Tag Archives: Historical Archaeology

The Lighthouse That Was Hardly There…

On the morning of Sunday the 3rd of February, 11 Flinders archaeology students got onto a mini bus, bright eyed and bushy tailed. After 8 hours on said mini bus, with slightly dimmer eyes and flatter tails, we arrived at Port MacDonnell, where we would be staying for the next week for the historical archaeology field school.

Cataloging artefacts by a remaining wall of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse

Cataloging artefacts by a remaining wall of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse

The following day, bushy tailed once more, we headed to the site of the old Port MacDonnell lighthouse. From the bus I could see a picture perfect lighthouse in the distance, the inviting white and red striped building was practically begging for us to explore it. Confusion hit as we drove straight past the red and white wonder.  Continuing down the road we pulled into what appeared to be an empty seaside lookout point. Following a path, I was directed to a sign that told me I was standing at the site of the old lighthouse—there was even a plaque that showed the lighthouse floor plan, but all I saw was shrubbery.

Upon getting off the boardwalk and into the shrubbery, the stone walls left over from the lighthouse came into sight, as well as the masses of glass artefacts that were surrounding them. It became clear very quickly why the lighthouse was rebuilt further inland, as the remaining wall of the lighthouse was hanging off the edge of the cliff.

The lighthouse wall hangs off the edge of the cliff - safety first!

The lighthouse wall hangs off the edge of the cliff – safety first!

After spending three hot days collecting data (with a beautiful view might I add) I definitely learnt at least one thing…

Make sure you put sunscreen on the back of your hands.

From cellar to cold store

At the beginning of my directed study, I centred my focus on the historical building that is Boord house – a sturdy, sandstone structure consisting of a thatched roof, 2 rooms, and a cellar below. Aside from the surrounding, evidently non-native fruit trees, it hadn’t occurred to me until later to extend my focus on the two storage sheds that are attached to the house.

At first glance, it would seem like a couple of huge storage sheds, and a piddly little hut attached to them, but these buildings were part of a different complex a few decades ago – one involving fruit and fruit processing. Now this may seem like a mundane fact, but horticulture was actually a very big business in Tea Tree Gully, and provided a means of stability for the settlement. With fertile ground, and proximity to the River Torrens, it was the perfect place for garden, orchards, nurseries, and vineyards.

Alexander Boord was known for his beautiful garden and orchards, but he was also a vigneron who apparently had unconventional methods of maintaining his plants and making wine. Apparently, he would smash grapes against a wooden grating, and he did not use a wine press of a grape mill for fermentation. Regardless, he made a variety of red and white wines (though I couldn’t find anything regarding the quality!). Rusted farming implements have been recovered, and have been placed on the southern end of the complex for display – these supposedly belonged to Boord. Following his death, his property maintained a long history of owners who were gardeners, and orchardists, according to state land title records.

Technological progress accompanied the passing years. These sheds are an example of cold storage which used ammonia to help preservation which was pumped through a system of pipes. In fact, these pipes and their accompanying pump are still intact, but are not in use. The system itself would be a fascinating subject for research.

It appears that the cellar of Boord’s house was used for packing. Fruit would be rolled down the shaft leading to cellar, and into great boxes that would be shipped all over Australia. Indeed, past visitors have claimed that stencil plates were present in the house, but are now kept in the Highercombe Museum. These plates were used to label crates, some of which would be shipped interstate!

Today, the complex is used as a horticultural depot for the City of Tea Tree Gully; however, the development of the horticulture industry is illustrated by the combination of Boord House, and the two cold store sheds. I wouldn’t have otherwise managed to reach this if I hadn’t broadened by scope from the little thatched house. It truly shows the significant progress made from smashing grapes against a grate to make wine, to packing fruits for interstate.

-Antoinette Hennessy, blogpost 3

Charles Tilley: The man behind the hotel

by Amy Wilson

The Seven Stars Hotel site is located in the small township of Redbanks, in a red lentil field north of the Mallala-Gawler Road intersection. At first glance you would never know a hotel existed on the site. There are few surviving records of the hotel that provided food, accommodation and entertainment for the traveling shearers and miners coming to and from Burra. The land was owned by Edward Armand Wright, who leased it to Charles Tilley for 10½ years at £1000 a year.  Tilley built the hotel from local limestone and timber in 1865 and purchased the entire property in 1872 once his lease was finished (Mallala Museum 2012).

