Black deeds in Draper Street

Today, through the wonders of archaeology and Papers Past, we bring you the story of Charles Henry Cox, a man whose crime has been buried – literally – for over 100 years. But let’s not get too carried away. As crimes go, it wasn’t such a serious one. And probably largely victimless, as it doesn’t seem to have been terribly successful.

Before we found Cox’s little rubbish pit, we didn’t have a sense of who he was or what he was like. He wasn’t like some of the other men we’ve featured here, who were frequently written about in the paper and were probably quite well known about town. But he was someone who – like so many of us – wanted to get ahead, financially and/or socially. This was in the mid-1880s, so he may have lost his job in the depression that was affecting so much of the country at the time, and it may have been this that forced him to turn to crime. Or maybe he just thought he’d hit upon a cunning get-rich-quick scheme.

Cox wasn’t that badly off in the first place, though. He had sufficient money to buy himself and his family a block of land (where we found the incriminating evidence) in Richmond in 1885 and he took out a mortgage against it that same year, possibly to build a house on the land (LINZ 1885).

Now, here’s where it gets a bit confusing, so pay close attention.

The section Charles bought in 1885 was on a street known by a variety of names until the 1940s, when it became Harvey Terrace. It was known as Salisbury Street and Windsor Terrace and possibly – just possibly – as Draper Street (CCL 2013: 39; LINZ 1885). The possibility that it was known as Draper Street is important, because newspaper advertisements tell us that Cox lived on Draper Street (e.g. Star 29/1/1886: 2, Star 23/1/1896: 3). Even if Cox didn’t live on the section he bought in 1885, Draper Street was literally just around the corner and the archaeology tells us that he was definitely using the section on what is now Harvey Terrace. He owned this section until at least 1911 and newspapers place him and his wife – who was constantly advertising for servants (e.g. Star 29/1/1886: 2Star 23/1/1896: 3) – on Draper Street from 1885 until at least 1900.

Mrs Cox advertising for a servant, 1900 (Star 5/3/1900: 3).

Mrs Cox advertising for a servant, 1900 (Star 5/3/1900: 3).

So what did we find? Well, at first glance it was an odd but seemingly innocuous rubbish pit that contained a large number of shoe polish bottles. A minimum number of 110 artefacts were found in the pit, over half of which were shoe polish bottles. There were two types of these bottles: the standard stoneware blacking bottles and glass bottles embossed with “HAUTHAWAY’S PEERLESS GLOSS”. This was a shoe polish made by Charles Hauthaway in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, from 1852 (Hauthaway Corporation n.d.). It was advertised for sale in New Zealand from at least 1879 until at least 1894 and claimed to be “a necessity in every family” (New Zealand Herald 19/6/1879: 4, Ellesmere Guardian 22/8/1896: 1).

Two stoneware blacking bottles. Image: K. Bone.

Two stoneware blacking bottles. Image: K. Bone.

 Two Hauthaway's Peerless Gloss bottles. Image: K. Bone.

Two Hauthaway’s Peerless Gloss bottles. Image: K. Bone.

At first we thought that maybe there’d been a shoe shop on the site – but there were no shoes in the rubbish pit. So then we thought, maybe it was just a general store of some sort? But the other artefacts from the feature didn’t suggest that. Then we found an advertisement for “Cox’s Pioneer Gloss”, which was being sold wholesale by the manufacturer from Draper Street from October 1886 to January 1887 (Press 30/10/1886: 1, Star 10/1/1887: 1). We didn’t find any evidence that Cox was selling anything else from Draper Street, such as other brands of shoe polish.

 Advertisement for Cox's Pioneer Gloss (Press 30/10/1886: 1).

Advertisement for Cox’s Pioneer Gloss (Press 30/10/1886: 1).

 The advertisement that Cox placed in the Star (Star 10/12/1886: 4).

The advertisement that Cox placed in the Star (Star 10/12/1886: 4).

