library, which is divided from the old portion of the building by means of a leadlight screen, is 42ft by 32ft. Directly above it is a lecture hall of the same size. At the rear of these rooms a reference library extends 31ft on either floor […] Like the old, the new portion has been erected of brick, with Oamaru stone facings, a bluestone base, and slate roof (Press, 25/11/1924: 8).

 

The new children’s wing and reference Library was officially opened on 3rd December 1924 (Star, 4/12/1924: 7). In contrast to their usual neo-Gothic architectural design, Collins and Harman had instead designed what would become known as an “interwar commercial classical building” with the only hint of Gothic being the use of the vestigial flattened Tudor arch. However, the use of the same brick and limestone palate as the 1901 building ensured a continuity with the older sections of the premises.

Photograph looking north, showing the Hereford Street frontage of the 1924 children’s wing of the Public Library. Image:Cafe Cecil, 2005.

Aerial imagery from 1973 shows the building complex present on the premises at this time, with the four phases of construction dating from 1876 to 1924. These buildings continued to function as Christchurch’s Public Library until the early 1980s, by which time the requirements of the library had exhausted the available space within the old buildings (Press, 2/1/1981: 10). When the decision was made to construct new buildings in Gloucester Street, there were many in Christchurch who were outraged at the thought of the old buildings being demolished and they began campaigning to have the landmark buildings preserved (Press, 18/7/1980: 10, 25/7/1980: 12). When the City Council opened new library facilities in Gloucester Street in 1982, the library facilities were removed from the Cambridge Terrace premises.

Aerial imagery from 1973, showing the Public Library premises on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street. The construction dates of the extant phases of the building complex are indicated in red. Image: LINZ, 1973.

Following the removal of the library facilities from the premises, the construction firm Paynter and Hamilton Ltd purchased Town Sections 405 and 406 in 1982 and made alterations to the former library buildings to allow for the use of the buildings as separate offices. The actions of Paynter and Hamilton were praised by public who were keen to have the buildings preserved and the “site’s interesting links with the literary and architectural tastes – and politics – of colonial Christchurch maintained” (Press, 2/1/1981: 10, 5/3/1981: 30, 1/8/1981: 16). The architectural and historical value of the buildings was also recognised by Heritage New Zealand and the Christchurch District Council who both recorded the buildings as sites of significance. Although no longer used as public library premises, the buildings continued to be a landmark for those in the city, not only for their distinctive architectural design but also for the nostalgic reminiscences which the buildings evoked – with one visitor to the buildings noting they were “haunted by the ghosts of thousands of overdue library books” (Press, 8/12/1982: 38).

The buildings continued to be utilised as offices until they were irrevocably damaged during the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes. After standing on the site for 135 years, the former Christchurch Public Library buildings were required to be removed and Christchurch lost one of its recognisable landmarks. Prior to their demolition the damaged buildings were recorded by Underground Overground Archaeology and hopefully the information gained about the old historic buildings during this process will be the topic of a future blog.

Photograph looking northwest towards the former Public Library buildings in March 2011, showing some of the damage sustained during the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes. Image: Kenney, 2011.

The former Public Library buildings on the corner of Hereford Street and Cambridge Terrace were a recognisable landmark within Christchurch for 148 years. The distinctive red and white patterns and the ornate decoration of the blended design styles made the buildings stand out from their surroundings. But these distinctive buildings did not just appear overnight, they were constructed over time to meet the literary needs of the colonial township. They made an important contribution to the identity and sense of place and history for those Cantabrians who frequented the premises, while the blended architectural designs show the changes in tastes and available funding for public institutions during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the demolition of the buildings after the 2010-2011 earthquakes resulted in the loss of one of the city’s landmarks, the currently empty site offers an opportunity to develop new and distinctive buildings which may become future landmarks for the city, and we look forward to seeing what comes next.

Lydia Mearns

References

Wilson, P. R., 1982. The architecture of Samuel Charles Farr, 1827-1918. [Thesis] University of Canterbury: Master of Arts in Art History.

