While construction workers were excavating a column footing in the basement of the NSSAR building at 805 W. Main St., an interesting artifact was unearthed. A brown, stoneware bottle was discovered, measuring 9”H and 3.25”D. The bottle is stamped with the mark “Vitreous Stone Bottles—J. Bourne & Son—Patentees—Denby & Codnor Park Pottery—Near Derby—P. & J. Arnold London.”
Upon further research into J. Bourne & Son, this particular bottle can be dated circa 1850-1861. The beginnings of the company can be traced back to 1809 in Denby, England when a Mr. Jaeger found on the property of W. Drury Lowe, a clay bed which was used by Belper Pottery. Mr. Jaeger then began a pottery at Denby known as Denby Works. William Bourne of Belper Pottery, had two sons Joseph & John Bourne, who took over for Mr. Jaeger in 1812. John Bourne died in 1819 and the company was continued by Joseph. Belper Pottery and Denby Works continued until 1834 when Belper Works was absorbed into Denby Works. The company purchased Codnor Park Works in 1833. The Codnor Park Works continued under Bourne until 1861 when it was absorbed into Bourne’s Denby site. The company was not known as J. Bourne & Son until about 1850 however, thus making the bottle post-1850. While the company has changed hands several times since that time period, it is still in existence today under the name of Denby Pottery Company Ltd.
The bottle is made of salt-glazed vitreous stoneware. This type of stoneware is ideal for liquids, like the P. & J. Arnold ink that this bottle held. The clay “…was a coarse, sandy and heat-resistant quality. When fired at a high temperature it became very hard, dense and non-absorbent (Odyssey Virtual Museum).” The P. & J. Arnold ink was commonly imported in Bourne’s bottles to the U.S. during the mid-19th century.
Due to the age of the NSSAR museum building, it is not surprising that an item of this age was discovered in the renovation process. The SAR museum building dates back to the late 19th century when it was a tobacco warehouse. Over the years, it was used for grocery storage and as the home of an automotive accessories business and lay vacant for a period until finally being purchased in 2008 by the NSSAR.
For further reading on J. Bourne & Sons and this type of stoneware, please refer to the following sources:
- Giblin, J & J (2002). Langley Mill Pottery: Its History and its Wares. (J & J. Giblin Publishing, 2002, ISBN 0-9542250-0-7).
- Jewitt, L. F. (1883). The Ceramic Art of Great Britain. Second Edition* (R. Worthington, New York). A new printing of this edition was published by Paul P. B. Minet in 1971 and printed by Redwood Press Limited, Trowbridge