When did They Start Bottling Water in Buxton? Part Two

Derbyshire Museums Manager Ros Westwood has been provided with more fascinating information about a well-known product to add to her original blog.

Last time I asked if anyone could help the museum with more information about the Buxton Mineral Water Company, and over the weekend a local researcher has done just that. Huge thanks to her for her help. Here is what she has found:

The first reference to Buxton Water being bottled and sold is in a copy of the Morning Advertiser, a London newspaper for Tuesday 17th April 1855. Someone in the town had paid for four front page adverts. In those days the classified adverts were on the front page of the paper, printed in dense columns – and one of them reads:

Buxton Mineral Waters. – Bottled by authority at St. Ann’s Springs. – Sold in Pint Bottles, with direction for Use, by Francis E. Nielson, Pharmaceutical Chemist, the Quadrant, Buxton; and by Hawkins and Co. Importers of Mineral Waters, Duke-Street, St. James’s, London.


The Palace from the Broad Walk, Buxton by Eugene Lami 19th century

I like the idea of London city dwellers being able to have restorative drafts of Buxton Mineral Water more than 150 years ago as they went about their business, or served to them in their fine Victorian homes! Shame we’re not told how much this pint of water cost.

The other adverts were for St Ann’s Hotel in the Crescent, the Buxton Bath Charity and for the book: A hand-book to the Peak of Derbyshire and to the use of the Baths and Mineral waters of Buxton, by William Henry Robertson MD. It was advertised as available at all booksellers and at the railway stations. We gave you a flavour of this book previously.

I assume the water was being bottled in the torpedo shaped Hamiltons, which have the advantage of lying neatly top to bottom alongside each other probably cushioned by densely packed straw in cases or wicket baskets. I assume the bottles would have been transported on carts of packhorses to the canal basin at Buxworth and then the precious water would have been taken by barge through the canal system to London, since the trains had not yet got as far as Buxton at this date.


The next snippet we have is to announce that the Buxton Mineral and Aerated Water Company, Buxton, Derbyshire was dissolved on or before 12 October 1872. But a new company almost immediately springs from the ashes, when the Buxton Herald and Gazette of Fashion (yes, I typed that correctly!) minutes the first ordinary meeting of shareholders for the Buxton Mineral Water Company, under the chairmanship of W.S. Gandy, on 4 September 1873.

The minutes refer to the directors re-organising and systemising the business. Reading between the lines, this looks like a refinancing of the business. The chairman spoke eloquently of the quality and demand for Buxton Water, but if we come back to my interest, the bottling of it, he goes into detail:

Gentlemen, in addition to the ordinary Soda Bottles, we have now in use Barrett’s Patent or Corkless Bottles, and have this last month taken up a licence for Codd’s Patent Bottles: this is a bottle which, whilst offering the advantages of Barrett’s Corkless, also possesses special advantages itself as regards cleanliness and appearance, so that in this department we shall be able to please any choice of customers…

Hiram Codd had perfected the design of these bottles in this year, 1873, with a marble in the neck and a rubber seal, so Buxton Mineral Water Company was one of the very first licence holders.

W 234 front

The Terrace and Hall Bank, Buxton 1860

Finally we come to Tebb, whose bottles of Buxton Water with his name on them are also on show in the new exhibition in the Wonders of the Peak gallery at the Museum.

He is Samuel Henry Oliff Tebb, who was born in about 1864 in Spalding in Lincolnshire. In 1881, when he was about 17, the family had moved to Newark-upon –Trent, and he was working as a ‘bottler’. Clearly there was opportunity at Buxton and by 1890 he was in Buxton, mourning the death of his first wife, Fanny Redfern, whom he had married five years earlier. But not for long, because in June 1891 he married Annie Turner – is this of the marble working family? – and in the 1901 and 1911 censuses he is listed as residing at 10 Rock Terrace, Buxton and working as a ‘Mineral Water Manufacturer’. Can you ‘manufacture’ mineral water?

The source for much of this research was the British Newspaper Archive and the website www.findmypast.co.uk. If you are interested in these finer details of history and research, this is definitely a website you’ll want to visit: it will keep you amused through some of the nastiest of the coming winter days. Don’t forget, that there are public access computers at the museum and in the libraries and staff can show you how to use these tools if you are unsure how to get the best from them.