 

George Gould’s Cookham House

I always think that historical archaeology is a discipline that readily invokes feelings of nostalgia and sentimentality. The familiarity of the material culture makes it particularly easy to romanticise artefacts, to imagine oneself in the past. Shoes, in particular, are an artefact that lend themselves to these types of thoughts and feelings. It may be because of the adage ‘to put yourself in someone else’s shoes’, but when holding a pair of shoes from the 1860s it is easy to wonder about who might have worn them. Were these shoes worn by a settler when they climbed the Bridle Path and stood at the top of the Port Hills looking out over their new home for the first time? Were they chosen for their sturdiness, given the boggy and haphazard roads of early Christchurch? Did the wearer sigh in winter as they pulled them on and went out into the cold and wet? Did they polish them every night to keep them looking their best? The personal nature of shoes- the individual taste in style, the practicality of design, the wear that they suffered over their lifetime- provide a tangible link to a time and place that we can only imagine what living in was actually like.

Shoes are a common find on our archaeological sites in Christchurch. They show up in most of our domestic assemblages indicating that once they had been outgrown, or worn past the point of repair, the wearer would throw them away. It is these shoes in particular that evoke the feelings described above. We often know who was living at the site, meaning that we can put a name to the wearer of the shoes, and flesh out some of the details of their life. We can metaphorically ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ when we analyse them.

A pair of shoes from a 19th century Armagh Street archaeological site, what do these shoes tell us about the person that wore them? Image: C. Watson.

The shoe assemblage that I’m writing about today is slightly different. These shoes were never sold, never had the opportunity to be worn by an early Christchurch settler. They never made it out of the shop, and instead were thrown out as discarded stock. But that does not mean that they don’t have their own story to tell. It just means that it’s a slightly different story, one about commerce and business. And at the centre of that story is George Gould, one of 19th century Christchurch’s wealthiest men.

George Gould, the owner of our shoe assemblage, but not the wearer. Image: Press, 25/10/1930: 19. 

George Gould was born in April 1823, at Hambleden Lock, Oxfordshire. He came to New Zealand in 1850, arriving first in the North Island but shortly after coming to Canterbury. His house and store that he built in Armagh Street was the first wooden building finished in Christchurch. From May of 1851, he advertised that he had opened a general store. This general store was to be the foundation of Gould’s wealth, yet it was not easy running a store in 1850s Christchurch. All goods arriving into Lyttelton had to be transported to Christchurch, and with the tunnel not yet built and a carriage costing 30s to 40s, Gould reportedly carried many of his loads of stock on his back over the hill. Gould went into partnership with Grosvenor Miles in 1855, moving to a new store in Colombo Street, where the shop sold a range of goods including shoes and clothing. In 1859, he split from his partnership with Miles. Miles was to continue the general store on the western side of Colombo Street, while Gould would move to a new store on the eastern side of Colombo Street and take the shoe and clothing portion of the business with him. Gould named his shop Cookham House, and it was so successful that by the end of 1862 he had already outgrown the building and moved to new store further along Colombo Street. Gould’s business was threatened when a fire broke out in 1866, damaging his shop and his stock. Gould reportedly responded to the fire by writing out an order for new stock as he watched his building burn to ensure that it would make the mail ship to England the next morning.

In addition to Gould’s shoe shop, he had a chemists shop and he was a large rural landowner. He was the first to export wheat from New Zealand to London and at one time was the largest exporter of wool from Canterbury (Cyclopedia Company, 1903). It was Gould’s agricultural interests that supplied most of his wealth, but his various business interests complimented each other. He had a prominent roles in the Christchurch Gas Company and the New Zealand Shipping Company, as well as other banking, insurance, and building societies. All of these business interests made Gould a wealthy man. He built his large mansion on the corner of Bealey Ave and Springfield Road in 1866, naming it Hambledon House after his birth place (sadly this building did not survive the earthquakes). He was a generous benefactor to the Canterbury Museum, Christs College, the Wesleyan Church, the YMCA, the Canterbury A & P Association, and numerous other Christchurch societies and working mens groups. Gould, in many ways, epitomised the ideal Victorian colonist. He started with very little capital, but with hard work and good judgement was successful, and then shared the fruits of that success with those who were less fortunate. The eulogies written in the newspapers following his death in 1889 focus on this generosity and it is hard to find a bad word written against him.

