Although clear glass had been made for centuries, it was rarely used for bottles, as the duty on a clear glass object was considerably more than on coloured glass


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Beer Bottles


 Pub bottles, ranging from stoneware ginger-beer bottles to dark glass beer bottles and plain glass mineral bottles, can form a fascinating and inexpensive collection.

 Two of the greatest Victorian manufacturers of stoneware bottles were Doulton & Co and Joseph Bourne. Click here to view the Royal Doulton site

 Throughout the 19th century their factories produced bottles in all shapes and sizes for gin, whisky, vinegar, ginger beer, mineral water and other drinks.

 For the most part, the bottles were simple and functional, plain stone in colour with an occasional tan-coloured top.


 Originally each bottle was incised with the manufacturer's name and the contents, but by the late 19th century most were decorated with underglaze or transfer printing.


 In the mid-19th century low standards of manufactured food and drink were becoming a problem.  Manufacturers responded by packaging their beverages in clear glass bottles so the contents could be readily seen, and glass began to undermine the stoneware monopoly.

 As demand increased, so bottle manufacturers became conscious of the need to speed up production.  In 1823 a Bristol manufacturer, Henry Rickerts, patented a moulding machine that not only produced more bottles but also made them to a uniform size, something even a skilled glass blower could not achieve.

 It also marked the beginning of embossing, which was to become a feature of glass bottles.

 Although clear glass had been made for centuries, it was rarely used for bottles, as the duty on a clear glass object was considerably more than on coloured glass.  But in 1845 the tax was lifted, and companies began to add manganese to their glass as a decolourant.


 The first carbonated drinks appeared in the mid-19th century and a completely new range of clear glass bottles was produced specifically for these brightly-coloured, fizzy beverages.

 One of the greatest problems was retaining the drinks' fizz, as without a tight stopper they soon went flat.  Corks were of no use unless kept moist and it was difficult to persuade retailers to store bottles on their sides.

 In the late 19th century, Hiram Codd, a Camberwell manufacturer, patented an ingenious solution for bottling fizzy drinks.  It used a captive glass marble and a rubber washer, which were forced against the lip by the pressure of gas in the bottle. The stopper was released by a wooden cap with a small dowel which pushed the marble down into the neck of the bottle. Codd's method was so successful that such bottles were still used in the 1940s.

 Competition between brewers has always been intense and one good way of differentiating their product has been to sell it in a distinctive bottle with an eye catching beer label.


 Bottles can be bought but they have the added attraction of being something you can dig up yourself.

 Millions were produced during the 18th and 19th centuries and those that were not recycled were consigned to huge urban rubbish tips or smaller country tips. For many years, keen collectors have been sifting through well-known tips, in search of more unusual specimens.

 However, finds dated before 1860 are rare, as the Victorian poor often sorted the rubbish and were paid a small sum for anything which could be re-used.


 Digging up bottles can be more satisfying than scouring antiques markets.  You can find in formation pinpointing the areas of old dumps on large-scale maps from your local library.   For those who prefer cleaner pursuits, many stallholders now deal in old bottles.

 Among the rarest and most desirable of all bottles are those manufactured for mineral water and carbonated drinks by Hiram Codd.

 Although millions were produced, children found the glass marble stopper irresistible, and many were smashed to get at the plaything inside.

 Codd produced not only clear bottles but also a range in a variety of rich tones. Avid collectors are forever searching for fine-coloured Codds which are now worth large sums.

 But the amateur must beware - Codd's famous bottle was pirated many times and what seems like a charming original may be a recent copy.


 With a little research, most glass bottles are easy to date because of the embossing on the neck and body.  The manufacturer, area and contents are usually displayed in bold lettering across the front.

 The most commonly found stoneware bottles are those for ginger beer.  Their bold lettering is either incised or transfer printed, revealing the manufacturer and the place of origin.

 As stoneware was hand-thrown, it frequently has a potter's mark on the base.

 In the 1870s, screw tops were introduced, followed by the hinged wire china stopper and the crown cork still in use for beers today.

 The search for cheaper production methods continued, and in 1903 the first fully automated bottle-making machine - and the forerunner of current bottles - came into use.


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