Category Archives: Collections

Collecting Codd Bottles

A sample of the Codd bottles in our collection.

A sample of the Codd bottles in our collection.

As part of our on going search to find yet more exciting collections to fill W. Smith’s Chemist and Photographers’, our office is slowly being invaded by funny shaped old bottles…

They’re called ‘Codd’ bottles and were the most common type of bottle used for containing fizzy drinks from the late 19th century until the early 1930s. Patented in 1872 by Hariam Codd, the bottle was sealed by a marble that was forced against the mouth of the bottle by the pressure of the gas produced by the aerated water .inside. To drink the aerated waters inside you used a special opener to push the marble down. Then when tilted upwards, the marble was captured by two checks on either side of the bottle, allowing the drink to flow out.

Locally made Codd bottles.

Locally made Codd bottles.


For the marble feature to work the bottles had to be filled upside down using an inverted bottler. These bottlers are now incredibly rare, we only know of four that are left in the entire country. We are planning to use a modern Japanese version of the Codd bottle, which have screw tops, so that they can be filled upright using a type of bottler that we have in our collections. This also reduces the chance of any potential choking hazards the marble might cause!

A rare surviving Codd bottler, held at the Museum of Bath at Work.

A rare surviving Codd bottler, held at the Museum of Bath at Work.

Jim is particularly interested in  Codd bottles as a way of telling local history, as each manufacturer of fizzy drinks had their own branded bottles. So far, some of the more  unusual examples that we have collected include, one from Newcastle made by R. Emmerson Junior that shows a man riding a penny-farthing, and one from Gateshead with a picture of a bird sitting in a tree. We also have bottles from Stockton, Morpeth, Kirbymoorside, Houghton-le-Spring and many other local places. Our dream is to eventually have a bottle from every village in the North East. Please let us know if you have any that you would like to donate.

Jim is particularly excited about our growing Codd bottle collection.

Jim is particularly excited about our growing Codd bottle collection.


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Progress at St Helen’s Church

The reclaimed panelling that will be used on the front of the church's gallery.

The reclaimed panelling that will be used on the front of the church’s gallery.

The work on St Helen’s Church is continuing. Yesterday, a section of panelling arrived, which has been reclaimed from a chapel in Butterknowle, County Durham. This panelling is remarkable similar to that which originally made up the front of the gallery at St Helen’s and will be used as in its place. In the afternoon we also received a very exciting delivery of cylinder glass (an early method of producing sheet glass), which will be used to glaze the replica Georgian lancet windows in the nave.

Shaun and Dan unpacking yesterday's delivery of cylinder glass.

Shaun and Dan unpacking yesterday’s delivery of cylinder glass.

As well as glazing the windows in the nave, our local specialist glazier Barry Swinburne, will also be working on the two much older windows in the chancel.

The view from the church's gallery. The replica Georgian lancet windows are visible to the side, and the 15th tracery window at the end of the chancel.

The view from the church’s gallery. The replica Georgian lancet windows are visible to the side, and the 15th tracery window at the end of the chancel.

The first is a lovely 15th century tracery window which sits behind the site of the altar on the east end of the church. This will be glazed with leaded glass in a diamond pattern, as was typical of the date. The second window was reputedly inserted into the south wall of the chancel by the Tudors. There is no record of what this window looked like, other than that it was a stained glass window that depicted an image of St Helen. Using research done by John into other 16th century windows that showed the saint, Clara has created a design that will be used by Barry to recreate the window using traditional methods.  The window design includes a small homage to the Reverend Peck, our resident owl.

Clara's design for the recreated Tudor stained glass window at St Helen's.

Clara’s design for the recreated Tudor stained glass window at St Helen’s.

Additionally, the two bells that will be installed into St Helen’s tower are being sent away this week to be restored by our heritage blacksmith, Andy Basnett. Before the 17th century tower was added, the church had a small medieval belfry with a single bell. Subsequently, another bell was installed into the tower as part of the church’s Georgian refurbishment. We have collected two bells, one which dates from 1598 and another from 1778, to represent St Helen’s originals. Eventually these will be hung in the belfry to be rung for special events at the church.

The belfry at St Helen's.

The belfry at St Helen’s.

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W. Smith’s amazing aerated waters!

As well as housing a chemist and photographer’s, the new corner building will also be home to a working soda plant that will produce flavoured aerated waters for our visitors to sample.


Advert for a small soda water machine of the type that chemists used.

