The archaeology of gentry life in seventeenth-century Ferryland

Gaulton, Barry C. (2006) The archaeology of gentry life in seventeenth-century Ferryland. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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The archaeology of gentry life in seventeenth-century Ferryland revolves around the excavation and analysis of a large timber-framed dwelling occupied by Sir David Kirke and family more than 350 years ago. The midden deposits associated with the house contained an impressive collection of artifacts, which not only assisted in dating the site and its range of occupation but it also provided a valuable opportunity to learn about the day-to-day activities of this gentry family. Clay tobacco pipes, coins and other datable objects clearly demonstrate that this structure was erected sometime in the 1640s and that occupation continued until the latter years of the seventeenth century - likely coinciding with the devastating French attack of 1696. -- The Kirke house was very large by Colonial Newfoundland standards. The principal dwelling was 21 by 53 feet but there was also a 12 by 22 foot lodging/servants' quarters, an 8 by 8 foot well house and a cobblestone courtyard. This domestic compound underwent a series of structural modifications and improvements over the course of the seventeenth century including the addition of a 14 by 14 foot buttery/pantry and an 8 by 12 foot dairy. These different phases reveal a household that was far from stagnant after the death of Sir David Kirke in 1654. Rather, they show a family that sought to expand upon their existing accommodations and diversify their business operations in light of changing social and economic times. -- The range of activities conducted in this series of buildings included everything from food preparation, cooking and sewing to serving alcoholic beverages in a tippling room, conducting business transactions relating to the family's Pool Plantation, frequently partaking in fine and elaborate dining practices, and possibly providing medical attention to those in need. Some of the latter activities distinguish the Kirkes from the majority of Newfoundland planter society, for the artifacts reveal that they were both literate and numerate, were involved in international commerce that may have relied upon close personal contacts and were surrounded by a diverse, and in some cases rare, collection of expensive household items and personal adornments. -- The Kirkes were not alone in their conventions regarding a lifestyle befitting their social and economic position. A comparison with contemporaneous gentry occupation in English North America illustrates numerous similarities; yet some lifestyle choices were influenced and shaped by specific environmental, economic or social conditions. Comparatively speaking, the Kirke occupation at Ferryland appears to be "average" in terms of architecture but truly exceptional with regard to other material culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 10535
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 269-285.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Anthropology
Date: 2006
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Excavations (Archaeology)--Newfoundland and Labrador--Ferryland; Gentry--Newfoundland and Labrador--Ferryland.

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