Raining soda water in Christchurch!

Thomas Raine's premises on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace in the 1860s. Image: Andersen 1949, p. 305.
Thomas Raine's premises on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace in the 1860s. Image: Andersen 1949, p. 305.

In 1861, the city of Christchurch would have been virtually unrecognisable to a 21st century resident. Buildings were scattered sparsely throughout what is now the central business district and dirt roads and low fences traversed a landscape that was more grassland than city. Twenty, or even ten, years later, that landscape would change so much as to be unrecognisable, with substantial buildings filling the empty paddocks and replacing many of the early, more ramshackle, wooden structures of the 1850s and 1860s. During these ‘frontier’ years of Christchurch’s existence, a number of small businesses sprang up around the place, some of which didn’t last much past the settlement’s transition from frontier to something more permanent. One such business was the soda water manufactory of Thomas ‘Gingerpop’ Raine, an early Christchurch entrepreneur whose soda bottles we often find on archaeological sites throughout the city.

Thomas Raine arrived in Christchurch in the 1850s and promptly set himself up in business as a manufacturer of soda water, ginger beer and lemonade. His first business appears to have been on the corner of Peterborough and Gloucester streets where, drawing on his prior experience as a soda water manufacturer in England, he operated from 1859 until 1860 in partnership with Walter Gee (Lyttelton Times17/10/1860: 7). One interesting advertisement in the newspaper notes that the duo used the Samson Barnett Soda Water Engine, an apparatus invented by engineer Samson Barnett (otherwise known for his development of diving equipment; Lyttelton Times 15/09/1860: 8). The partnership ended with some animosity (or at least, that’s what the papers suggest; Lyttelton Times7/10/1860: 7, 5/03/1862: 6, Press 8/03/1862: 8).

1862 drawing of the Samson Barnett Soda Water Engine.
1862 drawing of the Samson Barnett Soda Water Engine.

After continuing on his own, Thomas Raine handed the business down to his son, Thomas Raine Jr., in 1866 (Lyttelton Times9/01/1866: 1). Things deteriorated rather rapidly after this, as Raine Jr. appears to have been a terrible businessman, eventually declaring himself bankrupt (for which he was later confined to prison and tried in court) in 1869 (Press 26/10/1869: 3Star11/01/1870: 2). Thomas Raine Jr. seems to have had quite the troubled life, actually: his father took his business partner to court in 1872, he himself was taken to court by his wife for being a ‘habitual’ drunkard in 1874 and he eventually died after drinking almost an entire bottle of ‘spirits of wine’ (equivalent to two bottles of whisky) in 1886 (Star 20/08/1874: 2Timaru Herald5/03/1872: 2, 5/06/1886: 3).

We find Thomas Raine soda water bottles relatively frequently on sites in Christchurch, usually embossed with “T. RAINE, SODA WATER MANUFACTURER, CHRISTCHURCH NZ.” This mark is found exclusively on ‘torpedo’ shaped bottles, due to the early date of Raine’s business: other, more elaborate, forms of soda water bottle (such as the Codd patent) weren’t invented until the early – mid 1870s, after Raine went out of business. As such, they can be quite useful dating tools for us, depending on the context in which they were found (i.e. discrete undisturbed deposits vs rubbish scatters): as you’d expect, they’re often found on sites in association with households or businesses dating to the 1860s and 1870s.

Thomas Raine embossed torpedo bottle found on a residential site on Armagh Street this year. Image: J. Garland.
Thomas Raine embossed torpedo bottle found on a residential site on Armagh Street this year. Image: J. Garland.

So far, we’ve found T. Raine bottles all over the city, from residential sites to hotels to commercial sites. There doesn’t appear to be any discrimination in the types of households or businesses buying Raine’s products: we’ve found them on the sites of affluent households and in association with less obviously wealthy assemblages. They would have originally contained a variety of soda waters: Raine was known for manufacturing gingerade, lemonade and ‘raspberryade’, the first of which likely led to his ‘Gingerpop’ nickname (Lyttelton Times 3/09/1859: 8).  Interestingly, one account of Raine’s business suggests that he “did not confine himself to beverages of his own manufacture”, which implies – true or not, I have no idea – that he passed other people’s soda off as his own (alternatively, he may simply have contracted others to brew for him; Andersen 1949: 305).

Advertisemet for Thomas Raine's soda water business. Image:
Advertisemet for Thomas Raine's soda water business. Image:

Thomas Raine’s story is also of interest to those of you curious about the way Christchurch evolved over the early decades, from a spatial and nomenclature perspective (this has been a recurring theme here on the blog recently). He was a resident of New Brighton for much of the 1860s and 1870s and owned large amounts of the land out there, including the land on which QEII park is now built (Christchurch City Libraries Blog 2011). During those early decades, it seems, the suburb was somewhat sparsely settled and – like Oxford Terrace – would have been unrecognisable to the modern Christchurch resident. The area was split into two ‘neighbourhoods’, named Oramstown (after George Oram, proprietor of the Clarendon Hotel) and Rainestown, after the Raine family (Christchurch City Libraries Blog 2011,Star8/05/1896:2). There are several advertisements in the local newspaper during the 1870s, in which Thomas Raine offers large sections of land for sale (Press28/02/1874:1). It wasn’t until after these sections were sold and more people began to settle out there, that the area began to take on the shape of the New Brighton that we recognise today.

Thomas Raine died in 1907, surviving his wife by two months. He is buried in the Barbadoes Street cemetery, where he shares his rest with many of Christchurch’s other early residents and entrepreneurs. And, although ‘Rainestown’ has long since faded from our collective memory, the legacy of ‘Gingerpop’ Raine lives on in the torpedo bottles we now find in the ground all over the city.

“ You’ve a Taylor for a brewer! For that he’s none the worse; And if you want a vehicle You go unto a Nurse! You’ve a Fisher for a grocer Residing in this quarter! And strange as it may seem, from Raine We get good soda water.” - R. Thatcher, cited in Andersen 1949: 308

Jessie Garland

References

Andersen, J. C., 1949. Old Christchurch in Picture and Story. Simpson and Williams Ltd., Christchurch.

Christchurch City Libraries Blog, 2011. [online] Available at www.cclblog.wordpress.com

Lyttelton Times. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Press. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Star. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz

Timaru Herald. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz