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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Digging up history

OLD bottles have taken Millom’s Duane Farren on a 35-year voyage of discovery to find out more on the firms which once supplied us with beer, pop and anything else which could be put in a bottle or jar.

Mr Farren, of Wellington Street, uses maps, historical research and local knowledge to track down places which might have been used to tip household waste decades ago.

Today all that is left is the durable items, glass, pot and metal. And while most of the Victorian and Edwardian bottles and pots and broken there are enough intact ones to build up a significant collection.

Mr Farren has been able to negotiate access with a number of landowners to seek bottles – often at considerable depth – and leave the site clean and tidy.

His bottles are one of the few physical reminders of long-lost Millom bottling firms such as Fawcett, Carters and Clark.

It has taken a lot of effort to build up the collection but essentially it is a free hobby.

He said: “It has cost me nothing but time.”

The vast majority of bottles found on long abandoned tips have no great commercial value but there can be exceptions.

Many people have examples of a clear glass bottle from Furness pop makers Thompson showing a ‘Dandy man’ design.

While the glass versions are around £8 to £10 one in stoneware pottery would be at least £400.

Relatively common bottle designs can also have amazing price tags when they were made in a rare colour.

Up to £10,000 has been paid for examples with marbles in the neck – called Codd bottles – produced in blue glass.

He said: “My hobby has led me to learn a lot about the local makers of pop and beer.

“It is unusual for such a small town to have so many outlets.”

Most items found in tips – from pop and medicine bottles to hair grease jars and their pot lids – are local or from national branded suppliers. However, Mr Farren came across one bottle which made its way to Millom from Ruthin in North Wales.

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