Thursday, 12 January 2012

Margate sea defence works - what to lookout for

Peoples habits never change and one habit in particular of drinking from a bottle and throwing it in Margate Harbour is something that I am sure that has gone on for two hundred years or more and will never change. There is also further evidence of this practice along the main sands by the abundance of the shards of green glass, worn smooth by the sea and sand accompanied by pieces of earthenware that can be found after every tide.
Between Margate harbour and the main sands there is this boundary where the shifting sands end and the silt of the harbour begins where everything that is found in the silted area has suffered less for the abrasive elements of the main sands. So there is every possibility that glass or earthenware bottles from the Victorian era will be found, complete or partially complete. The chances are the find will be something produced by the big three Margate mineral water companies of M J Harlow, Barret & Co or Reeve & Co or even a Cobbs brewery find. Then on the other hand the find could be something brought down from London on a paddle steamer of which there is plenty of evidence of that, judging by previous finds. However there is one prize or trophy I am hoping to find and that is something produced by a small independent trader or back street producer of mineral water, ginger beer and ale.
During the heyday of Victorian and Edwardian tourism and the high volume of visitor numbers there was every plenty of business opportunity to sell thirst quenching beverage on a hot summers day. Even with the iron grip of the big three mineral water companies on the market and the dominance of the Cobbs Margate brewery many small producers sprang up in Margate and Thanet in general with Ramsgate having the most. Even Chemists got in on the game and one chemist in particular, a Edwin Bing of Canterbury became so successful he gave up being a chemist producing mineral water in the back room of his shop and went onto to run a successful mineral water company. Not all of the small producers were as successful, even though they made money the pressure from the big three meant that many only lasted a few years which makes finding their bottles that more interesting. For example a George Kirby of 2 Church Street Margate was a baker and in 1897 produced his own mineral water to sell in his shop in earthenware bottles bearing his name , by 1900 he ceased production and concentrated purely on baking. Only fragments of George Kirby bottles are known to exist.
As we all well know, size does not mean anything and some of the earlier bottles produced by the Cobbs Margate brewery are really scarce which was more due to the strict accounting regime of the bottles by Cobbs than anything else , even a find of a broken remain of a early bottle would be a result.
At present due to the pace of the sea defence works it still is a case watching and waiting as things unfold. Since the end of the summer I have been picking my way through the harbour and main sands picking up anything of interest with a fanaticism only surpassed by the Taliban.
So what is the tally so far?
Taking into consideration earlier finds, the oldest glass find is about 1790's and I am gradually piecing together something that is representative of every decade from the 1790's which is one hell of a task. I also have a growing collection of bottle stoppers including a internal stopper from a 1880's bottle. So far it does not look impressive but once I have a mass of items it will look good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You mention small mineral water .producers. Have you heard of Wallace Henry Wintle manufacturing mineral water in Margate area in and around 1904-1920?