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Don't Forget To Put The Bin Out!
Twenty five years ago whilst as a boy playing on the former railway tip on Lock Lane at Sawley, I discovered amongst the boiler ash, sleepers and rubble something that changed my life, half buried in the 1920's debris lay a glass lemonade bottle, but of a type I had never seem before. This bottle had a strange shaped neck, its owners name embossed in large letters on the side, and on closer inspection a glass marble trapped in its lip. At the age of thirteen the desire to line it up and throw stones at it was suppressed, I took it home and to my parents dismay began to search for more of these weird and wonderful bottles. Within a few months I had amassed quite a collection. Bottles for sauces and pickles, beers from firms which had been long forgotten. Stoneware ginger beer bottles from seaside resorts like Cromer and Blackpool. Shades of green, brown and blue. Captivated by their charm two decades on, my weekends are still taken up by this quest. Spending many days researching I locate and gain permission to excavate the Victorian and Edwardian refuse tips lying buried, untouched for generations. This is the story of Long Eaton's Buried legacy, and the items from the town which have found the light of day, a century after they were disposed.
On the 16th April 1875 Long Eaton held the first meeting of the newly formed Local Board in the Headmasters study of the Board school situated where Bacons shoe shop now is. Two councillors, Mr Ernest Ridgeway, appointed Inspector of Nuisances and Joseph Butler, Medical Officer of Health. Long Eaton's Board met fortnightly, its remit was to carry out all aspects of local government financed by local rates. It endeavored to bring about reform of the town's infrastructure, sewers, roads and health. In 1885 the board appointed Anthony B Chambers as its Medical Officer of Health, his draft to report and action on the causes and prevention of ill health within the local population. In particular the eradication of foul sewers, communal wet middens and the removal and disposal of household refuse.
Prior to 1885 Long Eaton had poor sanitary conditions. Chambers reported that 365 communal ashpits were present. These cesspits were commonplace amongst the early Victorian slums. Emptied only periodically (if at all) they were constantly overflowing. Indeed many local watercourses such as the Golden Brook (not very golden in 1885) were stinking and drains contaminated by sewage. The only solution was to dispose of sewage in farmers fields, to be ploughed in as a form of fertilizer. This task was carried out at night by the council's workmen, a large cart with soft rubber wheels was employed. The workmen became known as the "nightsoilmen". By 1900 the introduction of flushing water closets and the building of the sewage treatment works (now Grange Park) had reduced wet middens down to 30.
The next agenda was the disposal of refuse. Prior to 1885 rubbish was dumped into any convenient hole in the ground, or mixed in with the nightsoil to suppress smell. The main content of late Victorian garbage was ashes from the cooking ranges and fireplaces, hence the name "dustbins" given to the refuse receptacles. Chambers appointed a regular collection of refuse by late 1886. The first site selected was close to the town centre on the site latterly occupied by Clayes' Wagon Works, now Manor House Road. A sorting yard, now the fire station yard, was allotted to filter the refuse. Useable items such as rubble and cinders were to be recovered and used for road ballast. Indeed the casual observer may notice particularly when road works on Tamworth Road and Derby Road Bridge are carried out the large amounts of broken crockery, bricks and ashes disturbed by excavation.
For the disposal of the household refuse a site was selected on the south western side of Long Eaton. During the construction of the lace mills large deposits of clay were excavated to provide bricks, indeed a large brickworks had been operating on land adjacent to Manchester Street. When it ceased operation in 1884 it had already been earmarked for landfill and the Local Board purchased the land and proceeded to level the site (which in places exceeded 8 feet deep) so large was the hole that it took seven years to fill. By 1895 the site was full, an overspill site was also being utilised on marshland belonging to the Midland Railway, now forming the junction of Bosworth Way and Fields Farm Road. Chambers reported this in the 1895 "Report of the Medical Officer of Health" (Long Eaton Library reference section) stating "disposal of refuse at the Brickfields site is now complete, the council is now conveying refuse to the sewage works where it is sorted by the council's workmen and is burned in the open."