Gould’s 1851 house and shop, the first wooden building in Christchurch. Image: Christchurch City Libraries. 

10 May 1851 advertisement by George Gould advertising the opening of his general store. Image: Lyttelton Times, 10/05/1851: 1. 

So, what do Gould’s shoes say about him? We came across Gould during our excavations at the new Court Theatre site. Gould’s 1859-1862 shoe shop, Cookham House, was located on the corner of Gloucester Street and Colombo Street. North of where the store would have stood, we found a pit that contained a large assemblage of shoes. A total of 2089 fragments of shoe leather were found in this pit, with these representing at least 60 individual shoes (probably more). The shoes were in a condensed layer in the pit, indicating that they had most likely been thrown out in a single dumping event. The 1862 map of Christchurch shows that Gould’s original store had been extended after Gould moved to his new shop and the next occupant took over the building, with this extension capping the pit. From this, we know that the shoes have to have been deposited by September 1862 at the latest. This means that the shoe assemblage is able to give us a good insight into the types and styles of shoes that Gould was selling in the early 1860s.

The location of our pit feature, indicated by the red arrow. Image: Fooks, 1862. 

The original Cookham House located on the corner of Colombo Street and Gloucester Street. This photograph is from 1881 when then store was A. Gee’s Confectionery shop. Image: Wheeler and Son Studio, 1881.

The pit mid-excavation. The shoes were in a concentrated and dense layer near the base of the pit. Image: A. Kelly.

During our excavation of the pit we observed that several of the shoes had been thrown away intact, with the fill of this layer of the pit mainly consisting of shoes stacked ontop of each other. Image: A. Kelly.

A complete boot from the pit. Image: A. Kelly.

The shoes post-excavation and ready to be sorted and analysed. Image: C. Watson.

Looking at the styles of the shoes that were deposited in the pit, while there was some variation, most of the shoes seemed to be repeats of the same styles. Men’s derby work boots with a square toe were common. Most of these had reinforcing on the ball of sole in the form of hobnails, as well as heel plates on the heel. Women’s or youth’s boots, in contrast, seemed to by mostly oxford style boots with a more round toe. Some of these had heel plates as reinforcing, but no hobnails on the sole. The derby and oxford boots dominated the assemblage, but six bluchers, four slippers, and four Wellington boots were also identified. It is interesting to note the gender divisions in the assemblage, indicating that men and women were choosing to wear different styles of shoes. The reinforcing seen in the men’s shoes suggests that there was a practical reason behind the choice in different styles, with men requiring harder wearing boots a reflection of the gendered division of labour in the 19th century. But the more square toes of the men’s derby boots, and the oxford style of the women’s boots, indicates that there was also a stylistic element of men’s and women’s shoes looking different from one and other.

Some of the different styles of shoes found in the pit. Top: upper and sole from a men’s derby working boot. The sole has been reinforced with hobnails. Middle: a slipper and a wellington boot. These styles of shoes are not commonly seen in Christchurch archaeological assemblages. Bottom: blucher boot and women/youth’s oxford boot. Image: C. Watson.

Most of the boots were hand sewn using a welt. This is quite a different manufacture method to what is normally seen in the Christchurch archaeological assemblage. The majority of boots and shoes found in Christchurch were made using methods of vertical attachment. This was when the upper was attached to the sole using a nail or a wooden peg. The use of a different manufacture method to what is typically seen in Christchurch 19th century shoes, is thought to reflect that these shoes were imported.