My thanks again to the researcher who helped on this enquiry. We do appreciate the additional information the followers of the blog can give us.



When did They Start Bottling Water in Buxton?

In the light of new research, Derbyshire Museums Manager probes into the history of what the town is most famous for.

Over to you, Ros:

Buxton Mineral Water Company – when did they start bottling water?


Hamilton bottle from the Buxton Mineral Water Company

The new displays in the Wonders of the Peak gallery contain a section on mineral water bottles from Buxton. Hardly surprising, since Buxton has long been associated with water, both for bathing in and drinking. William Henry Robertson MD, the doctor at the Devonshire Hospital in the 1850s and 60s sets out Rules for Drinking the Water, saying that ‘it is seldom necessary to take more than two half pints of the waters every day’ and that you should ease yourself into the practice of drinking it. ‘The waters are so fully charged with gas…apt to occasion some degree of giddiness of even headache, that it is prudent at first to drink the water by sips…’ (A Handbook to the Peak of Derbyshire and to the use of the Buxton Mineral Waters; or Buxton in 1854).

water use 01

water use 02

What he doesn’t say is run down to the local supermarket or off licence and buy some bottles of it. William Henry Robertson MD is recommending that you need to take this water at the previous pump room at St Anne’s Well, a small Georgian temple near the Crescent. It would be served to you by one of the well women (Martha Norton was the most famous, but she was now dead) who volunteered to do this work and benefitted from the drinkers’ tips.


St Anne’s Well House

But the evidence suggests that at some point around this time, the Buxton Mineral Water Company with a bottling plant in Fairfield, and one Mr Tebbs, who business location is unclear, where bottling the water.

Their choice of bottle was a Hamilton, shaped like a torpedo. When sealed, it is placed on its side and the effervescence (bubbliness) in the water is retained. Hamiltons were first made in the 1840s.

But when, asked a researcher, was the Buxton Mineral Water Company established? The earliest record the museum has found have is that a trademark was awarded in 1876. These trademarks appear as diamond shapes impressed on the bottles. But this Hamilton is surely a bit earlier that that? By 1876, the Company may well have started to use the newest sort of bottle: a Codd bottle, with a marble sealed in the neck to keep by the bubbliness. It needed a special bottle opener to press the marble down and so release the liquid.

So a challenge: since the reference books are very coy about the appearance of bottled water from the Buxton Mineral Water Company – Does anyone have any evidence of the company before 1876 – can we find out when bottling water started in Buxton. And where was Mr Tebb’s establishment – I don’t think it was the main well in Buxton, but where?

Do let the museum know if you can help with this conundrum.

A Monkey’s Puzzle

On first moving to Buxton I would walk out to explore the footpaths behind Fairfield or take off along the lanes and bridleways by bike. After one such excursion I was describing to a colleague a particular short but severe, lung busting hill on the road from Peak Dale. ‘You mean Monkey Brew!’ was the response. I was intrigued.
P1010331I asked around but the most I got by way of explanation was that the name derived from the little monkey carved into a cornerstone high up on the end of Forest View Cottages part way up the bank on Batham Gate Road. I suspected there was more to the story.
Old Ordnance Survey maps suggest the row of cottages was built around the 1890’s, but why the monkey carving? Was it added for hill’s namesake or did the hill gain its name after the monkey was added? And what about the word ‘brew’? I had wondered if ‘brew’ had derived from ‘brow’ or even a mispronounced ‘Brough’, as much of Batham Gate Road follows the Roman route to Templeborough via Brough. A little enquiry revealed ‘brew’ or ‘bru’ to be a northern dialect term for hill. This explanation seemed to fit the bill but the monkey continued to niggle. Every time I dropped my bike into its lowest gear to trawl myself up that hill I would look up at that mischievous, curly tailed beast and curse … and wonder.
After a few years of not knowing I threw the question out there on social media and later the same day I got a response. Curiously, a fellow cyclist said that as a boy he used to live in ‘the house with the monkey’.
So thank you Jamie Stafford for your story, I do hope it is true because I love it. And here it is;
“Growing up in that house, we used to tire of the ramblers and passers-by that would knock at the door asking about the monkey. For years we had little idea why it was there. One day an elderly walker called by who used to live in the area and proceeded to recount a tale. He said that the chap who built the cottages was a raving alcoholic and ran out of money to finish the job to the tune of five hundred pound (a monkey). Back then it was shameful to borrow money so to ward off potential investors and employers the stone mason carved the monkey on the house to state that the owner couldn’t be trusted. ‘Brew’ could simply relate to ale: ‘Monkey Brew’ a bad debtor due to alcohol.”
Maybe someone out there lives in a house with a carving of another monkey, maybe a pony, a bag of sand or even a Lady Godiver! Do shout up if you do.

