As a regular dog walker, I spend a lot of time staring at the ground, both ahead of and behind the dog.  Whilst we live in an urban area, there are several roads and tracks which have been in use since the 19th century.  There is a surprising amount of debris in the verges this ranges from present day filth, to Victorian filth, a lot of which is broken glass, sometime with writing which give some clue to its origin.  To avoid my home becoming more of a tip than it already is, I have a self enforced rule that I only pick up items that can be identified.

I’m reasonably certain that this is stopper from a 19th century lemonade bottle, it was found in the rubble of a collapsed wall which I know to have been built in 1901.

It is about half an inch in diameter.  The neck of bottle would have been tapered so that the pressure of the CO2 from the carbonated water forced it upwards making a seal.  An elderly relative told me that this was quite effective way of preserving the fizz.  As a child in the East End of London before the first world war, he and other boys collected lemonade bottle and broke them for the balls which were then used to play marbles.  This raises several questions, would they have done this if they could have earned some money by taking the bottle back to the shops, this was a form of pocket money for generations of children, including me.  Secondly how were these bottles made.

This bottle was produced for Shelvey and Co. which produced and sold mineral water from 1882 to 1931.

The design of the stopper suggest that the contents was under pressure.  I’m guessing, but the capacity of the bottle is approximately 250 ml which is significantly smaller than a modern day Coke bottle, does this suggest that drinks like ginger beer were drunk in smaller quantities than today?.  A nice thing about this bottle is that the year of manufacture is embossed on the base suggesting that it was sold in 1898.

The great thing about the internet is that you can take the dog out and return to a history lesson, I found this bottle base whilst retrieving my dog’s tennis ball from the undergrowth along a woodland path (I know it should be him doing the retrieving, but he’s a slow learner and human life is finite).  I vaguely thought it was Hungarian on origin and wondered what it was doing in an English wood.

The link below provides an explanation.

Saxlehner’s Bitterquelle

Evidently, the bottles contents were a “natural purgative” which the producer exported around the world.

There must have been a steady demand for laxatives in our neighbourhood, I dug this bottle out of an old farm track.  It is marked “Califig” which was/is a leading brand of syrup of figs which in our family was highly regarded laxative.  The bottle states that “califig” is the successor to the “California Fig Syrup Company”, my guess is that the stuff was always known as syrup of figs and no attempt at rebranding with a fancy name was going to change that.

The bottle appears to have had a cork stopper which suggests it dates from the interwar period (I’m guessing).

At one time, every milk bottle was embossed with the instructions “rinse and return”, whilst my mother did this religiously, there seems to have been an almost anarchic hurling of bottles into hedgerows.  Until the arrival of supermarkets, most households had milk delivered.  Most large towns had several depots from which milk was distributed, a few of these remain, but like market gardens and coal depots the land has been used for housing.  Most of the bottles the dog has drawn my attention to have been the bog standard object seen on the doorsteps in 1960s/70s films like “Up the Junction” (I have not checked this fact), but this wide mouthed example is unusual.

Again, I’m guessing, but I think this one dates to the inter-war period.  It came from Holes & Davigdor Hygienic Dairies whose depot may have been in the Droveway (not checked).  Today we take food safety for granted, but when raw milk was sold direct from the farm, there was a risk of disease and it was important for dairies to advertise their product as safe.


About SolarBucket

I trained as a mechanical engineer in the 1970's and then spent most of the following 25 years doing sums and software for Oil and Gas Exploration. Current interests are the study of wind and solar resources.
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