In the 19th century soda water enjoyed massive popularity, particularly after the 1870’s when a bewildering variety of more reliable bottle closures were patented, as safer alternatives to corks (which were usually forced out by the pressure of the gas from the soda water). This fashion had a number of drivers. Along with the obvious attraction of how the fizzy drinks tasted, they was a real need for a safe and reliable, non-alcoholic drinks when away from home, when many areas still did not yet have clean, piped drinking water. The aerated drinks were also presumed to share the same health benefits as non-artificial ‘mineral waters’, which had enjoyed such popularity from early Georgian times at Bath, Leamington, Harrogate and many other spas. It is because of the guise that they were somehow healthy, that chemists became one of the main manufacturers of aerated waters.

Initial attempts at manufacturing carbonated water reportedly began in the 16th century with the experiments of Mr Thurneisser in 1560. However, the first ‘carbonation’ patent wasn’t granted until 1810, to the American partnership Simmons and Rundell. Other patents for aeration pumps were soon developed. One of the earliest was made by the Englishman Joseph Matthews in New York City in 1832. It basically consisted of a cast iron box lined with lead, in which carbonic acid gas was formed by reacting sulphuric acid with marble dust. The gas was then passed through water and agitated by hand to create soda water, after which is was mixed with salts to mimic the naturally occurring spa mineral waters. Reputedly the enterprising Matthews made twenty five million gallons of his soda water using marble off-cuts from the construction of St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York!

Our Bradford engine that is being restored so that it can power our soda pump.

Our Bradford engine that is being restored so that it can power our soda pump.

Other pumps in both Britain and America used the more commercial viable ‘whiting’ or chalk dust instead of marble chips. Both large plants for high volume production and smaller versions for individual enterprises were available to order from catalogues, such as Bratby and Hinchliffes (an 1884 copy of which is in our collections). The smaller pumps, driven either by hand or by electric or gas motors, were intended for use by businesses like our Chemist, as part of a wider operation. Companies like Barnett and Forsters even sent pumps to the colonies. It would be fair to say that nearly every town in the British Empire contained a soda machine.

The soda pump that we have in our collections, which we are planning to restore, was donated in 1976 by a small family business called Innes, which operated out of Windermere Terrace in North Shields. To drive it we have recently collected a little Bradford gas engine, which is about the right scale for the size of operation that a chemist like ours would run. It has recently been sent away to experts to be returned to working condition.

In February members of the project team visited a Victorian soda plant formerly from the factory of J. B. Bowler, which had been moved and set up to its originally operational scale and layout (including the tank, pump, bottlers etc.), at the Museum of Bath at Work. While this set up was clearly too big for us to attempt to replicate, it did give us an excellent understanding of how aerated water was actually manufactured and packaged.

It also provided us with a good idea of what a ‘flavour laboratory’ may have looked like. A flavour laboratory was where the pre-made syrups would have been either stored or where new flavours were created. Pre-made syrups could be bought from wholesalers; for example in 1898 Barnett and Forster catalogue flavours include Lemon, ‘Kola’ and Ginger Beer. However, like the patent cures that were produced by chemist, every soda manufacturer appeared to have had their own recipes. These often had exotic names or alluded to have herbal or curative properties. Indeed, in an 1892 Mineral Waters Maker’s Manual, recipes are included for consumptive cough mixture, scented ointment for pimples and cattle medicine. This connection to the mixology of the chemists was also apparent at Bowler’s lab; the concentrated syrups were held in Carboys and salts measured with pharmaceutical scales. It is clear why chemists became one of the biggest outlets for soda waters.

J Bowler's 'flavour laboratory' recreated at the Museum of Bath at Work.

J Bowler’s ‘flavour laboratory’ recreated at the Museum of Bath at Work.


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Stories for the Chemist and Photographer’s

Long before we began building the Chemist and Photographer’s, along with Lindsay Curry our Head of Engagement, we started looking for some stories of Edwardian Chemists and Photographers in the North East that we could base the interior and stories of our shop on. We knew that Chemists and Photographers often had a close relationship, but have been surprised to find no recorded instances in the North East of a business being both a Chemist and a Photographer’s studio. We have however, found plenty of examples of Photographer’s Studios, and Chemists selling photographic equipment alongside medical supplies. There a few names that have particularly relevant stories:

A temporary recreation of the interior of a Chemist's Shop in the early days of the Museum

A temporary recreation of the interior of a Chemist’s Shop in the early days of the Museum.

