Butler's Point

From Archaeopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Butler Point: Colonial Store



Project Background

Captain William Butler

Captain Butler
Captain Butler(1814-1875) married Eliza Merritt and moved to Mangonui permanently in February 1840. In 1845 Captain William Butler bought 20 acres of land in Butler Point and by 1848 was settled in and living on the premises. During his time in Mangonui, Captain Butler ran his store, was a Justice of the Peace and for a short period a member of Parliament. AFter resigning from Parliament he went back to working at the store and trading with chips that came in. Finally, on March 4th, 1875[1], due to an accident he had a year earlier that severely damaged his chest William Butler died at the age of 61. Today, the Butler House has been turned in to a museum[2], which adds to the Butler Point Whaling Museum already in the area.[3]

Proof of a Store

In her book "The Butler House, Mangonui 1847-1990", Janice Mongford notes that there was a store on the foreshore during Butler's time. A 1986 Site Report by Joan Maingay also stated that site N7/326 was the possible location of this store. Historical records including a watercolor done by John Kinder in 1858, a sketch of the foreshore by Henry Wynard and an Advertisement for Butler's Store in "The Daily Southern Cross" also support the idea that a store existed in this area.

Location and Date

  • Excavation N7/326
  • Butler Point, Northland Region, New Zealand
  • February 6-22, 1999
Loading map...


Project Directors:

Tane McManus,Harry Allen


Other contributers:


  • Excavation 2-3 weeks
  • Materials taken back to the university and analyzed--cleaning, sorting, restoring
  • Artefacts Documented and reported on
  • Artefacts dated and linked to historical context



Identified and Unidentified Glass

The majority of the glass found at the site fell into this category. Most of the unidentified glass found was in areas one and three. Area four also contained a large amount of unidentified glass. In total there wer 6,656 pieces of unidentified glass recovered from the site. The type of glass recovered tended to fall into the categories of green/brown, aqua, clear, window or other. The "green" category of glass is non-beer related alcohol containers. The later documentation showed that 51 percent of the glass found fell into this category. Most of the identified pieces of glass recovered were also alcohol-related. Out of the 92 pieces found 54 were in some way related to alcohol.

Window Glass

There were 1,577 pieces of window glass recovered from site N7/326. Areas one, three and four all contained quite a bit of window glass. This led Archaeologists to believe that there may have been at least one building there, possibly covering areas three and four because of the postholes that were also found there. The window glass found tended to be very thin much like the window glass used in Georgian style buildings.


Historical records, knowledge of when technological innovations came about, and comparison of sites from the same time period all helped in trying to date the findings at Butler's Point. Of the glass the total date range was 1810-1870 but got narrowed down to 1840-1864 after finding that a majority of the glass is from that time period. According to the advertisement in "The Daily Southen Cross" Butler's store would have been here by at least 1848, which fits in with the datign of the glass in the area. the majority of the black-glass beer bottles at the site were pontilled; something that was done between 1840 and 1850. Many of the technological innovations that the glass bottles portrayed were phased out by about 1870, fitting right in with the estimated time of store closure.

Clay Pipes

The clay pipes found on the property were often imprinted with the name of their manufacturer[4].It is due to this that researchers were able to discover that the pipes came from 5 main manufacturers including: Mcdougall, Thomas White, Murray, Davidson, and TD. these manufacturers were almost all from Scotland and the variety was limited. This shows that the pipes were probably being ordered in mass quantity from Auckland. The whole lot of pipes is from before 1862 based on when the pipes found tended to be manufactured. another telling feature of the site is that no briar pipes were found. Briar Pipesbecame popular in the late 19th century because of their durability, therefore the site must be earlier than the late 19th century.

