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ASHA NEWS

ARTEFACT OF THE MONTH: French Fire Bricks



Felicity Buckingham and Zvonka Stanin

The bricks in the images above and below were recovered from the southern end of Lot 67 in the 2016 excavation of the old CUB complex, near the corner of Swanston and Queensberry streets, Melbourne. This excavation was undertaken by Alpha Archaeology for Scape. Chosen for their rarity (an unusual find in Australia, and perhaps outside of France), these bricks were part of feature 066, a chalky white hand-made brick construction that was initially interpreted as a fireplace within a cellar.


At least three of the feature’s surfaces were comprised of bricks made in Langeais, a town in central France - bearing the makers marks of “Desouches Hubert a Langeais” and “Alexis Lemesle a Langeais”. Initial online research suggests Hubert Desouches ran his business in the 1850s and was declared bankrupt in 1859 (http://en.patrimoine-de-france.com/indre-et-loire/langeais/briqueterie-9.php, accessed 1/08/2016). Alexis Lemesle also appeared to have brick works around the same time - 1853 to perhaps 1875 (http://www.actuacity.com/four-a-carreaux_m81946/, accessed 1/08/2015).


Excavation showed that the fireplace/feature 066 was most likely added after the construction of the original cellar - an awkward, retrofitted addition to the cellar flume, sitting on top of original foundations and built into the cellar wall. Unless reused/curated (e.g. as ballast), these dates suggest a possible 1850s construction date for the cellar (see below).


This area of Melbourne was first settled in the 1850s, with these earlier buildings demolished and replaced with brick terraces sometime before the mid 1880s. Although artifact analysis is ongoing, it is possible that feature 066, and the French bricks added to it after its initial construction, may represent the earliest, c. 1850s to c. 1870s of occupation of Lot 67.

Images provided by Alpha Archaeology, showing artefacts CUB2 04537, CUB2 04538, CUB2 04539 and CUB2 04632. CUB2 04537 and CUB2 04538 with multiple finger print marks. Site image: CUB Scape, Lot 67, view south east facing Swanston Street, showing showing feature 066 at far wall of cellar. Photo credit Zvonka Stanin

Felicity and Zvonka are currently analysing the artefacts from the latest CUB dig for Alpha Archaeology, and can be contacted at either felicitybuckingham@yahoo.com or zstanin50@gmail.com