The Olive Talbot Collection of Mineral Water Bottles

Olive Talbot

Olive Talbot (photo taken in 2005)

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Post-Medieval Archaeology / Vol 8 / 1974

One of the most important Mineral Water discoveries of the century!

My wife's great aunt passed away a few years ago and because she heard I was into antiques had wanted me to have a copy of an article she had written in 'Post Medieval Archaeology. Volume 8' which was dated 1974....
I feel ashamed now, but I never did get around to reading it (as my interest in archaeology is somewhat limited) - I did ensure I kept the book though

 

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'The Evolution of Glass Bottles for Carbonated Drinks' by Olive Talbot

Several years later (November 2014) I had a phone call from a Richard in London who asked if I was interested in some bottles? He sounded familiar and was talking as if he knew me, but I didn't dare ask just in case - He said there were some point-ended ones and others with marbles in and was I anywhere near London in the next couple of weeks? The bottles were packed away in a locked cupboard so he couldn't give exact details and was the first to admit he didn't know much about them as they were his mum's. I took his details and said I'd get back to him very soon. Upon mentioning this to my wife Erin and her seeing his name scrawled down on my bit of paper, she stated it was her cousin in Middlesex (which was only then I twigged why he would have known me) - As it happens Erin's mum was at our house for a meal and she stated they would probably be her aunt Belle's bottles, and asked politely if I had ever read the article that she had forwarded to me a few years before? (whoops!)

 

By pure coincidence I was sorting through piles of bottle books just a few weeks before and had noticed this book on archaeology, but what I hadn't spotted previously was there was a slip of paper inside on it which was written: 'For Alan / Article on Carbonated Drinks / Page 29' - which would have led me to the page headed up 'The Evolution of Glass Bottles For Carbonated Drinks, By Olive Talbot' (who I later found out was the same aunt Belle mentioned above!) - Upon reading this for the first time, I was completely taken aback as to how much diligent research she had undertaken on such a fascinating field (especially to bottle enthusiasts) but to think this was 1974, a year before I started collecting, and the year that Edward Fletcher was publishing his very first books (and well before access to historical archives was ever possible via the internet) is quite astonishing! ­ I think even more astounding though to me was the inclusion of the diagrams - There were some quite incredible mouth-watering patents amongst them !! ..............

Trouble is, were these diagrams from various patent drawings, or did Olive ever have access to any of them? Were they housed in a museum or someone's collection somewhere?
One clue lay in her explanation on p38 (the two Hamiltons) where Olive clearly makes reference to diagram 'B' as: '...from article on Nicolas Paul in Review of April 1878' but no mention of any such articles relating to A, C or Fig 2, which would hopefully indicate that she had at last seen these bottles?
Then, an exciting development occurred. I was prompted by a friend who had read the article previously to look further, where Olive quite clearly states on p62 under the subtitle 'Note'; that...'Bottles shown in figs 7, 10, 11 & 13 are from the collection of Bruce Henry. All others are from the collection of the writer' !!
It was then I realised that quite possibly some of the bottles featured in the book, could have been in her collection (albeit 40 years ago) - It wasn't long before I phoned Richard and asked what bottles he remembered there being, but all he could recollect were Schweppes, Batey's and R. White's stoneware and glass bottles and my heart sunk. However he did recall a 'light green Daffy's bottle' (which I assumed to be a late aqua version, probably damaged, sick or both!)
So, at this stage all I knew is that Richard had 70-80 bottles, all of which were his mum Olive Talbot's and that most if not all could be common London bottles, but with the chance of a Daffy's Elixir (or some featured in her article?) - Richard also stated he wanted the bottles gone by the following Tuesday as he was moving to Northampton, so I said I'd do what I could. Luckily, another strange coincidence was that Erin's mum was due to be in London the following week and was happy to pick up any boxes on my behalf - I mentioned this to Richard and he was more than happy for them to call over and collect them on their way past. It was just then a matter of waiting to see what they brought back!
In the meantime I posted the story so far on the Bottle Digging UK (BDUK) Forum  and was amazed at the response! - Apparently Olive's article was held in high esteem by many Codd collectors who have been wondering for years if the bottles featured ever existed?
Many questions were asked: Did Olive ever have any of these bottles in her possession and did she ask Peter Baldock to draw them for her article? - What does this elusive Lemon Codd actually look like in the flesh, did she ever see it, actually have it, or has it long since disappeared anyway?! - Did the Hayne's patent have any other embossing? (can't say I've seen it with vertical bold lettering before?!) - Was the dumpy Codd 18 (fig 9) embossed with a retailer's name? - Similarly did the 'Perfect Bottle' (fig 15) have a retailers name (probably both unlikley as Olive mentioned all the others having retailers names if they did) - Did she ever have the 'Ray, Greycoat Place, Westminster' Hamilton and if so, was it really c1833-39 as suggested in her article? (it looks a lot later with the pronounced pointed end)

