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Hodnet’s 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 used was quite narrow [mainly glass and pottery] but the design, branding and general variety was huge and, as well as some early national brands such as ‘Boots Cash Chemists’ or ‘J Sainsbury’s’, many local shops/suppliers had their own branded containers – all to help identify them for easy return and refilling.

It was this variation in form and design that led to a large collectors scene emerging, and which really took off in the 1970/80’s when many people realised that their forebears often didn’t return packaging for a deposit – much being thrown away into old rubbish tips located alll over the country.

Hodnet Bear Inn FlagonDigging 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.

Recently 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 one other Hodnet ‘branded’ bottle, and that is this J Walmsley, Surgeon, Hodnet medicine bottle.

J Walmsley- Surgeon - HodnetJohn Walmsley was listed as working as a doctor surgeon in Hodnet in 1841, and a John Allen Walmsley [maybe his son] was also a doctor who died later in the century. The style of this bottle and the single name all suggest the bottle comes from this earlier period.

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