This is a story and pictures of what would probably be
every antique bottle digger's dream.
When I bought my current house some years ago, the garden wasn't very well kept so we decided to do a bit of work tidying it up and making a vegetable garden. When the first turfs were cut it was quite obvious this wasn't going to be a straightforward task, as the earth was full of broken pottery and glass! After further investigation it was decided that the only way to do it was to dig the whole area out and sieve the soil back in, removing all the large pieces of glass etc. in the process.
Once I started digging it was plain that there wasn't just broken glass and pottery in the garden, but whole bottles as well. It turned out that my garden had been used for a tip by an old mineral water factory next door, which will be well known to all experienced collectors as the "Silloth Mineral Water Company". Their bottles have a fantastic picture of a fishing boat under sail on the front, and the stone ginger beers remain one of the most sought after bottles in the country.
It took a lot of hard work by my family and myself to complete this work in the vegetable garden, but it was really enjoyable to see the results at the end. The only down side to this part of the dig was that at this point I never realised antique bottles could be restored, and I filled a large skip with broken pottery and glass. It breaks my heart now to think that I threw away hundreds of these bottles with probably only minor damage which had been discarded by the factory! Never mind, I did keep a few and got quite a lot of full glass bottles out too.
After the vegetable garden was complete, I decided to give the rest of the garden a going over. I did not previously mention it but I couldn't get an excavator into the garden, so had to do all the work by hand!!! In some areas I had to dig the garden to four feet deep to get to the bottom of the tip, but at least this didn't need sieved so I just removed the large pieces and buried the rest back into the garden. A friend of mine who had an interest in bottles jumped at the chance to help so that speeded things along a little. At the end we piled all the big bits up in the last hole, left a time capsule message and covered it over.
The following pictures show the work in progress and a couple of pictures of the garden afterwards. You have to agree, this was a fairly amazing dig!
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This page is dedicated to a dear friend, Michael Todhunter, who helped me dig this garden. May you rest in peace, Mike.