 

Fig 1 - Was this Ray Hamilton really as early as 1833-39 / Fig 2 - A lovely 'Batey & Co' pictorial 6oz Hamilton

Fig 1 - Was this Ray Hamilton really as early as 1833-39 / Fig 2 - A lovely 'Batey & Co' pictorial 6oz Hamilton

Fig 18 - Hayne's 'Bottle of the future'

Fig 18 - Hayne's 'Bottle of the future'

Fig 8 - The mysterious 'Lemon Codd', did it ever exist? / Fig 2 - Dumpy Codd's Patent 18 ... did it ever have a retailer's name on the front?!

Fig 8 - The mysterious 'Lemon Codd', did it ever exist? / Fig 2 - Dumpy Codd's Patent 18 ... did it ever have a retailer's name on the front?!

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The following Tuesday (4th November 2014) I excitedly drove to my in-laws to pick up four crates from them. The bottles were all carefully wrapped in newspaper, and I could hear the sound of marbles rattling, so I knew there must be some Codds amongst them! - When I returned home I placed all four crates on the kitchen table (my wife was away running the NY marathon, otherwise I wouldn't have dared place them there!!) and as I had no-one here to join in the fun of unwrapping it all, invited forum members to pick which crate they wanted me to open first (I labelled them A,B,C & D) - The response was quite muted (although I then twigged that the Liverpool v Real Madrid game was aired live on TV at the same time!) - These are the 4 crates as wrapped by Richard

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CRATE A

- The first nomination from forum members was 'A' so I duly unwrapped 5 bottles and posted photo's on the forum, I then unwrapped the next 5, and so on until the crate was empty:

Crate A - unopened

Crate A - unopened

The first five items to be unwrapped

The first five items to be unwrapped

The next five

The next five

Another five

Another five

The last three!

The last three!

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Superb 'Straker & Son, London' bulbous slab-sealed master ink

 

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The contents of crate A

 

The first 5 were as to be expected from a London collection, 3 x impressed GB's, a common stoneware furniture polish bottle and a nice James Cox green Rileys mineral. The next 5 showed more promise in that it included 3 x printed GB's this time (along with 2 impressed ones) but all fairly common. The next 5 certainly threw a surprise bottle out in the shape of a lovely small slab-sealed and unrecorded master ink from 'Straker & Son, 26 Leadenhall, London',
the other 4 being more of the usual suspects; 3 x impressed London GB's and an aqua vets bottle. Finally the last 3 x bottles unwrapped were just the usual common London Rileys minerals.

I was absolutely thrilled with the stoneware master ink, so if nothing else emerged, I would have been happy with that. Sadly, no bottles featured in her book emerging yet though!

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CRATE B

 

What surprise does crate B hold in store?

What surprise does crate B hold in store?

The next crate to be nominated was box 'B' (a bit of a pattern emerging here!!) - The first two bottles were very mundane and I didn't hold up a lot of hope for the third bottle either as it was very small and rattled unnervingly so I just had to assume it had broken in transit. To say I was shocked at what I revealed would be the understatement of the year!! - My jaw hit the floor, I had just unwrapped a stunning split-sized dark amber dumpy Codd from Canterbury (which apparently was totally unrecorded too!)

The first five to emerge - but what's that in the middle?!

The first five to emerge - but what's that in the middle?!

Photo taken minutes after it was unwrapped!

Photo taken minutes after it was unwrapped!

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Still quaking, I continued to unwrap two more Codds, one of which was very significant indeed as it was the first bottle to emerge that was actually featured in Olive's book !!

Fig 12 - J Sheerin, Collingwood Street, London bulb-topped Codd

Fig 12 - J Sheerin, Collingwood Street, London bulb-topped Codd

The actual bottle!

The actual bottle!

Some interesting early bits

Some interesting early bits

More very interesting items featured in the article!

More very interesting items featured in the article!

