Trimdon 1850-1920 , History from the rubbish dump,
by George Robson
In the early 1970’s , before I was married , I had the good fortune to lived with friends who owned the Victorian half of “the Grange” , the house that once belonged to the owner of the Trimdon Grange coal mine . The house had been divided and sold and I was living in the Victoria half , my neighbour and the present owner, Mr Jim Mcmanners still lives in the older 16th century half.
When it was the mine owners house, the older half with smaller rooms was used as the servants quarters, and the larger Victorian half was for the owners family .
The library of the Victorian half is reputed to be panelled with timbers from a ship , wrecked off Hartlepool. The stained glass windows back up this story as they show scenes of sailing ships.
From growing up as kid in the mid 50’s I had always wandered the fields and hedges and had often stumbled upon old and interesting pieces of pottery and bits of coloured glass bottles. I never did lose the magpie instinct, so when my future wife and I stumbled upon a few old bottles in a field one day, I began to collect them with serious intent. After doing some research I found the original rubbish dump from “The Grange” and the vicarage.
After the land owner kindly gave me permission to dig, and many hours of careful excavation, we had unearthed thousands of intact bottles and jars .
In the period 1850 –1920 the cheapest form of container for the growing number of store bought goods was hand blown glass or saltglazed pottery . With growing experience we noticed trends in the way that we uncovered “seams” of bottles and containers, which gave us a glimpse into the lives of the people long gone.
Patent cure medicine bottles , with names like Swamp Root kidney cure , Dr Kilmers electric oil , Warners Safe Cure , London and New York . Beer and Stout bottles from the dozens of breweries in the area, all with their own distinctive shape, colour and embossed glass or printed design .
There were honey pots, cream pots, jam and relish jars, tooth powder tubs, ink bottles and inkwells in all sizes and colours.
Other dumps excavated around the Trimdons showed the other side of village life. From the dumps that serviced the miners houses you would find more beer bottles but no wine bottles, few ink bottles, and the medicine bottles were cheaply made, cruder unfinished bottles with no embossing . Some of the “pop” bottles were made before the advent of the screw stopper and used a glass marble as a form of valve. These types of bottle are prized by collectors, but prized by the kids back then too, for they would smash the bottle to get the glass “pop ally.”
Because the machines to make these bottles were expensive to set up and the stopper was efficient the system was still being used into the 20’s.
One interesting bottle that we still own is a beer bottle from the Haswell brewery of Watson and Beckwith . From all accounts there was over 300 breweries in the Northeast in the 1850’s . Other interesting facts to note , prices were embossed into the glass, as they didn’t fluctuate as fast back then , and some of the black and dark coloured glass bottles left much to be desired when it came to the correct volume, I tried filling an old bottle with liquid and then measured the contents – a bit less than the half pint printed on the bottle . As they were hand blown for the most part, no two bottles are the same shape and some of the old stoneware pots still have the potters fingerprints .
If you are lucky enough to find one of these old crocks treasure it for what it is, a small link with a lost age when even a throw away item was made with a lot of skill by what we now look on as a craftsperson/artist.