Long before the fortnightly collection, humans used to dispose of their own rubbish mostly by burying it. It wasn’t much more than the burnt remains of the fire until far more recently.
In the 19th century and before there was no plastic to dispose of and no old microwaves or tumble driers to get rid of. Things were used and re-used until they couldn’t be used anymore. Then they were burnt and buried or maybe collected by people who would sort through the ash for usable items to sell on themselves. Bits of bone, buttons etc.
As time went on and the household rubbish began to contain things that wouldn’t burn well, tin and glass for example, local authorities had to do something constructive about it and a more local organised collection began to emerge.
However sometimes people continued to use the old rubbish pit that they had dug in their garden many years before and then decades later people like my mum would be digging a hole in a border in the garden and then randomly find half a broken plate or a glass bottle stopper just where they were about to plant a tulip bulb.
I have to assume that litter bins were few and far between in the more rural areas at that time, because I am always finding bits of old Victorian crockery and such, sticking up out of the ground in woods and old trackways. It seems our ancestors were litterbugs too.
And as a result we have a nice little collection of cod bottles at home, pretty little blue poison bottles and stoneware bottles that we have discovered whilst out walking. We’ve got some lovely beer bottles, gin bottles and lemonade bottles. A Marmite jar, a few decorative milk bottles and a couple of Sainsbury’s pate pots. Even an old Bovril jar or 10.
And just for a little while, this very tactile mineral water bottle ‘lent’ to us by Mr T Foord. But he actually wanted this rubbish back. Yesterday.
I found Mr Foords bottle laying face down after a walk in the countryside with my children. After carefully retrieving it from its muddy tomb and cleaning it up (evicting the bugs!) we could clearly read….
‘This bottle is lent by T Foord of Waldron and must be returned’
Thomas Foord was born in Heathfield, East Sussex sometime around January 1841. He was the only child of George Foord, an agriculturial labourer and Eliza (possibly nee Knight). By 1851 the family had moved just along the road to the edge of the small village of Waldron, taking Georges widowed father, Jesse, with them.
Thomas grew up following his fathers occupation and then married local girl Philadelphia Stevens in May 1865, the bride had just turned 19 and the groom was 24. Their first child, Jesse – named after Thomas’ grandad, was born soon after. The couple would have 13 children in total.
Now something quite exciting happened around this time. I’m not quite sure how it happened but George Foord suddenly became his own boss, a farmer of 5 acres.
And his son Thomas started a business.
Family history says that Philadelphia Foord was a dab hand at brewing ginger beer, and Thomas saw the potential in this. Before long Thomas was selling his own bottled mineral water, ginger beer, potash and lemonade. Thomas became quite famous in the locality for his delicious drinks. As his children grew some of them entered the family business too and eventually son Walter took over from his father, continuing to trade until the second world war when Foords was bought by a much larger mineral company, Hooper Struave from Brighton.
Thomas pops up frequently in the Sussex newspapers, he obviously took a keen interest in his local community. He had various hobbies and interests, he was at one time a bellringer, a member of a slate club and involved in the local bonfire society. What I particularly liked about him though is he seems to have ended pretty much every meeting he attended by performing a jolly or comical song!
dragged persuaded the family to go for a drive over to Waldron churchyard to see if we could find any family graves. We found a couple but sadly not George and Eliza or Thomas and Philadelphia’s, we did however find Thomas’ and Philadelphia’s house still standing. I wonder how many bottles are waiting to be found there. Or if they pop up frequently whilst the owners are gardening….
But what about Philadelphia who seems to have started the cottage industry? She was a farmers daughter and one of five surviving children. Her mother Ann is likely to have been the only daughter of Philadelphia Ashby of nearby Rotherfield. This Philadelphia spent a large part of her life working as a live-in housekeeper on a farm. It would be interesting to delve further back into this maternal line to see if the brewing skill was passed down to Ann.
I contacted Sheila, who is a descendant of Thomas and Philadelphia, and she was kind enough to supply some of this information and this photo of Thomas.
He does look like a jolly chap doesn’t he?
I was really pleased to be able to return Mr Foords bottle to his family. And even more pleased it reached Sheila in one piece!
Now, anyone want a Bovril jar?