The stash of blacking and shoe polish bottles found at the site suggests that Cox’s Pioneer Gloss was not a product that Cox had developed, but that Cox was on-selling Hauthaway’s product in a different container (such as the stoneware blacking bottles, which were not associated with any particular brand). It is also possible that Cox was blending the no-brand blacking and Hauthaway’s shoe polish to make something slightly different. Maybe Cox’s product contained other ingredients as well, but no evidence was found to suggest this. Searches to find the recipe for Cox’s patent were unsuccessful – it is quite likely that Cox never patented his product, but that this was simply an advertising ploy.

Cox’s illicit venture was not a long-lived one, which suggests that he lost money on the scheme, and certainly didn’t make the profits he’d no doubt hoped for. There’s no evidence in the historical record to suggest that he was found out. No doubt the bottles – and other artefacts – were buried early in 1887, in the hope that no would ever know. He didn’t count on archaeology though.

Katharine Watson


Christchurch City Libraries, 2013. Christchurch street names: H. [online] Available at: <>.

Ellesmere Guardian. [online]. Available at: [Accessed April 2013].

Hauthaway Corporation, n.d. History. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 21/8/2013].

LINZ, 1885. CB79/259, Canterbury. Landonline.

New Zealand Herald. [online]. Available at:

Otago Witness. [online]. Available at:

Press. [online]. Available at:

Star. [online]. Available at:

Cleanliness and Quality Combined

It came as a bit of a surprise when over 1000 fragments of broken stoneware jars were unearthed at an otherwise ordinary Christchurch archaeological site.

Sample of the artefacts found at the site. Image: Julia Hughes

Sample of the artefacts found at the site. Image: J. Hughes.

But there, sitting under some old petrol tanks, was Christchurch history waiting to be found.What made this very large assemblage more interesting was the clear warning emblazoned along the base of some of the examples: “PERSONS DETAINING, MISAPPROPRIATING OR TRADING WITH THIS JAR ARE LIABLE TO BE PROSECUTED”.

Warning label printed along the base of a jar. Image: Laura Davies

Warning label printed along the base of a jar. Image: L. Davies.

Initial research for this address, located along Worcester Street, had not returned much information. An 1877  map showed the section was empty but there were buildings on the surrounding land. We know that in the early 20th century the lot was owned by Henry Thomas Joynt Thacker, a “colourful”

mayor of Christchurch (LINZ 1911; Rice 2012). A resident for the street number used today, however, could not be found, with only the adjacent street numbers mentioned. Enter archaeology. After the ceramics had been thoroughly cleaned, the name ‘Sharpe Bros’ appeared, printed or impressed in different fonts and of varying quality. This narrowed research down from any time in Christchurch’s historical record to the time between 1908 and 1914, when the Sharpe brothers, cordial manufacturers, had a factory one number down from the site in question.

The Sharpe brothers hailed from England, with the eldest brother John Sharpe moving to warmer climes to improve his health in 1900. After joining his brother Percy, who had immigrated to New Zealand earlier, the two opened the first Sharpe Brothers cordial factory in Dunedin in 1903. Apparently not ones to waste time, by the end of 1905 Sharpe Brothers manufacturers could be found in Christchurch, Wellington, Auckland and Sydney (Sharpe 1992). The two brothers were prohibitionists and prided themselves on their non-intoxicating drink. The Sharpe Brothers operated in New Zealand until the final branch in New Plymouth closed its doors in 1981 (Wellington Antique Bottle & Collectables Club 2003).

Sharpe brothers newspaper notice about returning jars. (Thames Star 7/3/1911)

Sharpe Brothers newspaper notice about returning jars (Thames Star 7/3/1911).