The sewage works on Tithe Barn Lane became the central depot for disposal for another 30 years. Indeed the large embankment formed when disposal finished is still visible today, and forms the foundation for the whole of Grange Park including the Long Eaton United football ground and adjacent pitches. Dumping was aided in 1919 when the council purchased an Eddison 3 Ton Electric Tipping Lorry. As was common practice both sites were levelled and capped with soil, as a result its vast treasure of bottles, pots and other artefacts remained forgotten, untouched until the late 1970's when the bottle hunters arrived.
In the late 1970's the bottle hunting craze struck Long Eaton, and, much to the annoyance of the respective landowners, fuelled by the prices being sought to collectors, a Klondike type gold rush of dump diggers arrived, and just dug, without permission on the sites resulting in them becoming inaccessible. Luckily three years ago I obtained permission from Mr Hemsley, owner of the land that once formed the Brickfield site to excavate and catalogue the only remaining undeveloped part of the dump. Digging by hand I comprehensively dug through the site to a depth of six feet, recording artefacts as I discovered them. This gave me a comprehensive cross section of what Victorian Long Eaton ate, drank, and took for their ills, by the bottles and jars that contained them.
Excavation Of A Victorian Dump
It was quite obvious from the start of the excavation that Chambers had been very efficient in his policy of removing useful hardcore and rubble for road ballast. The bottom two feet of the site to its clay base was one solid compressed mass of bottles, tins and non salvageable refuse. All I had to do was excavate the top three feet which contained very little complete artefacts and the rake through the bottom seam of debris. I had not before encountered items which had survived to such a state of preservation in a 19th century dump. Coconut shells, egg shells, rubber balls still soft, a wooden sewing box, still containing bobbins of black cotton, rusted steel needles still pressed into the reel, some Victorian gentleman's headwear trapped between two decaying dustbins and a felt hat with a yellow ribbon and feather, last worn back in 1890.
As is commonplace with most dumps of its type 70% of the bottles like today were non returnable, Camp Coffee, Gartons HP sauce, Lee & Perrins, E.T.Pinks jams, Masons Extracts and Woodwards Gripe Water, once emptied were tossed into the bin, destined for the Brickfields, and were so numerous that many dozens of such would be found in a days diggings. The first bottle to be found with a Long Eaton connection was a small bottle for "Gelsthorpes Celebrated Gripe Water". Jimmy Gelsthorpe had two chemist shops in Long Eaton, Derby Road and High Street, he was noted as a very versatile Chemist offering Dentistry, optical and veterinary services, as well as prescriptions and his own brands of embrocation, ointment and soda waters. Jimmy Gelsthorpe retired in the late 1930's. His shop still run by Jack Brittons until recently.
Long Eaton had in 1895 five manufacturers of sparkling Mineral Waters. It took very little to set up in business, there was a vast number of glass bottle manufacturers churning out millions of bottles to special orders, the most common bottle of its type was the "codd bottle", this bottle invented in 1872 was THE bottle for fizzy drinks. It was a simple idea, captive within the neck was a glass marble, the lip was of smaller diameter than the marble and held a soft india rubber ring, when filled (up-side down) the marble rolled into the lip, the gas pressure of the lemonade holding it firm providing a stopper. It required no corking and could be rapidly filled, it was opened by a small wooden cap to press down the marble and release the pressure. It was however very attractive to small boys who broke them for the marble.
The largest "pop" manufacturer in Long Eaton was W.Wright, Mineral Water Mfr. Whose factory was to be found on Orchard St. His bottles were plentiful, but mainly broken, what made his bottles special was the different colour blue lip, designed as an anti theft device to prevent other companies using his bottles simply by adding a paper label (it was commonplace for companies to use bottles belonging to rival firms, it took a mineral water manufacturer 5 times to fill and resell his wares before he recovered the price of the purchasing his stock of bottles, a colour lip made his stock easily identified). I had only located one such example in my 17 years of collecting. On the Brickfields I was to find 13 in four weeks! Wright sold his business to William J Hopps in about 1894. Hopps expanded the firm, bottling stouts, ginger beer and sodas. Hopps continued to utilise the bottles left by Wrights, indeed he carried on the blue lipped theme to his codd bottles until the turn of the century. His bottles were plentiful, always recognisable when sticking out of the side of the hole you had dug, by the WJH embossed on the bottom of the bottle. Hopps continued to trade until the early part of the 20th century.
