Auckland University of Technology’s (AUT) newest building on its City Campus sits on the foundations of inner-Auckland’s rich history, and work carried out by WSP New Zealand sheds new light on what this looked like.
During construction of AUT’s dazzling new building to house the School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences, WSP was engaged to undertake archaeological assessment and monitoring to support resource consent.
Under the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014 an Archaeological Authority had to be obtained from Heritage NZ before any work could begin. Justine Bray, WSP Technical Principal for Planning says there was a strong likelihood the site would have pre-1900 artefacts. Research undertaken as part of the assessment indicated that there was a mix of industrial, residential and educational activities in the project area in the 19th to 20th centuries.
These included a sawmill, a nursery, a rope factory, a brewery and a school, each located on different parts of the site and at different times during the 19th century. Some 19th-century residents walked on the darker side.
“An example of the people who occupied Abercrombie Street was shown in an 1875 edition of the Auckland Star which stated that two girls were ‘charged with keeping a house of ill fame in Abercrombie Street, the resort of bad characters’,” says Justine.
By the end of the 19th century, the majority of the properties within the project area maintained their original use as residential and commercial wooden buildings. Some of the commercial premises included a paperhanger, a general dealer, a contractor, a mangle woman and two bootmakers.
What was revealed
Excavation work led to the discovery of a significant number of artefacts, in fact, approximately 600 artefact samples required processing and subsequent analysis.
While the archaeological features uncovered were constant with those expected - the remnants of 19th and early 20th-century property occupancy - the project archaeologist Brooke Jamieson was impressed with how many of the original features still remained, despite how extensively earth worked the development property had been in the past.
These included the remains of a historic brick cellar which contained ceramic, glass, timber fragments (from base above cellar floor), brick fragments, shell (pipi, cockle and rock oyster), and fragments of cloth fabric.
The artefacts and deposits found in the cellar suggest that it had been emptied of material and what was recovered was just rubbish and small items of discard that nobody thought important to clean out.
Three excavated rubbish pits provided the most varied and intact ceramic and glass assemblages, with numerous items being refitted to form parts of larger vessels.
While all of the rubbish pits contained typically domestic or household rubbish, one, in particular, had a wider range of material consisting of teacups, bowls, platters and a water pitcher. There were also approximately 20 broken black beer bottles and 11 case gin bottles, as well as some decorative glass items. This suggests one of the buildings was a hotel. Some artefacts were unexpected, such as the leather dog collar with an Auckland City Council metal identification tag, a handmade paintbrush and a rubber children’s doll.