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Old And Sold Antiques Digest Article

Antique Bottles: The Brown Bottel

( Originally Published 1913 )



Contemporary with the brown earthenware alejug - ("Little brown jug, how I love thee! ") - was the brown earthenware bottle, and at least a score of different varieties of brown bottles meant for brown ale are to be found. There are two classes into which we may separate these brown bottles-the "Rockingham" brown and the Lambeth brown.

The "Rockingham" Brown. Everybody knows the Rockingham Toby, the rich chocolate brown of him under the fine and pellucid but streaky lead-glaze. You must not suppose, however, when you come across a beer-bottle of that particular colour, that you have certainly come across one of Rockingham make. Half the old articles sold as Rockingham Tobies were really made in Staffordshire. There are distinctions between the Rockingham brown and the Staffordshire brown, which the expert can detect, but, generally speaking, the chief distinction lies in this, that the true Rockingham shapes were so good, and the ware was so finely modelled, while the Staffordshire ware, which imitated it, missed excellence in shape, and was coarsely and even clumsily moulded. For the purpose of the present classification, however, we will not trouble to inquire whether Rockingham or Staffordshire produced the bottles now in question. I will describe a few of them, so that you may know them when you find them. I think all these bottles were made to be carried in baskets or pockets. They run from six to ten inches high.

The Toby bottle is a version of the Toby jug; a pot-bellied old gentleman in a wig sits in an armchair, holding tightly on to a bottle and a glass.

The Boot is not an ale-bottle. You will find several sizes of the Boot. It was a hot-water bottle. Filled and corked, it was put into boots, to dry or warm them, a method much less destructive of the leather than exposure to the heat of a fire. I bought a good Boot for 4s.

The Circular bottle has two forms: one like an Italian wine-flask, but with a short neck; the other a hollow ring, with a neck at the top of it.

There are at least half a dozen varieties of the ordinarily shaped bottle in brown, the differences consisting partly in size and partly in the moulded decoration.

Bottles of this type are being forged, but you can detect the forgeries easily. In the true old ware the lead-glaze has become discoloured; it is iridescent in places ; in other places it is veined with a network of dark surface-cracks.The old glaze was put on lavishly, it ran down and made the whole surface look streaky, it lay in the niches and depressions of the moulding, filling them up and blurring the edges of the design. The forgeries have been more sparingly glazed, the colour is not the right chocolate brown, and there is (as yet) no iridescence. Iridescence is the result of the chemical action of light and air on the lead in the glaze, and only comes with the lapse of time.

Lambeth Brown. The colour of the stone-ware bottles made at Lambeth, Fulham, and Denby, differs essentially from the "Rockingham" hue. It is a drain-pipe brown; the ware is salt-glazed, not leadglazed, and the design comes out in sharper relief. The brown varies from something much lighter than chocolate to something almost yellow; indeed, yellow ochre is about the tint of the main part of the Lambeth brown.

The quaintest bottle of this class is the Caudle bottle. Douglas Jerrold's "Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures" made a great furore in Punch in the year 1844. That dates the Caudle bottle. Upon one flank of it you see Mr. Caudle in his night-cap trying to get to sleep ; on the pillow next to him reposes the curl-papered head of Mrs. Caudle, in a mob-cap. Their names are written along the turnover of the bedclothes, and on an oval a little lower down appear the words, "No, Mr. Caudle, I shall not go to sleep like a good soul! See Punch." This popular bottle is marked "Doulton and Watts, Lambeth Pottery, London" (indented in the base). On the other side of it appears "Miss Prettyman," with her shawl, her Victorian bonnet, and her parasol. This cost me 3s.

The Young Queen is another bottle of this class; it dates from 1837. I own two, of different makes. Queen Victoria (sadly caricatured) stands before you, wearing her crown and an ordinary evening dress. She holds a scroll, which says "My Hope is in my people." On the base are indented the words, "Lambeth pottery, Doulton and Watts, High Street, Lambeth." This cost me 4s.

The Fish is another bottle of this class. Many ordinary-shaped bottles in this ware were made for the bottle department of public-houses. Often they bear the publican's name. The Toper is another example of Lambeth brown.



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