4 Lyttleton Harbour, Christchurch


During a walk along the bridle-way from Governor’s Bay to Allandale, a man-made platform, c.40 x 30m, with a gateway facing the sea was noted alongside the Allandale Reserve notice board, (43d, 38`, 28S – 172d, 38`,53E). A Magnetic Anomaly Survey (MAS) across the site indicated that the site had been walled. Within the walling were to be found the foundations of three internal barrack blocks with dimensions exactly as with Slab Hut Creek. These are of standard Chinese construction.

Immediately to the west, between the bridle path and the sea, (Governor`s Bay) the earth works of a small fort were noted. (43d, 38`, 28S – 172d, 38`, 53E). The earth works were covered in creepers and bushes. The fort consists of externally ditched inner and outer stone-capped ramparts. The stonework is visible. Mortar manufactured from sea shells, was removed from two areas: one appeared darker and older than the other lighter coloured mortar. Samples were sent for carbon dating. Inside the rampart burnt timber was noted – this has also been carbon dated. The area within the ramparts is roughly c50m x 10m, but heavily overgrown, and thus difficult to measure. A magnetic anomaly survey across the accessible floor area indicated the foundations of a single set of barracks, comprising eight unpaved and one paved room. Exact details of the site can only be obtained when the bushes and debris are removed.

The fort appears to have had one landward gate and one seaward gate, with originally a paved path to the shore and harbour.

A Magnetic Anomaly Survey (MAS) along the seaward side of the fort indicated two stone harbours under the sand and silt, c 50m long and 11.5m wide, (43d, 38`, 28S – 172`, 38`, 53E). Three stone arms extended some 25m past the harbour to well below the high-water line. Within the harbours a MAS revealed the outline of two 47m long x 11m beam junks, plus their double anchors extended 19m to the seaward side. Presumably the seaward harbour walls were temporary and could be removed to launch the junks.

Sampling was carried out by members of the survey group after the initial survey. This included sampling by drill 2.7m through the sand and mud, to the hull of one of the junks. Metal recovered was subjected to carbon dating. Adjacent to the fort and barracks there was evidence that the surrounding area had been quarried for magnetite iron ore.

An analysis of the rock showed an iron content of 7.68%.

An analysis of iron ore rich chips located in the adjacent sand showed an iron content of 8.6%.

Carbon Dating of burnt timber located inside the fort site gave a date of c1676.

Carbon dating of the dark mortar gave a date of mid. c830AD

Carbon dating of the light mortar gave a date of mid c1650.AD

Carbon dating of a sample of iron removed from the hold of the wreck of the westerly junk gave a date of c100BC.

It must be assumed that this junk sank or went on fire early in the beginning of their site occupancy and re-floating was not possible.

The construction of a standard walled area enclosing three barrack blocks and a very well constructed and fortified small fort, as well as the construction of two harbours capable of taking ocean going junks of 47m x 11m, indicates that a small trading community existed
to exploit the local iron ore reserves.

The dating of the site indicates that it had been in use by the Chinese for c 1,700 years. The use of mortar and the production of iron were unknown to the Maori. The existence of the remains of two junks in the harbours, indicates that some form of second disaster struck the site around the mid 1700s. We can tell from the second use of mortar that the fort was repaired in the mid 1600s. The dating of the burnt timber to the mid 1700s and the second junk abandoned in the harbour indicates that the community was suddenly destroyed. Possibly an invading force of Maori attacked and burnt the site. The dating of 1700s, ties in with the known invasion of the South Island by the Maori.

T.C.Bell. UK July 2003

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