Seven of the shoes from the feature had the initials “J B” incised on the insole. J. Burrows and Son was a shoe manufacturer based in Cookham, England, and in operation from at least 1852 (Slater, 1852: 20). The company was still in operation in 1883, but appears to have ceased operations by 1895 (Historical Cookham, 2023). Descriptions of the company indicate that they were manufacturing boots and shoes for the wholesale market and that they were a major employer in Cookham, with many in the village employed in their factory. Advertisements in the newspapers indicate that Gould was importing boots from Burrow and Sons and it is likely that Gould’s Cookham House was so named for Cookham in England, with Cookham boots being well known (Lyttelton Times, 6/10/1860: 2).

The various JB marks that were seen on the shoes from the feature. Maker’s marks aren’t common on shoes found in Christchurch archaeological features, so to get so many in one assemblage was really unusual. Image: C. Watson.

Gould’s advertisements indicate that he was importing shoes in large quantities. In July of 1859 he advertised that he currently had 3,500 pairs of shoes in stock and had another 3,500 arriving (Lyttelton Times, 27/07/1859:6). In October 1860 he advertised that he had 6,000 pairs of shoes recently arrived and available for purchase (Lyttelton Times, 3/10/1860: 5). In July of 1861 he advertised that he had 6,500 pairs of shoes recently arrived and another 7,500 pairs arriving (Lyttelton Times, 6/7/1861: 5). Given that the population of Christchurch was only about 3,000 people in 1862 (Christchurch City Council, 2023), it is unlikely that Gould was importing stock only to sell at his shop. Instead, given the quantities that Gould was importing, it seems most likely that Gould was probably selling to other shoe shops and general stores in Christchurch and wider Canterbury and New Zealand, acting as a middleman, so to speak, between the shoemakers in Cookham, England, and the shoe shops in New Zealand. While Gould likely had shoes available for purchase at the Cookham House store, it does not seem possible that the shop could have a stock turnover of at least 7,000 shoes a year selling just to off the street customers with Christchurch’s population at this time.

One of Gould’s advertisements stating his current stock levels. Image: Lyttelton Times, 6/7/1861: 5.

Searches of newspaper advertisements reveal that there were at least eight other shoe shops operating in Christchurch and Lyttelton during the 1859-1862 period. Six of these appear to be small business cobblers, working either alone or with a small staff, making shoes and boots from scratch and offering repairs (S. Webb, W. Holmes, John Bennington, T. Yates, W. Walker, Joseph Suckling). These small business cobblers do not appear to have advertised extensively, and it is likely that there were more operating than is listed here.  The two other businesses appear to have been larger and similar to Gould’s Cookham House. Henry Moss’s Monster Clothing Hall sold a large range of clothing and imported boots and shoes, while S. Goodman’s Boot and Shoe Warehouse also advertised that they sold imported shoes and boots. Goodman and Moss seem to have been Gould’s main competition at this time, although Moss’s business seems to have been more focused on the clothing side, with shoes and boots complimenting the clothing sales. Henry Moss opened on London Street, Lyttelton in 1858, with a Christchurch branch opening on High Street in 1862, while S. Goodman opened his Colombo Street business in 1860. This makes Gould’s business the earliest, with Gould advertising imported boots at his first store back in 1851, suggesting that the others may have observed Gould’s success and opened up in competition with him.

The main advantage of importing shoes, rather than manufacturing, appears to have been the price point at which they could sell shoes to the customer. This difference in business model, between manufacturing on site and importing pre-made shoes, is seen in the Christchurch shoe shop businesses beyond 1862. The difference is highlighted in two advertisements from an 1884 edition of the Star. John Goodman’s shoe shop, Cheap Boot and Shoe Depot, was a successor of S. Goodman’s Boot and Shoe Warehouse operating under the same business model of importing shoes from England. Goodman’s advertisement, pictured below, highlights cost as being the main reason why customers should buy from him- he advertised the prices of his shoes and claimed he had the cheapest shoes in Christchurch (and he literally called his business ‘Cheap Boot and Shoe Depot’).