Contemporary to Hopps, were Dalgliesh & Sons, their factory stood on the junction of Manchester St & Nelson St, Dalgliesh's bottles had a distinctive NER VON trade mark and an embossed logo. Dalgliesh traded until about 1935. Other mineral water firms also were to be found from the town. J H Bodsworth, Frank Mann and The White Cross Works, all bottles embossed with their respective company name and LONG EATON, were to be found amongst the tippings.
Chemist's bottles too were to be found in quantity, particularly baby feeding bottles, all the main chemists in Long Eaton had their own branded examples. George Start of Derby Road, Marshall Chemists' and Gelsthorpes examples were found, however mostly damaged due to their thin glass. Marshalls other brand items were prolific, Cough Balsams, Linaments and emulsions. It is worth noting that before 1900 doctors were too expensive for the average family, residents turned to the local chemist for advice, indeed they vended medicines to a very gullible public and bar a few trusted formulas had no regulatory bodies hence most of the concoctions contained nothing but salicylic acid, colour and alcohol. The biggest "quack" of the time was HH Warner who marketed his "safe cure" cure-all world wide. Originating in the U.S.A, Warner made millions out of his vast claims and testimonies, bottled in an attractive brown flask with a large safe as a trade mark. He traded for 30 years until he was exposed, his brew - Alcohol, water and a little potassium. Long Eaton was one town eager for his wares!
Amongst the day to day items were found bar top matchstrikers from Josiah Brown and "La Trente" cigars. We found a broken vanity mirror, Drennans "New Globe Teashop", but the most remarkable find being a red plastic shoe horn, E Pearce, Boot and Shoe maker, Market Place Long Eaton, it had the calendar for 1892 on it.
Marshalls Beeches Brewery was the only commercial brewer in the town but only fragmentary evidence of a Marshall bottle exists, originating from the Brickfields. However individual landlords did vend beers and spirits, in particular a fine small spirit flask was found embossed A.Mould, Turks Head, Long Eaton, this small quarter pint pocket flask was one of only two such examples known, both being found by myself (I have been unable to trace Mould in any of the Directories of the time). Another one off item was a stoneware porter bottle impressed, T. Longden, Long Eaton. I can only assume that Longden was part of the Wallis & Longden lace machine producers of the town, possibly the bottle contained machine oil?
As with any good thing my excavations of the Brickfield site came to an end in 1997. I had re-opened a time capsule of my home town. Names like W J Hopps, Starts and Longdens, were remembered from the artefacts that once were just a piece of everyday life. By 1930 many of these names had become forgotten. Starts sold to Boots, his shop now Long Eaton Paints on Derby Rd. W J Hopps faded into history, unable to compete with national brands, Marshalls brewery closed, Wilkos' store standing on its site. Others like Jimmy Gelsthorpe held on, his recipe for Gripe water is still dispensed by Britttons. A pity that his old shop is now an eyesore, a gaudy amusement arcade!, but with the passage of time, small parts of Long Eaton's buried legacy will be unearthed. The huge dump at Grange Park has only periodically been exposed, perhaps in the next few decades this too will uncover some of its secrets, expect me to be there!!
Long Eaton And Sawley Artefacts Excavated.
Hopps, W. J. - Mineral Water Manufacturer
Mann, F. - Mineral Water Manufacturer
Bodsworth, J. H. - Mineral Water Manufacturer (also station master M.R.)
Start, G. - Chemist
Gelsthorpe, F.J. - Chemist
Marshall, J. - Chemist
Mould, A. - Turks Head
Barber, F.N. - Sawley
Interesting And Broken Items Of Note
Both the article and photographs were kindly provided by Neil Aspinshaw