a bottle digging tale

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Kenleyboy
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Seeing as there is a bottle digging section added to this esteemed forum , I am afraid I could not resist the temptation to put finger tip to keyboard and have a little write up about a subject very close to my heart . Depending on my mood it wavers in popularity alongside my metal detecting . Both hobbies bring me a great sense of satisfaction , it is about the "hunt" so to speak , whats in the hole or the clod , the anticipation coupled with the good and bad . It is a bit like being a kid at Christmas , hastily unwrapping that gift in excitable fever of what will soon be revealed beyond the cloak of disguise .
Mud , glorious mud what treasure lies within the compact soil while fingertips feverishly pick away to reveal whatever the coil of the detector has located after emitting a sound proof signal , the justified elation holds no bounds when the soil is gradually pulled apart to reveal an ancient hammered coin exposed to the outside world for the first time in hundreds of years , there is nothing quite like it . It isn't always like this though , most of the time its the dreaded ring pull or shotgun cartridge , finds wise there are far more lows than highs . It is by and large a lonesome hobby and the weather is generally against us , too hot with ground like concrete making digging an arduous affair , or more commonly wet , muddy and of course slippery .
By comparison , bottle digging is similar in many ways albeit a little more strenuous as far as digging holes in the ground , probably more like craters like this one !
ladder , hole and spades .jpg
Thinking a little more deeply about both hobbies research is key , a good eye to read the land , past historical activities and human habitation , trying to work out if you were in their shoes where would you dump that ancient rubbish or which path is the easiest to take while on route or a place to stop and rest . All these factors play a roll in our quest for success or failure but it is an integral part of the hobby if you want to increase your chances of actually finding something good .
Walking or more like slipping and sliding around a wet and muddy acreage is pretty strenuous with the added task of trying to stay upright whilst swinging a metal detector left and right as you walk . Digging signals whilst sweating or soaking wet , muddy boots and muddy everything , do that for a few hours and it takes it out of you for sure .
With bottle digging you are not constantly on the walk but you are digging and dig you must , sometimes very deep to get to the good stuff but once again disappointments hold no bounds and of course the weather . Too hot and it slows you down ., plenty of water is key , dehydrate and then you are in trouble . If it rains then you do not have the luxury of waterproofs to keep you dry , once you are shifting spoil its T-shirt time even in the Winter , but you stay warm , sit down for a cuppa and a break and very soon you feel the bite of the cold so a big hefty winter coat is always on stand by .
I do get asked why and true , its not for everyone but for me it is a number of factors that draws my interest into an era that has long passed but were so inventive , a golden age of arts and crafts and design exploited by the Victorians . Up until ten years ago my job was creating exact copies of Victorian etched glass either as restoration pieces or for the revival of the Victorian style pubs or original buildings given a new lease of life so glass in all its splendour once worked upon has always held a fascination for me . Victorian bottles carried with them heavily embossed designs and typeface , eye catching advertising was key to success or failure in what was then a very competitive world of marketing their goods for the Victorian household , pub or restaurant . Being personally involved in part of a bygone arts and crafts trade using the exact same skills employed at that time was interesting and allowed me to participate in what is now classed as a dead trade never to be revived again .
The other factor is of course the history , finding and saving items from our past to enjoy but as in all these things we are but just mere custodians . My son often jokes that when I am gone he will crush my stoneware bottles and flagons and use them for hardcore on his drive ! perish the thought !
As in metal detecting there are always disappointments but every now and again we are blessed with the fruits of out labour and flor me one bucket lister was this little minty rare ink bottle which after toiling in a very deep hole was my saving grace as far as finding anything of note .
blue rare ink on shovel.jpg
blue rare ink on shovel.jpg (12.72 KiB) Viewed 1018 times
Being an artist then of course any artist related bottles become a passion and this is one part of the collecting field that I do enjoy and two notable companies stallion existence today are Winsor and Newton and their counterparts , George Rowney , both suppliers of artists materials around the world .
Rowneys produced some neat little stoneware flagons such as these , with the smallest standing at just 5 inches tall , simple elegant designs with the company name impressed into the wet clay prior to kiln firing .
rowney artists flagons.jpg
Winsor and Newtons , probably the more famous of the two were local to me and I used their materials from a young age but these little bottles go way back , still intact with original labels , how they survive all this time is beyond me but thankfully they do .
winsor and newton bottles.jpg
Over indulgence or the accumulation of such goods can get out of hand and despite crates of bottles dug over the years out of sight and tucked away in a shed , they were not out of mind . It is hard but you have to be strict or at least I have to take this approach . I don't like too much clutter what I like I keep but in a relative tidy manner on a small scale . Every time I enter the shed I was faced with crates full of bottles , memories of days past digging adventures but they were doubles , triples etc , some nice bsgtuff but pointless keeping it all , it was boring on hoarding so with a deep breath and a sigh of relief I called a contact who came over and took the lot , crate and all . I was happy , a few pound notes in the pocket and the relief of seeing what I classed as a mini burden now gone for good , what to do with an empty shed , fill kit back up no doubt .
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Oxgirl
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Superb write up KB. There’s an old Victorian tip behind a friend’s old brick shed I was offered a couple of years ago which I looked horrified about. You’ve made me rethink that. Although maybe when the weather is a bit cooler!

Love to know more :D
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Blackadder43
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My goodness there was so much i wanted to quote from your post, but i settled on this simple thing, which is often overlooked when researching an area or looking at your fields...
trying to work out if you were in their shoes where would you dump that ancient rubbish or which path is the easiest to take while on route or a place to stop and rest .
I do this, probably to the point of obsessional, but on one of my permissions i have located the possible route of a path linking 2 small villages, just by looking and thinking like someone a few hundred years back that needed to get to the next village...

