Hodnet’s Bottle/Packaging Past

Nowadays we are used to single use throwaway packaging, and in particular disposable plastic drinks containers and glass bottles which are largely featureless and un-branded. Not so many years ago plastic packaging was scarce and most glass bottles were recycled – via payment/refund of a small deposit on each bottle.

Going back to Victorian/Edwardian times, the range of non-perishable packaging material used was quite narrow [mainly glass, pottery and metal tins] but the design/branding and type of markings used upon them were much more varied than is found today. Apart from a few early national brands such as ‘Boots Cash Chemists’ or ‘J Sainsbury’s’, most packaging was provided by local shops/suppliers who had their own branded containers – often to help identify them for easy return/refilling.

It was this variation in form and design that led to a large collectors scene emerging in the 1970/80’s, when many people realised that their forebears often didn’t return packaging for a deposit – with much of it being thrown away into old rubbish tips located all over the country. Digging in these tips produced many rewarding finds, but in recent years most such tips have either been dug out or built on; so that nowadays ‘new finds’ only tend to appear when an old cellar or shed is cleared, or an earlier collector’s collection is sold off.

Hodnet Bear Inn Flagon

A few years ago a previously unknown example of a branded container from Hodnet appeared at a local auction and was acquired by a collector known to the writer.

This ‘flagon’ is impressed with the mark ‘J Foulkes. Bear Inn. Hodnet. A records search shows a John Foulkes, ex agricultural labourer, was the tenant landlord at the Bear Inn in 1884 but by 1900 was listed in the Census as ‘retired landlord’ – all helping to date this container quite accurately. It probably contained ale or ginger beer.

I am aware of only two other Hodnet ‘branded’ bottles

1/ Is this ‘J Walmsley, Surgeon, Hodnet’ medicine bottle.

J Walmsley- Surgeon - Hodnet

A few years after posting this article another such bottle was found by a resident in Hopton, and a picture sent to Claire Lockley on the Hodnet Parish Magazine. She undertook a lot of research, and a precis of it was published, as below. Her full research, showing as it does how far travelled were some families at that time, both at home or in the Empire, might interest many people.

John Walmsley was born on 4th January 1795 in Wellington to parents Samuel and Sarah (neé Taylor) Walmsley.  Samuel was an ironmonger.  John married Mary Allen on 8th October 1822 at Holy Trinity Church, Uffington.  During their marriage they had ten children, the first two John Allen and William were born in Much Wenlock, but the remaining eight were born in Hodnet.  At the time of the 1841 census the family were living in Hodnet and John was described as a surgeon.  By 1851, John and Mary had moved to Malloon, West Felton where John was described as a General Practitioner.  John and Mary’s eldest son John Allen Walmsley qualified in 1844 as an MRCS and LCA and he and his father went into partnership as Surgeons, Apothecaries and Accoucheurs (male midwives).  On 24th June 1848 this partnership was dissolved and this is most likely the time that John senior moved to West Felton.  John Allen Walmsley married Mary Heatley on 30th August 1848 in St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Wem.  At the time of the 1851 census John Allen and Mary were living in Hodnet and he was described as General Practitioner and Coroner.” 

Note. The bottle pictured, from its style/type of embossed lettering, probably dates to the early part of his practice years.

“He had taken over as coroner for Bradford North District following the death of Mr Joseph Dicken of Wollerton in 1849.   During their marriage, John Allen and Mary had five children – Allen John 1849-1858, Mary Elizabeth 1851-1905, Eleanor Anne 1852-1911, Samuel James 1854-1877 and Charlotte Jane 1856-1856.  John Allen remained living in Hodnet at the time of the 1861 and 1871 census and the 1871 census describes him as a General Practitioner and Medicines.  John Allen died, aged just 54, on 12th August 1877 in Hodnet.  After his death, Mary, his widow, moved to Wollerton Bank where she remained until her death on 13th September 1900.”

2/ Is this flagon from Zum-Brunnen, who were a general grocer/stationer in Hodnet. This was up for sale in a local auction, but was unfortunately missed by the author!

If anyone has similar items from Hodnet or elsewhere – esp. Shropshire, that you’re looking for more information on/looking for a safe home for, I’d be pleased to hear from you.

Contact Richard Underwood – email