Although not much is known about the hotel, Charles Tilley is mentioned in a couple of interesting newspaper articles – both involving deaths.  A letter to the South Australian Register (28 October 1879) written by Edward Boothby from Two Wells, defends Tilley against accusations by the press and local community that William Hillier died from excessive drinking in his [Tilley’s] public-house. Boothby explains that Tilley not only provided good accommodation at moderate prices but also supplied water to the public and took it upon himself to sink another well at the cost of £50.

On the topic of Mr. Tilley’s wells, The Bunyip writes an article in the Mount Gambier Border Watch (11 December 1872) newspaper commenting on the ‘distressing disaster resulting from uncovered tanks and wells, of which we have of late had to record so many’, referring to the death of Charles Tilley’s 10 year old son. On a stormy and intensely dark night, Tilley sent his son inside for a lighted lantern but he never returned. After inquiring with a hotel guest, the boy had not been seen and a search of the hotel revealed his son’s body floating dead in an open tank. The Bunyip asks “Why cannot the settlers of South Australia take common precautions as they do in England to guard against the loss of life by such means?”

These small passages give us a glimpse of the man behind the hotel and the thoughts of the people who frequented the public-house or knew about its reputation. The Seven Stars Hotel was not only important for traveling workers and those seeking employment in the hotel, but it was also a meeting place for committees, of which Tilley was often a member.  I like to think of Charles Tilley as not only a businessman and a hard worker, but as a man who truly cared about his customers.

References:

1872 ‘A REMARKABLE DREAM.’, Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), 11 December, p. 4, viewed 5 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77128452

1869 ‘BRIDGE MEETING AT REDBANKS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 30 July, p. 3, viewed 5 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41404964

1886 ‘Family Notices.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 15 January, p. 4, viewed 5 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article50183580

1879 ‘MR. TILLEY’S HOTEL AT REDBANKS.’, South Australian Register (Adelaide, SA : 1839 – 1900), 28 October, p. 6, viewed 3 October, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article43089285

19th century stoneware bottleneck, site of The Seven Stars Hotel. (Photo by Amy Wilson)

2012 Now and Then: Mallala, Seven Stars Hotel. Mallala Museum: South Australia. Viewed on 4 October 2012 <http://mallala.nowandthen.net.au/index.php?title=Seven_Stars_Hotel&gt;

Tugging at the Heartstrings: ST Yelta, Port Adelaide

By Cassandra Morris

Yelta was built in 1949 by Cockatoo Docks and Engineering Co., Sydney for Ritch and Smith, Port Adelaide. Yelta spent its active life guiding vessels in and out of Port Adelaide, making local headlines on more than one occasion. Originally coal fired, the tug was converted to oil in 1957. After a busy life on the Port River, the tug was retired in 1976, purchased by the Port Adelaide branch of the National Trust of South Australia. Left moored outside the CSR Refinery at the ‘Sugar Wharf’, the vessel was left unattended with little maintenance performed for nearly a decade. Put up for sale again, the South Australian Maritime Museum made a bid for the historic vessel and, in 1985, added the tug to their collection as a floating museum. Volunteers were asked for to help restore Yelta to its former glory. After extensive restoration and refitting, including preparing the vessel to modern safety standards for staff and passengers, Yelta was relaunched. Currently Yelta sails the Port River several times a year, allowing passengers to experience a piece of Port Adelaide’s history, the Port River itself, and life onboard the vessel.

Yelta, thought to be in Cockatoo Docks while being constructed. (Pre 1964)

After 27 years in the SA Maritime Museum’s collection, Yelta still holds many secrets. In an attempt to broaden current knowledge of the vessel, research was recently undertaken to investigate questions often asked and facts confused by newspaper articles and photographs. Aspects of concern were the colour scheme, historical presentation of the vessel, and general life of the tug and its crew. To uncover the truth of these concerns, slipping reports, requisition reports, monthly maintenance reports, museum documentation and log books were consulted, in addition to newspaper articles and photographs. Two interviews held with former crew members were also undertaken, providing a personalised view of the tug and its working life.

Yelta steaming, before deck changes (Pre 1964)

Through this research, a timeline was successfully compiled. From 1948 to 1953 Yelta featured in newspapers across Australia, linked with the movement of many vessels in and around Port Adelaide. Slipping and requisition reports follow, from 1956, providing details on maintenance and changes made to the vessel. These reports also allowed for the correct colour scheme to be implemented with confidence; red below the waterline, black hull above the waterline, green or red decks, and white deck structures. Two major changes to deck construction occurred in the mid-to-late 1960s. Yelta’s wheelhouse was overhauled in 1964, downsizing the cabin and adding starboard and portside entrances. Furthermore, in 1967, the Crew’s Accommodation entrance was changed from a hatch to a deckhouse. These two major changes assisted in the approximate dating of photographs held by the museum. Information about Yelta’s movements are commonly known from 1976 onward. Retiring from service in 1976, the vessel was purchased by the National Trust of South Australia and later the South Australian Maritime Museum in 1985.