Willing Willow

As well as paid staff, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is aided by a small army of volunteers. A young lady with the rather enigmatic name Willow Cottam has been helping out recently. She describes her experience:

I started volunteering at the museum at the end of September 2016, just as the refurbishment work was beginning. This means I’ve been continuously working with the items for the new gallery, so it’s especially exciting for me to see some of the objects I’ve become familiar with in the display.


The Wonders of the Peak mid-refurb

I decided to volunteer at the museum because I’ve always wanted to know what goes on behind the scenes. I never expected to be allowed to handle objects, on my first afternoon I held a 200,000 year old stone hand axe!

hand axe

Hand axe on display in the new Wonders of the Peak

I’ve done a wide variety of things, including adding grid references to the location in old photographs and watching an old BBC documentary to tag all the locations shown. This may sound boring to some, but it allowed me to learn more about the place I grew up in. Where I had the most fun was cataloguing all the objects for the new Wonders of the Peak gallery. Weighing, photographing and measuring the objects made me feel like I was a part of the museum and I enjoyed it immensely.

I would definitely recommend volunteering here at the museum, even if it’s just for an hour, you get to meet some really lovely people, get up close and personal with some amazing historical objects and be a part of something really special.

From Time to Time

Volunteer Ian Gregory gives us a personal account of this week’s official reopening of Buxton Museum and Art Gallery:

opening day 03

Manager Ros Westwood reveals The Wonders of the Peak to The Duke of Devonshire

From time to time, long-lasting establishments have to reassess themselves and make changes. Some of you will know this happened recently at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery when the Wonders of the Peak exhibition was revitalised and updated. On Tuesday 12 September, I was privileged to attend the official reopening ceremony for the display.

opening day 01

Dave makes last minute adjustments to the Roman soldier

The ceremony took place in the art gallery upstairs, under a plaster ceiling from the days when the building was a hotel. It was very well attended; infact the place was crowded and so many people made the gallery rather hot. As well as staff and volunteers like myself, there were journalists, members of the public, County Councillors and the 12th Duke of Devonshire. One woman fainted but she quickly recovered and didn’t need medical attention.

opening day 04

The reopening of the museum coincides with the legend that is Emily leaving for a new job

Ros, the manager of the museum, gave a speech. She outlined the history of the building, which was a hotel and then a military hospital before becoming the museum in 1928.

Ros’ speech

Then the leader of Derbyshire County Council spoke, followed by Jonathan Platt from the Heritage Lottery Fund and finally The Duke of Devonshire, who emphasised the importance of community and Buxton Museum belonging to the whole community. He also reminded us that the landscape has always changed and felt the hand of humanity, and he urged us to embrace recent changes in technology. This ties in with an app which we are developing for the museum. The Duke also remarked that he remembered telephones like the one in the first case visitors come to. Ros then spoke again. Some children were present and she told them that the bear is still here, adding that he was hungry.

opening day 02

Remember these?

It was time to view the new Wonders of the Peak exhibition. We entered the new gallery which is much spacious than its predecessor. It also features videos and touch screens new to our museum. I was impressed and everyone else appeared to be too. The exhibition starts with the Carboniferous Period about 350 million years ago when the limestone which underlies much of the Peak District was formed. It picks up the history about 1.9 million years ago with bones of mastodon and scimitar-toothed cats, then goes on through The Stone Age and Iron Ages into Roman and Saxon times, then through the Blue John and Ashford Black Marble objects from Victorian times and so to the 20th century.

opening day 05

The reopening is accompanied by music from Amanda Johnson of Kidology

The visitors left and the staff locked up. It had been hard work preparing for all this but it was worth the effort. I’m sure the vast majority of people who came that day would agree with me there.

Ros’ speech

You can plan your own visit here.