Buried treasure

Our next door neighbour has been digging out a new flower bed in his very pretty cottage garden. His house used to be a warehouse and stables before it was converted to a dwelling, and it’s obvious that his garden must have been the junk heap judging by the things he’s been discovering.

These included a whole horse-shoe and a lump of leather that could easily have been the remnants of a saddle, as well as a nail, various bits of pottery, and three lovely little jars of various shapes and sizes. He’s been kind enough to give those to me, as long as I do all the dirty work of cleaning them. I took a bucket of suds and a scrubbing brush outside this afternoon, and this is the result:

After a bit of ferreting about on Google, I’ve managed to identify at least two out of the three. The one on the left is a Shippams meat paste jar. On the right, a jam jar, possibly Victorian and quite probably made by Maling in Newcastle, who also made all the Keiller’s marmalade jars. It’s delightfully warped so it must never have had a proper metal lid, perhaps just a waxed paper cover.

The one in the middle is more of a puzzle. You can just about make out some small raised dashes moulded into the glass. What you can’t see in this photo is the words ‘DESSERT SPOONS’ in between the dashes. Presumably the space between each dash is equal to the measure of one dessert spoon and presumably this was a measuring bottle of some kind. Google was less help with this one. There were a handful of similar bottles with other measures stamped on them (some teaspoons, some tablespoons) and in at least one case they were identified as made by ‘Jeyes’. If this is the same Jeyes that makes disinfectant today then it’s possible it was some kind of cleaning product that needed to be diluted in fairly precise doses. There’s an orange-coloured paste still smeared around the inside of the bottle which has a really strong, sweetish but chemical smell rather like furniture polish. I’m baffled as to what it could have been, although given the saddle and the horse shoe I’m wondering if it was connected to horses. Liniment? Saddle soap? Polish for the horse brasses? Whatever it was, the residue is incredibly sticky. I’d love to clean the bottle up properly because it’s an attractive thing, but the gunk is resisting all assaults with hot water, soap, old toothbrush etc and I may never get it out.

If anyone has any suggestions as to what this might have been for, I’d love to hear them. Any suggestions on de-gunking it would also be great!


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