Now things were beginning to get very interesting! - I continued to unwrap another five: an early green Rawlings of Brighton seltzer, a local 6oz bullet, a large black-glass Ricketts, a sick blob-top mineral and a very odd looking Codd patent! (later identified as a very rare Ryland patent with a slug stopper). The next five were also very interesting, as two of them also featured in Olive's book (figs 3 & 14) plus there were two quite amazing bottles in the shape of a 'Guernsey Aerated Co' with a Hamilton trade mark and very unusual porcelain patent top and a equally as intriguing 'Warner's Patent' which had an Edward's patent metal top to retain the small marble. Even the sick Van's, Barking bullet stopper had a great wagon pictorial on the front.

Funky 'Rylands' Codd

Funky 'Rylands' Codd

Guernsey Aerated Mineral with patent ceramic stopper

Guernsey Aerated Mineral with patent ceramic stopper

'H.F. Van, Barking' bullet stopper with carriage pictorial (another item featured in the book)

'H.F. Van, Barking' bullet stopper with carriage pictorial (another item featured in the book)

very unusual 'Warner's Patent'

very unusual 'Warner's Patent'

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CRATE D

The next choice from forum members bucked the trend somewhat and went straight to crate D.

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Yet another real shock was the green Daffy's. I had no idea it was going to be this early and pontiled.

Early green Daffy's

Early green Daffy's

Snap-mould pontil scar

Snap-mould pontil scar

Luck was definitely on my side this day! The other 4 bottles were a split size Schweppes seltzer (slightly more unusual in this colour), a common London glass GB, a fairly early 'Middlesex Hospital' medicine and an Adams, Halstead Rileys mineral (the same company as the pictorial Champagne-shaped GB in box A). This was followed by another pleasant surprise in the shape of a lovely 6oz screw-topped Codd (also featured, fig 15) hiding amongst some common minerals! - Lastly out of box D were four otherwise quite non-descript minerals apart from the 'Hart, Upper Norwood' as it was also featured in Olive's article (fig 6) which had 'Clayton's, London & Kingston' acid-etched on the reverse. The last six bottles included a rather nice beehive topped Mills flat-based Hamilton, a blob-top Pimlico mineral, three plain dark olive bottles and a local quart milk bottle, and not forgetting the Codd plunger and bottle-opener featured in fig 17!

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CRATE C - The final one!

By deduction it had to be Crate C next, but would it have any more bottles from Olive's article?!

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Another shock item was the second item to emerge from this crate. I did wonder if fig 9 in the book would have had a retailers name? But it was in doubt as Olive tended to mention any embossing. However nothing prepared me for what happened... I had no idea it was going to be a vibrant emerald green dumpy Codd... I was absolutely speechless!! - What a bottle! -

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The other four weren't all bad either. The split amber seltzer came in a lovely amber, the Ray Hamilton (fig 1) and Batey, Britannia pictorial Hamilton (fig 2) and slightly later Ray Hamilton were all very welcome - In fact I doubted the age of the Ray Hamilton at first but looking at the lip and embossing and general crudeness, Olive could have been spot on with her date range of 1833-39!

Illustration of Ray, Greycoat Place Hamilton

Illustration of Ray, Greycoat Place Hamilton

The actual bottle!

The actual bottle!

The next out of the last crate were not as exciting, the the black 'Maugham's' GB with a man clubbing a lion tm looked like it would be a great bottle if the scratches were polished out, the others fairly plain. In fact the next five didn't excite me much either until I realised that the Barrett seltzer and Crystal Palace mineral were also featured in her book (figs 4 & 5)

Attractive Maugham's Black-glass ginger beer bottle

Attractive Maugham's Black-glass ginger beer bottle

3rd and 4th bottles from left are fig's 4 & 5 in book!

3rd and 4th bottles from left are fig's 4 & 5 in book!

Crystal Palace 'Champagne shape bottle' & Barret & Co 'Dump' bottle

Crystal Palace 'Champagne shape bottle' & Barret & Co 'Dump' bottle

Interestingly, this only left two possible bottles from Olive's illustrations (namely the Hayne's patent (fig 18) and the 'Codds 4 Lemon' (fig 8))

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CRATE C continued - The last 7 items to be unwrapped!

I believed there was a high chance the Hayne's patent could be amongst the final few, but many forum members suggested the Codds Lemon didn't exist and that the illustration was no doubt exaggerated. Well I was about to find out, or rather wait until the morning as it was already 1am and I had to be up early to get the kids to school! - I left all seven remaining bottles in the crate and hid it away from the kids

The final seven as I left them overnight

The final seven as I left them overnight

What are they going to be?!