Yelta after deck changes. Note changes to the wheelhouse and the addition of a deck house aft. (Post 1967)

This is the results of my internship with the South Australian Maritime Museum. When first entering the position, I was assigned to work on the HMAS Protector research focusing on creating a Flickr group and contacting the public to gather further information. However, this was where my first lesson was learnt: you do what your boss thinks is important. So I was moved to work on confirming information on Yelta; discovering whether the colours it was currently painted were the correct ones, what the general history of the vessel was and conducting interviews with members of its previous crew. While I was not immediately excited about the task at hand, I launched myself head first into all the records kept by SAMM—and Yelta grew on me. Discovering that all the images of Yelta were undated (I later discovered a handful that had dates associated with them) led me to look for something that had changed at some point and that could be seen in the images. This led to many hours of reading and making notes on the tug’s slipping reports. From these reports I was also able to trace the changes in paint colour across the entire vessel for almost its entire working life. However, answering all the questions left me with one last task: interviewing some of the previous crew.

Yelta outside the CSR Refinery. The tug can be seen here painted many colours, occurring after its retirement. (Post 1977)

Conducting interviews was not something I had any experience in beforehand, and with only a vague idea of what I wanted to achieve I set off with a camera in hand. Two previous crew members were available to be interviewed at the time. Both of these I conducted slightly differently. With a short list of prepared questions, I took both interviewees, on different days,  for a tour of Yelta to refresh their memories. The first interviewee I filmed on the vessel, allowing for their memories to be caught with the corresponding background. While this produced a wonderful choice of memories for use in a 5 min clip (the desired end result) the film was fraught with bad lighting and minor sound problems. Conversely, for the second interview, after the tour of Yelta I filmed the clips within the SAMM offices. While this fixed the sound and light issues, there was less material to record without the visual stimuli. Between the two interviewees there was also a difference in personality and their comfort levels while being filmed. This would have been the biggest learning experience I undertook while with the museum, and has made me a fraction more comfortable with directing and filming questions, asking someone “can you repeat that?” endlessly, and realising that not everything planned is going to work.

Yelta as it can be seen today.

My time with SAMM showed me a different side to museums. While I began with an interest in collections management and producing exhibitions, I was given the opportunity to work on the research aspect of these interests. My research may in future lead to a small exhibition on board Yelta, focusing on it history within Port Adelaide and has already led to the development of a poster for the upcoming ASHA/AIMA Conference in September/October of this year. In future I hope I can work further with SAMM and with other museums and collections in Australia.

Photos are courtesy of the SA Maritime Museum.

The Plates that Conquered the World.

You’ve all seen it.

Chances are you’ve got a grandmother/neighbour/maiden aunt who proudly presents this ubiquitous blue and white tableware whenever the occasion allows for it. And indeed, as of 1990, willow pattern represents the longest continually produced china pattern in history, so its frequency is somewhat understandable.

In the 18th century Chinese porcelain was imported into England by companies such as the East India Company and quickly became hugely popular with wealthy clients. When its trade ceased, most local manufacturers quickly developed their own version of the blue and white patterns in an effort to meet continuing demand. The improvements to transfer printing made by Josiah Spode allowed for much cheaper, more available wares, and in 1790 the first willow pattern was produced on pearlware at the Spode factory. Thus, a superstar was born.

But what superstar is complete without a salubrious past?

This one comes complete with a tale of star-crossed lovers – the Mandarin’s daughter and the secretary, and the immortality of their love beyond death. Or, if that’s a little too Romeo and Juliet for you: the destruction of a Shaolin Monastery by imperial Manchu soldiers, and the souls’ passage to the isle of the Blessed.

There are poems, films, and even a comic opera of this ‘great legend’, but despite this rich history, its origins remain stalwartly British, with only the barest relation to the Chinese mythologies and fine hand-painted porcelain that inspired it.

Over the years Blue Willow pattern has conquered not only local markets, but has filtered out into the rest of the world, becoming an iconic symbol of British ceramics. And the source of many of these newly produced pieces? Why, China of course. It appears that the willow pattern story has finally come full circle.