Surprises from the depths of St James

Last Updated : 15 Aug 2016
St James Butcher
Auckland Council heritage adviser George Farrant

An archaeological dig at the St James Theatre has uncovered a fascinating insight into how life was lived in Auckland between the 1880s and 1920s.

“It’s as if they just dropped everything and walked away,” says Auckland Council heritage advisor, George Farrant, of the pottery, bottles, meat hooks and cobbler’s lasts found so far.
Last year when fire broke out at the theatre, a section of the floor was damaged through which cobbled paving could be seen.

The discovery led to the current excavation.

Records show the site had many uses during the period including as a yard for livestock servicing a butcher’s shop and a fancy goods store.

From the large number of objects salvaged it appears the occupants of the area threw anything they didn’t need out into open yards.

“It wasn’t as salubrious a part of Auckland as it is today. It would have been pretty rough where the town petered out and the activities that went on were anything that you wouldn’t do in a building,” says George Farrant.

All the items will be catalogued and dated with the possibility the best preserved could be displayed at the St James once it is restored, so present day theatre goers can appreciate this link to the city’s past.

Read the NZ Herald article.

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