Recently I brought a salt glaze earthenware bottle from a shop in Broadstairs it is impressed Bathgates Soda Water and has the 1817 to 1834 duty mark. The bottle had come off the sea bed at Broadstairs and this was evident as parts of the salt glaze had been affected by its time on the sea bed. But other than that the bottle was in very good condition.
I was attracted to the bottle because it carried the 1817 to 1834 earthenware duty mark and also in June this year I found an earthenware bottle of identical same shape and size in Margate Harbour.
My first piece of research on the internet was to establish who Bathgates was. On a bottle diggers website I was surprised to find that Bathgate & Co were chemists in Calcutta India who produced soda water, possibly linking the bottle to English East India Company origins considering the bottle was found at sea. On the same link another bottle of the shape and size found in the Thames was featured having a striking similarity to the two bottles I own.
The bottle on the link is unique because it is one of the oldest dated soda water bottles in the country dated as 1802 to 1805. This is identified by the details impressed on the bottle and backed up by research.
It is the detail on the 1802 to 1805 bottle that has now put me on a new lead on my Margate finds because it is impressed with the abbreviation M W which I would assume would mean mineral water. In fact M W at the early part of the 1800’s meant Mephitic Water and not Mineral Water something I have always assumed when picking up earthenware shards. During the underpinning of the stone pier at Margate I picked up every single earthenware shard that was uncovered by the deep digging and I still have them. So I am now going through them working to a theory that there is every possibility that buried in Margate harbour there is evidence of the oldest dated mineral water bottles in the country.
In 1767 scientist Joseph Priestly invented soda water and published his findings in 1772. From that date there were many modifications to his invention and eventually put to commercial use. In 1792 J.J. Schweppe set up a company in London to manufacture and sell soda water. London Chemists even manufactured soda water for retail. All manufacturers did have one thing in common and that was that all soda water products were sold in earthenware bottles due to the volatile nature of soda water.
During that time period Margate was a visitor destination for the Thames sailing hoys and then in later years was the first commercial routes for paddle steamers. Now considering that most of oldest salt glaze mineral water bottles in the country have been found in the Thames which is an embarkation point. Then what are the odds that Margate Harbour being a destination point could have the same dated bottles drank on the journey buried deep in the Margate Harbour like in the Thames
At present I have one bottle found in Margate Harbour of the design of that period but it is cannot be accurately dated. So at present my only chance I have of putting this theory to the test is by the examination of the shards I have and the ones I keep finding. Unless I am lucky enough to find a complete impressed bottle.