Nails and Miscellaneous Iron

Iron and Copper Nails

2,673 iron nails were dug up at the site. Of these, the ones that were identifiable were mostly square and round-head nails. The majority of these were about one to two inches long. As they were all highly corroded due to time, it was difficult to fully identify what they may have been used for or what type they were. Tacks and their larger counterparts called "clouts", which were mainly used for building were found mostly in areas one and three. Around half of the copper nails were unable to be identified due to the large amount of rust that had made them brittle over time. Compared to the iron nails, there was much less variety in types of copper nails. The copper nails were however, much more evenly spread around the site.


Found mostly in areas one and three, spikes are much larger nail-like items used in building. round-head spikes were discovered to be the most common and these were found only in areas that had contained postholes. The majority (81%) of the spikes were found in area three.


Due to rust, much of the iron was unable to be identified. However, the other iron that has been found may have been "hooping" iron used on barrels of whale oil.

Wood and Natural Materials

Both indigenous and exotic wood was found at the site, though indigenous was more prevalent and usually found in the form of charcoal. The indigenous wood was most likely used in building activites as it was good for posts and foundation piles. Some of this wood was found in postholes suggesting that this theory is very likely. There were also 35 pieces of exotic wood found. Most of it was uncovered in area three and they all contained traces of copper nails in them. The copper nails in these pieces suggest possible ship repair or building on the site since copper nails were used in the creation of ship hulls during the period.


All of the bricks found were of relatively low quality due to the difficulty in aquiring them and very basic manufacturing. There were fragments of only 15 bricks recovered at the site almost entirely in area three. Based on size and the brick-making[5] technique the bricks in area three may have been part of a fireplace of some sort.


Another natural resource, gum was found in areas three and one per usual. About 35% was burnt suggesting that it may have been used for fuel. Gum trade was prominent during this period and while the gum found was not quite of the quality that was often coveted, it may stil have been used for such purposes. A very small amount of slate was also recovered in the form of pencils and flat slabs. The flat slabs of slate may have been used for roofing or writing boards.

Animal Remains

There were very few animal remains on the site and was mostly made up of sheep, cows, pigs and goats. There were also the remains of one rat and one dog found on the premises. Of these remains, the less desirable edible parts were found. It is assumed that this may show that the people here were eating the cheapest meats available. The skeletal remains of the main meat animals (sheep cow and pig) suggests that these animals may have been butchered on site. This means that the site may have had a small farm on it.


At least 46 complete buttons and 7 fragments of buttons were discovered on the site. the materials of which they were constructed were of cheaper quality for the time period. A few different types of buttons were found including china, bone, brass and alloy buttons.[6] the buttons discovered on the site lead to the conclusion that at the very least the clothing on the site was from an earlier time. The bone buttons suggest a time period of pre-1860s.


  • Shell comb
  • 6 Belt Buckles
  • Iron Heel Plates from shoes
  • 8 Gun flints
  • Gun's eye target attachment
  • Monkey Wrench
  • Pulley
  • Sharpening file
  • Sheets of copper, iron and zinc used for roofing
  • Door Hinge
  • Top of a cast-iron stove
  • Watch
  • Knife blade
  • Children's scissors
  • 3 Coins of the same time period as the store


  • The large amount of green glass found at Butler's Point shows that alcohol played a large role in the area and there may have been a place selling alcohol near the store.
  • Based on where the majority of the postholes and building materials such as nails were found, it is most likely the building was in areas one and three.
  • The finding of bricks, slate and wood at the site suggest that Butler was able to do many different things from the store including, take down figures, supply people with many different types of wood and possibly supplying coal for fuel and ballast.
  • Based on the lack of postholes and proper building layout it is not likely that the area was that of a home.
  • All of the artefactsfound with the exception of a few that were harder to date point to a dating of the store around the early to mid-1800s.
  • Based on the placement of artefacts, Area One was most likely a dumping ground while Area Three was where the actual store itself was located.


  • McManus, Tane K. Butler's Point, Site N7/326, the Archaeology and Analysis of a Colonial Store. Diss. University of Auckland, 2002. Print.
  • Googlemaps [7]
  • "Butler House." Butler Point New Zealand, whaling museum, historic house, gardens. Web. 23 Feb. 2010. [8].