This article is about a type of Victorian bottle invented by Hiram Codd, a British bottle inventor.
Invention of the ‘Codd’ Bottle.
Hiram Codd worked for the British and Foreign Cork Company and during his time there he greatly improving the production of corks. He recognised a need for better bottle filling machines and in 1862 Codd brought out a patent for measuring the flow of liquids and in 1870 devised a patented bottling machine.
He also recognised the need for a new type of closure to reduce the need for corks and had been experimenting with an internal stopper (a marble) to form a seal against a rubber gasket near the mouth of the bottle. This stopper would allow carbonated mineral water to keep its ‘fizz’ and in 1873 he had perfected the ‘Codd’ bottle and a patent was issued to him.
In the same year, Codd partnered with Dan Rylands, who owned a glass bottle making company in Barnsley. The carbonated mineral water trade was huge in Britain during this period and these bottles were in high demand. In 1874 Codd allowed bottle manufacturers to licence the patent for free provided they brought the marbles and sealing rings from him. By May 1877 Codd had issued more than 400 ‘bottle usage’ licences to drinks bottling companies.
The Codd-neck bottle was designed and manufactured with thick glass to withstand internal pressure, and a chamber to enclose a marble and a rubber washer in the neck. The bottles are filled upside down, and the pressure of the gas in the bottle forced the marble against the washer, sealing in the carbonation. The bottle is pinched into a special shape to provide a chamber into which the marble is pushed to open the bottle. This prevents the marble from blocking the neck as the drink is poured. The marble could be pushed down by hand or special Codd openers, usually made from wood, were invented for this task.
Codd bottles have been used in many countries, including France, Belgium and some of the old British colonies. Over the years a number of variations to Codd’s initial design were made, some bottles having a ‘pinch’ on either side of the neck to hold the marble, others incorporated a metal valve to release the pressure of the gas.
Codd bottles started going out of use with the introduction of the ‘crown cap’ from the turn of the century – a type of enclosure still in large scale use today.
Hiram Codd died at his family home in London on 18 February 1887 from “congestion of the brain and chronic disease of the liver and kidneys” and is buried in London’s Brompton Cemetery. The family monument lies between the central and western path, midway between the north entrance and the central buildings.
Codd’s patented globe stopper bottle is still manufactured in India by the Khandelwal glassworks and in Japan for the popular Japanese soft drink, Ramune, which is produced in a wide variety of flavours by Shirakiku.
You might think to yourself that it is an odd hobby and until you’ve held one of these bottles and examined the way it is made, the thickness and colour of the glass and the sheer ingenuity of the design of the internal stopper you really won’t appreciate what makes them appealing.
I have collected Codd bottles (and other types of bottle) since the late 1970s and have dug a number of Victorian dumps over the years to add to my collection, although it’s been some time since I last actively added any bottles to my collection. There remains significant interest Codd bottles by collectors across the UK. Some collectors go for rare and highly sought-after examples whilst others collect bottles from businesses who traded in a town or city they have a connection with. Most of the examples in my collection come from Bristol and Bath.
By far Codd, most bottles were made using clear glass but some manufacturers produced bottles in a variety of different colours and these bottles are more sought after by collectors. Some selling for hundreds of pounds if not thousands of pounds.
Victorian dumps are becoming more difficult to locate and get permission to dig these days, partly due to the increase in building new houses, retail parks and offices on sites previously used as dumps. Most collectors will buy bottles from antique shops, fairs and eBay. They are surprisingly plentiful to find and can be bought from as little as £5 and quite a few people I’ve spoken to over the years say “oh, those bottles with the marbles in – I wondered what they were called”.
During the first lockdown, I stumbled upon a new location only a few minutes away from my house and was able to add two more Codd bottles to my collection. On one of my daily walks, I spotted a trench had been dug on a patch of grass adjacent to the road. This was in preparation for some pipe to be installed and I spotted the spoil heaps contained a large amount of broken glass and crockery. I wandered over to take a closer look and immediately spotted two Codd bottles lying on the grass in perfect condition.
It would have been nice if I could have dug the trench myself as I’m sure it would have given up some really nice examples but sadly it was filled in again a few days later and it isn’t an area that I could dig up as it forms a thin strip of land next to a main road and digging without being noticed would have been impossible. I’m guessing the land there was previously used to dump rubbish in Victorian times, but equally it the material could have been transported from elsewhere many years later if they were clearing land from another site. I shall investigate by looking at old maps of the area to see what I can find. Sadly, there will be little prospect of digging there whatever my research reveals.
It is claimed by some that the term ‘Codswallop’ was invented to describe the act of smashing the head off a Codd bottle to retrieve the marble inside. I’m sceptical about this, not least because Cod has two ‘d’s and what I understand Codswallop to mean (words or ideas that are foolish or untrue) makes no sense in the context of the Codd bottle.
Going Postal Prize
I have decided to donate one of the two bottles I found last year to Swiss Bobb to use as a prize. Whoever wins it will receive an unusual item that will generate interest from family and friends.
© Reggie 2021
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