DIGGING INTO THE PAST
- 27 April 2023
- Cherie Jacobson
For New Zealand Archeology Week 2023 we look back at the archaeological work undertaken by Kevin Jones and volunteers at Katherine Mansfield House & Garden. Photos at the end of the post.
Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp was born at number 11 Tinakori Road on 14 October 1888. One hundred years later, the house opened to the public as a museum celebrating the life and creative legacy of the little girl who lived in the house and went on to become known as Katherine Mansfield, a writer who redefined the short story in the English language.
Katherine Mansfield and her family moved out in 1893. By 1910 the house had been renumbered to 25 Tinakori Road and a series of alterations took place between 1907 and the 1940s. The 1907 alterations included adding bay windows to the front downstairs rooms, building a new lean-to at the back of the house, and an upstairs bathroom. The 1940s alterations created two flats - one upstairs, one downstairs.
Following the purchase of the house by the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society in 1987, a lot of research was undertaken to return the house to its original layout and decorate and furnish it in the late Victorian style, so that visitors could see what the house might have looked like when Mansfield and her family lived in it. Part of this research included five archaeological excavations between 1987 and 1998, led by archaeologist Kevin Jones and documented in articles in the Australian Journal of Historical Archaeology (1991) and the New Zealand Journal of Archaeology (1992). This short blog post has been written as context for the photos below and with a general audience in mind. For those interested in more detailed information about the archaeological findings, do check out Kevin’s articles!
The excavations took place in the backyard, the front driveway, under the house and during the placing of reinforced concrete corner foundations. The aims of the excavations were to “investigate structural details of the house surrounds and its interior at or below ground…and to recover artefacts or house fittings related to the various periods of occupation and refitting of the house.” (AJHA, 1991).
One of the photos below shows an excavation at the north-east corner of the property, following the removal of a garage believed to have been built in the 1940s.
The layers of material identified on the property included leftover fill from the creation of Tinakori Road and rubbish (both household and construction) used to level the section prior to the house’s construction, and cinders used to level the driveway.
Some of the artefacts found during the excavations include:
- Lea & Perrins glass bottles
- Tin cans identified to be of the period 1880-1900
- Maroon-banded chinaware
- A small porcelain mouse
- Slate pencils
- A mug with a print of a blossom and bird in the 'Japonism' style that was popular in the late 1800s
- A Hampden plate
- Child's tea set pieces
- The original chimney-head mouldings
Some of the items found are believed to be from the period during which Katherine Mansfield and her family lived in the house, including some of the children’s toys found in the driveway and some of the ceramics. Many of the items found can’t conclusively be dated to the five years that the family lived on the property, but give useful information about the types of objects people in the area were using (and throwing away) around the time the house was built and the family lived in it.
Kevin Jones kindly digitised these images from slides for us last year.