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Old Owen Springs, Heritage Branch, NT Government Excavations at Old Owen Springs, July 2013. Read more here.

WELCOME TO ASHA

AUSTRALASIAN SOCIETY FOR HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY

The Australian Society for Historical Archaeology (ASHA) was founded in 1970 to promote the study of historical archaeology in Australia. In 1991 the Society was expanded to include New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region generally, and its name was changed to the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology.

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Authors: Matthew Kelly and Alexandra Thorn (Curio Projects, Sydney)

When is a Brick not Building Material?

In 2013 AHMS Pty Ltd (now Extent Heritage) completed an archaeological excavation at 478 George Street in Sydney’s CBD known as the ‘Mick Simmons’ site-after the famous sporting goods store which traded there until 2 012.

The excavation yielded evidence of European occupation, from perhaps as early as 1813, through to the site’s last identity as the iconic sports goods store. During the usual post excavation artefact analysis several items, originally identified as building materials due to their size and form, were found to be anything but.

They are in fact ‘Bath Bricks’. They appear to be ordinary bricks, of similar dimensions and are usually impressed with maker's names. However, they are not building materials at all but are domestic cleaning items used for scouring floors, and other surfaces, cutlery and other household items (photo 1). The dust from a bath brick, for example, could be also used to create a substance known as ‘breeches ball’, for cleaning breeches and for shining boots. The altered bricks were also utilised as moulds for casting gears for machinery.

The bath bricks were manufactured at the small Somerset town of Bridgwater, already noted as a brick and tile manufacturing town. The first patent for the scouring bricks was issued in 1823 to John Browne and William Champion. The bricks consisted of a locally available mud, from the Parrett River, comprised primarily of alumina and silica particles, pressed into brick form, fired in a kiln to approximately 500-600°, wrapped in a paper cover and sold worldwide as a cleaning a scouring agent. Bath bricks were used worldwide, and another patent was issued in the US in 1865 to meet the desire to manufacture these ‘bricks’ directly for the US market. That patent notes that the US source material was discovered:

at Wood bridge, New Jersey, in large quantities, a pulverulent mineral of which a scouring-brick in all respects equal, and in some respects Superior, to the imported Bath brick can be made at a greatly reduced cost.

Several large fragments of bath bricks were found on the Mick Simmons site in a construction trench probably dated to around 1870 (photos 2 and 3). The examples at Mick Simmons were from Edward Sealy’s works manufacturing 1811-1839 and Browne and Co, 1840-1899, which later traded as the Somerset Trading Company. The site at George Street had traded as general merchants and grocery store between 1833 and 1870 under a number of owners – the earliest of whom was Frederick Gibson.

Photo 1: 19th Century advice for using bath bricks.

 

                                      
Photo 2 Fragment of Bath Brick - “[B]rowne & C[o].” C.f. photo 4P Photo 3: Fragment of Bath Brick from Edward Sealy’s works impressed “Imp[erial] Ba[th]”.C.f. photo 5.


Photo 4: Bath Brick from Browne and Co.

 

Photo 5: Bath Brick from Edward Sealy’s works.

References

AHMS, 2016, 478 George Street Archaeological Excavation Report, for Amalgamated Holdings Ltd

Anon., 1855, The Footman, London, Houlston and Stoneman, pp. 27, 28, 37 and 48.

Adams, S and Adams, S, 1825, The Complete Servant, London, Knight and Lacey, pp. 366 and 392.

Murless, B, 1976, "The Bath Brick Industry at Bridgwater: A Preliminary Survey", Journal of the Somerset Industrial Archaeology Society, v 1, p. 21

“Improved Scouring Brick”, US Patent No. 50,862, November 7, 1865.

Compiled by Richard Tuffin

Port Arthur Convict Workshops Investigation

Since March 2020 the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA), in collaboration with Richard Tuffin, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of New England, have been undertaking an excavation of the Port Arthur workshops complex. Situated on the original waterfront since 1830, these workshops housed the trades-focussed activities undertaken at the penal station. Over 47 years of occupation, an evolving suite of buildings housed shoemakers, blacksmiths, tailors, turners and wheelwrights, the prisoners applying skills they brought with them or learnt whilst under sentence.

Despite the usual Covid-related hiccups - including the downsizing of our hand-picked crew of professional archaeologists - we are still investigating. Sylvana Szydzik, PAHSMA, and Richard continue to plug away at the site. The targets and scope of the work have had to be refined, though the research aims of finding out more about the processes and products of coerced labour remain the same.

The images are from the first day of the excavation

If you are interested in learning about the excavation and want to follow our progress, visit the site blog at: https://blog.une.edu.au/port-arthur-2020/

Compiled by Blog Editor

50 years ago, on the 26th November 1970, the first Australian Society for Historical Archaeology (ASHA) meeting was held at the University of Sydney. That evening, ASHA was founded to promote the study of historical archaeology in Australia. In 1991, the Society was expanded to include New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region, and its name was changed to the Australasian Society for Historical Archaeology. To celebrate 50 years of ASHA, we will be holding a special event and hope you can join us.

The event will take place on Thursday 26 November 2020 and run for 2 hours:

•6:30pm AEDT (3:30pm AWST, 5:30pm AEST, 6:00pm ACDT, 8:30pm NZDT)

•8:30pm AEDT (5:30pm AWST, 7:30pm AEST, 8:00pm ACDT, 10:30pm NZDT)

Schedule for the evening

6:30pm - Opening - ASHA President Anita Yousif

6:35pm - Welcome to Country

6:40pm - The Establishment of ASHA - Andrew Wilson

6:50-7:30pm ASHA 1970 - 2020 Past Presidents

7:30pm - 50 Sites 50 Stories announcement - Anita Yousif

7:35pm - ASHA Awards winners revealed Dr Matthew Kelly

7:45pm - A Reminiscence - Judy Birmingham

8:00pm - Raise a glass to the founding of ASHA.

Raise a glass to ASHA's 50th Anniversary- Denis Gojak

8:05-8:30 - Display of photos celebrating ASHA and historical archaeology in Australasia.

The celebration will take place at the University of Sydney with a limited number of tickets to attend and an unlimited zoom attendence.

To register see link below

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/asha-50th-anniversary-tickets-128587104491

On the evening Andrew Wilson, from the University of Sydney, will be talking about the establishment of ASHA. To help start the celebrations, Andrew has provided us with some great images from the Archives

ASHA 50 Years-From the Archives

The establishment of the society and especially the early newsletters brought responses from all over Australia from people interested in historical sites and artefacts. Many had associations with existing organisations such as the National Trust or local historical societies while others saw the society as validating their personal interests or experiences and wished to contribute where they could.