Today I have been looking at the pieces of broken glass from Margate main sands that I have picked up this year and from last year. Throughout this summer and like the previous summer, for some unexplained reason the tide uncovered an abundance of old glass on certain areas of the wet sand. The glass even though it looked unsightly and threatening was totally inert and blunted. Most of the glass in general was this worn smooth green aqua glass often found on most old beaches along with worn broken bases of wine and ale bottles. Amongst the glass there were many bottle necks with many hand finishing styles from different time periods. After a thorough examination I discarded most of the glass at the local bottle bank keeping only the hand finished bottlenecks for dating.
Dating bottles is always a tricky subject as styles did not change overnight and many bottle makers often kept to the techniques they were apprenticed to. In manufacturing glass bottles there were three great leap forwards in manufacturing from the 1600’s to the dawn of the 20th century. There was the production method of changing from wood fires to coal fires allowing the use of a greater furnace temperature allowing the use of thicker glass, there was the use of mould and the innovation that came with it and finally mechanisation. Also in each case this led to many design changes.
I started researching bottle neck finishing styles from around the 1730’s period onwards as 1735 is the date considered to be when Margate started as a seaside resort. It seem as a bit of a coincidence but 1735 is also the year when it was considered that English wine and ale bottles finally became cylindrical as a opposed to the previously free blown onion shape. However, the “string rim” remained, with the more flattened string rim being the older which is shown quite clearly in the photograph of some onion bottles I took at the Hastings shipwreck heritage museum. The broader and thicker glass string rim “V” is dated 1790’s to 1820’s. From the 1820’s to 1890’s a more broader and clean cut string rim then appeared on most corked bottles.