The 2 hobbys are very similar, yet worlds apart, but its briiliant to get such a good insight into your other hobby :thumbsup:
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Quote Bruce ,..." My goodness there was so much i wanted to quote from your post,"

Ah! me too ,so I settled for two points, One is it has to be , " our love of History " and the second I noticed was, the thrill of the " what is it I`ve found" feeling upon every find, which can be exciting with a quick accelleration into euphoria ,but, can often turn just as quickly to defation. All emotions can be found in both hobbies Its clear .
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shaggybfc
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With digging skills like that, have you considered being a grave digger? :lol: :lol:
Great story
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That's real dedication and patience and judging by the photos it's been well worth the effort! :thumbsup:
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Susie F
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Kenleyboy....thank you for posting this. Looking forward to reading more from you.
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figgis
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Aye, a belter of a post, that man :thumbsup:

You might even be converting me :shock:
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Littleboot
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Terrific write-up. As usual. Such lovely examples too. What is the oldest bottle /jar you have found in a hole? I expect most are Edwardian/Victorian but do older things pop up as well? onion bottles for example?
I have seen some bottle dumps local to me in France...belonging to farmhouses which were occupied from the 16th to the mid-20th centuries.
I have had a bit of a thrash about in them and rescued a few bits and bobs...but I am too scared, and too lazy to go beyond that.
We have a bottle dump in our field as well, which I discovered metal detecting. I keep meaning to explore it a tad but don't want to dig a crater in the meadow. This all comes over as excuses, doesn't it? :lol:
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Kenleyboy
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Oxgirl wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 12:30 am Superb write up KB. There’s an old Victorian tip behind a friend’s old brick shed I was offered a couple of years ago which I looked horrified about. You’ve made me rethink that. Although maybe when the weather is a bit cooler!

Love to know more :D
Small tips like that are dream finds . Not usually deep , a few feet at most and if the house was grand back in the day then there should be some choice items . If it is estate workers cottages or similar then the pickings will not be as fruitful but still worth a go as there is usually a gem or two even in the poorest of households .
Dig a little test hole , doesn't have to be deep , couple of feet square , you should start finding bits of crockery and glass , if you do then dig away . Usually these little tips will go down as far as the clay bed , couple of feet down at most . Sounds exciting and well worth a go .
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A great informative read Paul. If I think that it could be a hammy in the lump then I take my time to reveal it, the pleasure of anticipation of what might be. :thumbsup:
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Kenleyboy
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Littleboot wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 11:49 am Terrific write-up. As usual. Such lovely examples too. What is the oldest bottle /jar you have found in a hole? I expect most are Edwardian/Victorian but do older things pop up as well? onion bottles for example?
I have seen some bottle dumps local to me in France...belonging to farmhouses which were occupied from the 16th to the mid-20th centuries.
I have had a bit of a thrash about in them and rescued a few bits and bobs...but I am too scared, and too lazy to go beyond that.
We have a bottle dump in our field as well, which I discovered metal detecting. I keep meaning to explore it a tad but don't want to dig a crater in the meadow. This all comes over as excuses, doesn't it? :lol:
Thankyou for your kind words Littleboot :thumbsup: Most bottles are Victorian and the earliest intact bottle found was dated 1880 . I have found bits of onion bottles but never a full one , so a bucket lister for me . The oldest item I have ever found was this ring circa 1860 . I would have expected if I was to find a ring it would have been while metal detecting but this little gem was about 8 feet down right in the bottom of the hole ! How I managed to spot it to this day I will never know . It was in the spoil and I was raking through ready to scoop up and chuck out and there it was , a little grubby but shining away . My mate was laying flat down with his head over the pit talking to me and then his eyes bulged like ping pong balls when I picked it out of the muck , I got called some choice names that morning . Five diamonds intact in the bridge , all genuine . I imagine someone received a hefty Victorian backhander for chucking it out back in the day .
gold ring and poison bottle .jpg
If I was in your shoes I would certainly have a rummage especially if there is a chance of an onion bottle and I know its not about the money but they fetch a tidy sum if in good condition . A couple of years ago my digging buddy found a pretty little bottle and sold it for £800 !! As he quite rightly said , he didn't want something worth that sort of money and being so fragile sitting on his shelf through fear of breaking it . It is rare to find a bottle worth that sort of money and we are not in it for the monetary side of the hobby but every now and again fortune smiles .
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Kenleyboy wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 11:54 am Small tips like that are dream finds . Not usually deep , a few feet at most and if the house was grand back in the day then there should be some choice items . If it is estate workers cottages or similar then the pickings will not be as fruitful but still worth a go as there is usually a gem or two even in the poorest of households .
Dig a little test hole , doesn't have to be deep , couple of feet square , you should start finding bits of crockery and glass , if you do then dig away . Usually these little tips will go down as far as the clay bed , couple of feet down at most . Sounds exciting and well worth a go .
It’s just behind the shed of a converted barn that belonged to the posh house directly opposite. I shall take a look this autumn winter. If it looks good you can come and help dig, errrr I mean advise :D
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Kenleyboy
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Oxgirl wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 12:20 pm It’s just behind the shed of a converted barn that belonged to the posh house directly opposite. I shall take a look this autumn winter. If it looks good you can come and help dig, errrr I mean advise :D
Spade , Fork and bottle probe at the ready :thumbsup: Just give me the nod and I am on my way !
If it belonged to the posh gaff and depending on the date of the property , there is a seriously good chance of finding the ever yearned for onion bottle .
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Kenleyboy
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shaggybfc wrote: Sun Jul 19, 2020 8:52 am With digging skills like that, have you considered being a grave digger? :lol: :lol:
Great story
:lol:
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