William Smith

Mr William Smith was a Chemist in the early 20th Century who based in Durham City, initially on Crossgate Peth and later on Silver Street. William was a Chemist’s assistant in 1891, and by 1901 is registered as a Chemist. It’s unknown where he learnt his trade, but the remarkable record we have from his prescription books show that he is making a variety of recipes using a variation of the (by 1901) relatively antiquated ‘apothecary’s system’ of weights and measures. These prescription books, alongside some accounts books (both held at the Durham Record Office) give us an incredible record of the concoctions Smith is creating, as well as the kind of equipment he was buying.

George Fillingham and Mason & Co. Ltd

Whilst we don’t know of any Chemists who also have photography businesses, we have found a 1911 record of a Photographer – George T Fillingham who is at 69a Saddler Street, right next door to a chain of Chemists – Mason & Co. Ltd, who are at number 69.

The interior of Edis' Photography Shop in the early 1920s.

The interior of Edis’ Photography Shop in the early 1920s.

John Edis

The best recorded Photographer we’ve discovered is John Reed Edis, who, along with his daughter Daisy, ran a very successful Photographic studio on Saddler Street. Daisy began helping her father aged 13 in 1901 and went on to become a well-known photographer herself. We have Oral History recordings from a number of other female Photographers and Photographer’s Assistants from this time, including Thelma Watts and Clara Bolam (née Thomas), demonstrating women’s involvement in the industry. A number of the photographs taken by the Edis family have been cataloged and are available to view online via Durham University.

The introduction to Charles Nicol's advertising booklet from 1904

The introduction to Charles Nicol’s advertising booklet from 1904.

Charles Nicol

In the Beamish Collection we have a large number of photographs associated with an early 20th Century Photographer based in Newcastle – Charles Nicol. Nicol was from a wealthy family and established his business in his home in South Gosforth in 1900. His photographs include an image of a circus parade including more than a dozen elephants marching through central Newcastle, as well as a shot of the world-famous operatic tenor Enrico Caruso outside Central Station.


One of two Chemist’s shops Beamish collected in the early days of the Museum, Hallaway’s of Carlisle was run by John Hallaway and his son Robert, as a fantastic example of a Victorian Chemist.

Interior of Walker's Chemist

Interior of Walker’s Chemist.

Hardcastle and Sons

The second Chemist’s shop in the Beamish collection, Hardcastle’s of Stockton was famed for their secret recipe – the ‘Balm of Gilead’ – a great example of individual Chemists creating their own remedies. Hardcastle’s also had a link with the famous John Walker – inventor of the friction match – whose stock and effects were removed to Hardcastle’s shop upon Walker’s retirement in 1858.

J Gilpin and W Owen

An diversification of many Chemists was into the production of Aerated Waters, many had small back-room manufacturing plants, but some, including J Gilpin of 56 Pilgrim Street engaged with mineral water production on a considerable scale. W Owen was another such Chemist. In 1894 his second shop at Barras Bridge had a large mineral water factory behind it.  Here, in the 1920s a citrus flavored energy-drink containing glucose, known as ‘Lucozade’ was prepared.

Contact us…

We’re still pulling together stories for the Chemist and Photographer’s, so if you have any memories you’d like to contribute, please do add comments, or contact our Community Participation Team via the Museum Switchboard on 0191 370 4000.

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The first pieces of the Georgian Coaching Inn

Last week we collected some exciting objects – which we intend to incorporate into our, as yet un-designed, Georgian Coaching Inn.

The paneling and windows (photograph by Addisons Auctioneers).

The paneling and windows (photograph by Addisons Auctioneers).

The paneling and windows secured for transportation.

The paneling and windows secured for transportation.

This lovely oak paneling and accompanying window frames were bought at auction.

The paneling dates from the 17th Century, and allegedly originate at Beamish Hall – a nice coincidence we weren’t aware of until we collected it!

The paneling will be careful restored by Shaun and his team, and eventually we’ll create a spot to incorporate it into the Coaching Inn.

On the same journey we also collected a few much more modern objects – some 1950s fire surrounds and metal frame windows. They’ll eventually find their way into some of our 20th Century buildings.

David and Daryl from the collections team help to unload the metal frame windows.

David and Daryl from the collections team help to unload the metal frame windows.

It just goes to shows the variety of buildings we’re working on!

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