Goodman’s advertisement, hilighting price being the main selling point for buying from him. Image: Star, 11/3/1884: 1. 

Alfred Crook’s advertisement, located just above Goodman’s in the newspaper, is a direct contrast:

I- Alfred Crook- do hereby confess that I do not possess the required knowledge to enable myself to promise to perform the extraordinary act of selling my Goods at Less than Cost Price, or even at Cost Price. I do NOT boast of making those Wonderful Sweeping Reductions in the Price of my Goods, to mislead and to mizzle my fellow working men; but I have sufficient impudence in myself to assert that I make my Goods of such high class quality that they by far EXCEL THOSE THAT ARE SOLD ELSEWHERE. Remember! I Manufacture ALL my Own Goods, and do Not make Trash; therefore, I challenge all others at the game, and to relieve myself of the trouble to resort to the customary Blowing System, I respectfully invite you to visit Cheapside Shop.

Alfred Crook’s very pointed advertisement, making it clear that he thought cheap imported boots were ‘trash’. Image: Star, 11/3/1884: 1. 

The very pointed wording of Alfred Crook’s advertisement shows the difficulties that local cobblers faced when trying to compete with businesses importing shoes from overseas. Ultimately, given the number of cobblers making shoes from scratch today, it is obvious which business model succeeded.

When considering the Gould’s shoe assemblage, an important question is why were the shoes thrown out in the first place? While shoes and boots should have travelled reasonably well, not being as fragile as ceramic and glass, there was still the potential for them to be damaged during the journey. In 1862 Mr S. C. Philips advertised that he was selling at auction 136 pairs of boots that had been damaged by sea water (New Zealander, 13/09/1862: 1). It was possible that the shoes disposed of represent stock that was damaged by salt water during the journey from England and weren’t in a saleable condition. There is also the possibility that the discarded shoes may represent surplus stock that remained unsold and was thrown out when new stock arrived. Gould’s main reason for moving to a new premise in 1862 was that his business had outgrown the store on the corner of Colombo and Gloucester, and that he needed more space. In a similar vein, there is the possibility that the shoes represent an order that was never claimed. If Gould was acting as the agent between Cookham in England and Christchurch retailers, then it is likely that the local businesses would have placed orders with Gould. If one of the businesses that placed the order went bankrupt, or could not pay for the order for some reason, then Gould may have chosen to throw it out rather than try to sell it, possibly for the storage space reasons already mentioned.

So, we return to the question of what do Gould’s shoes say about him? I think the main thing that they say is that while he may have owned a shoe shop, Gould was a businessman, not a cobbler. The relative completeness of the assemblage, the lack of any shoe-making off cuts, the presence of the “J B” Burrow and Sons mark, the presence of multiples of the same style of shoe, all speak to that the assemblage represents imported and unsold Cookham House stock. And that Gould could throw out so many shoes, speaks to the success of his business, that he could take the loss of whatever reason was behind the discard and not need to try and recover the cost.

We find hints of stories like Gould’s all the time in the archaeology of 19th century Christchurch. Most of the artefacts that we excavate are examples of the commercial relationships that existed between Christchurch and the rest of the world. But with Gould’s shoe assemblage, we can put ourselves in his shoes, so to speak, and imagine what it would be like running a business in Christchurch in 1851 when a year could pass between placing an order and the stock arriving. Would you pay for a carriage or carry deliveries on your back from Lyttelton? What would you do if your stock arrived mouldy and damaged, or burnt in a fire? And, if you were incredibly successful and grew to be very rich, would you be as generous with your money as George Gould was?

Clara Watson

References

Lyttelton Times, 1851-1914. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ (accessed April 2021).

Press, 1861-1945. [online] Available at: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/ (accessed April 2021).

Slater. 1852. Slater’s Directory of Berkshire, 1852. Slater, Berkshire.

Star, 1868-1920. [online] Available at: <https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/> Accessed April 2021.