What are they going to be?!

The final seven unwrapped - what can you spot?!

The final seven unwrapped - what can you spot?!

Next morning, after the school run I took all seven bottles and placed them in a line on the table. Many forum members asked if I had been tempted to have a sneaky look, but no, I wanted to share the suspense with everyone! And here they all are unwrapped.........

#1) Schweppes Hamilton

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#2) Early black 'H.H.Ricketts, Bristol' ale bottle

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#3) Sick Schweppes 10oz Hamilton

Fairly cloudy 10oz Schweppes Hamilton

Fairly cloudy 10oz Schweppes Hamilton

#4) An unusual shaped Codd bottle

Very unusual 'Haynes, Portobello' with 'lozenge' stopper (also featured in book)

Very unusual 'Haynes, Portobello' with 'lozenge' stopper (also featured in book)

#5) The 10oz Haynes patent Codd! (fig 18)

Very unusual 'Haynes, Portobello' with 'lozenge' stopper (also featured in book)

Very unusual 'Haynes, Portobello' with 'lozenge' stopper (also featured in book)

#6) 'Clayton's, Pimlico' 10oz Hamilton (lovely condition!)

'Clayton Bros, Pimlico' 6oz Hamilton

'Clayton Bros, Pimlico' 6oz Hamilton

#7) 'Mayo, London' 10oz hamilton (slightly hazy)

Mayo, London' 10oz hamilton

Mayo, London' 10oz hamilton

A few eagle-eyed members spotted #4) before I even posted a photo!
Yes, at last, it was the elusive 'Codd 4 Lemon' !!.......

One of the last bottles to be revealed!!

One of the last bottles to be revealed!!

This really did shock me. I was beginning to doubt it when I was down to the final seven, but here it was in all its glory. Many Codd specialists never thought they'd see the day when this legendary bottle emerged!
I'm even pinching myself now to think that these bottles have been locked away for the best part of 40 years in an old wooden display cabinet and have only just been recovered. Richard admitted himself that there was a time he was tempted to sell them at Covent Garden on his stall where sells the odd few bits every so often. It also just goes to show how many bottles are out there waiting to be discovered!!
Many experts who have since handled the Lemon Codd are convinced it was a prototype and although ingenious in that the marble runs smoothly to the top, for purposes of cleaning it would have been useless, which is the reason it never went into production!

Very unusual retaining lugs - Just like the drawings in book!

Very unusual retaining lugs - Just like the drawings in book!

Stunning condition - as good as the day it was made!

Stunning condition - as good as the day it was made!

Unfortunately soon after Olive passed away, all the records she kept were inadvertently thrown away, so we may never find out where she obtained these bottles from. And if anything they pose more questions than they answer. But I've had a privileged opportunity here - (thanks somewhat absurdly to me marrying into my wife's family of pioneering Codd-bottle fanatics !) - Without doubt Olive had great taste in decent mineral water bottles and for her to have kept them for 40 years is quite miraculous! - Richard stated that his mum didn't really enjoy writing this article, but Olive undoubtedly must have had a passion for bottles. One of her other loves was pottery teapots and tankards and Richard remembered enjoying mudlarking on the Thames with her  (mainly around the foreshore of Battersea and Wapping) in the '60's and '70's and them finding many bottles - The illustrations in the book  were expertly undertaken by Richard's brother-in-law Peter Baldock  (who he thinks was a commercial artist) - one thing is for sure, he was very accurate with the scale and intricacies of embossing etc. - Richard also imparted that it wasn't that long ago that he considered selling all the bottles for just a few pounds each on his bric-a-brac stall at Covent Garden!

Five great bottles! (photo taken a few hours after they were unwrapped)

Five great bottles! (photo taken a few hours after they were unwrapped)

14 of the best from Olive's collection - All to feature in the first 'AA Auctions' online auction in March/April 2015

14 of the best from Olive's collection - All to feature in the first 'AA Auctions' online auction in March/April 2015

The very best of all these bottles will be available to bid for in auction (March/April 2015) - 'AA Auctions Ltd' a brand new and exciting UK-based online absentee auction (www.AAAuctionsLtd.com) and will be advertised in all major bottle mags, various UK shows and forums etc. - Full details of how to register included on this web-site - Plus, details available from alan@coddswallop.com