The rather intimidating warning found on some of the fragments made sense now, too. The Sharpe Brothers, like most manufacturers of one-gallon stoneware jars, saw the large vessels as loans and these were not purchased when you bought the drink that the jar contained. A look at old newspapers from around New Zealand showed that the Sharpe Brothers just as frequently advertised their goods as they printed warnings that asked for their one-gallon bottles to be returned. The jars were a key component of the early Sharpe Brothers company. These jars were not only what they sold their product in (until the 1930s) but the names impressed on the front showed ownership and were a form of advertising (Sharpe 1992). But were jars returned? And if they were, were they re-used? How long were the jars used for? And what did they do with all the old jars?

Sharpe Brothers stoneware jar body fragments. Image: Laura Davies

Sharpe Brothers stoneware jar body fragments. Image: L. Davies.

Well, there are at least five different types of Sharpe Brothers one-gallon jars recovered from the site. Some were made by Doulton and Co. from London and another was made by P. Hutson and Co. from Wellington. Some had handles pre-dating John Sharpe’s patented wire handle in 1904 (Sharpe 1992), and some were decorated with taps and displayed the medals Sharpe Brothers were awarded at the 1906-1907 New Zealand International Exhibition.

Sharpe Brothers tap jar with images of medals won at the International New Zealand Exhibition in Christchurch. Image: Laura Davies

Sharpe Brothers tap jar with images of medals won at the International New Zealand Exhibition in Christchurch. Image: L. Davies.

Even though the company had been operating in Christchurch since 1905 the section wasn’t used by the brothers until 1908, therefore the presence of the handled jar forms from before the 1904 wire handle patent indicate that jars could be in rotation for a number of years. This is further evidenced by the presence of the jars made by Doulton & Co., which could have been the jars ordered from England in 1905 (Press 20/4/1905). The two manufacturers and different styles present means that rather than discarding an old design when a new one was introduced, Sharpe Brothers probably used the old jars until they broke. The mass grave of these old ceramic vessels suggests that when the jars broke, they were tossed into a hole out the back of the property. Though the density of the deposit could indicate that the old jars were used as foundations. In the Sydney branch the old unwanted Sharpe Brothers jars were broken and used in foundations when the focus shifted to crown seal bottles (Sharpe 1992). It could also be that in Christchurch the old bottles were kept to the side to be repurposed later and in 1914, when the factory moved to Armagh Street, they decided to dispose of all old stock instead of moving it to the new premises.

Notice posted by Sharpe Brothers about the order of Jars from England. Press (20/4/1905)

Notice posted by Sharpe Brothers about the order of jars from England (Press 20/4/1905).

Doulton & Co. manufacturing mark. Image: Laura Davies

Doulton & Co. manufacturing mark. Image: L. Davies.

Amongst all the Sharpe Brothers jars was a single example of a Ballin Brothers ginger beer bottle. Was it accidentally returned to the wrong place? Or was it a rebellious act of drinking the competition at work?

We never know what artefacts, if any, lie beneath the ground. But that’s the point. Archaeology can not only point us in the right direction to research a site’s history but can add depth, insights and evidence about the day-to-day workings of an influential New Zealand business. It may not always seem like it but it’s important to remember that fragments of broken, dirty, petrol-covered jars from a company whose motto read “Cleanliness and Quality combined” are as much a part of Christchurch’s history as carefully preserved papers.

Laura Davies


Cyclopedia Company Limited, 1905. Otago and Southland Provincial Districts: Cordial Manufacturers. [online] Available at:

LINZ, 1911. CB211/72, Canterbury. Landonline.

Press. [online] Available at

Rice, G. W., 2012. Thacker, Henry Thomas Joynt – Thacker, Henry Thomas Joynt. [online] Available at:

Sharpe, D., 1992. Remember That Heavenly Ginger Beer? A History of Sharpe Bros. Impact Printing: Melbourne.

Thames Star. [online] Available at

Wise’s New Zealand Post Office Directories. [microfiche] Held at Christchurch City Libraries.

Wellington Antique Bottle & Collectables Club., 2003. Sharpe Bros. [online] Available at