Porter was a strong beer, first marketed in the 1820s and sold in stoneware bottles, which were larger than ginger beer bottles and possessed a double rim and a typical ‘hard shouldered’ shape, as in the picture.

Porter Bottle

Porter Bottle

This particular bottle was made by Joseph Bourne at the Denby and Codnor Park potteries near Derby. After the application of salt-glaze, which turned brown in the firing, the body of the bottle was dipped into liquid glaze, giving it a light greenish-grey finish. Although it isn’t glazed inside, these vitrified bottles were impervious. Bourne was known for the quality of his salt-glazed stoneware. It is rather unusual to find a bottle made by him that has been partly dipped into a glaze. One effect is that the pottery mark, impressed into the body prior to the first firing (and application of salt-glaze), has filled with the liquid glaze which was applied afterwards, so that the lettering is harder to read.

The pottery mark (visible if barely legible in the image below) was used by Joseph Bourne from 1834, when he acquired the Codnor Park pottery, until c. 1850, when his son became a partner in the business, with later marks displaying the name ‘Joseph Bourne & Son’.

Bourne's impressed stamp under liquid glaze.

Bourne’s impressed stamp under liquid glaze.

On the other side of this bottle, also rather hard to read because the lettering is under the glaze, are the names CANN & HODGSON, HARLESTON. These are the individuals who ordered, no doubt, a batch of these bottles from Joseph Bourne’s pottery. William Cann and Arthur Hogdson were licensees of The Hope Inn, Harleston, Norfolk, from Spring 1846, taking over from Benjamin Kerridge, who had gone to The Green Dragon (also in Harleston). The Hope Inn belonged to Steward and Patterson, who supplied the beer, so the names on the bottle (as is usually the case) are not those of the brewer but of the proprietors. In 1850, only William Cann is listed at the inn, Hodgson having left or died. This unique bottle may be the only surviving example to bear their names and is datable no earlier than 1846 and no later than 1850.

Proprietors and licensees ordered batches of bottles like this one, with their names impressed, because at that date bottles were re-used and remained their property. Customers, drinking on or off the premises, were expected to return the bottle and would have got back their deposit (typically a farthing: a quarter of a penny) for doing so. After its life as a porter bottle ended, it was used for pitch or ink, residues of which can still be seen inside and on the base, before eventually finding its way into a Victorian rubbish dump perhaps because the residue meant that it was no longer fit for use.

Examples of other Norfolk porter bottles can be found on this link: