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Woburn Sands Area Bottles

After postcards, local bottles are the most sought-after collectables. 

These are the examples I have found so far:


The Swan Hotel

I have two examples of flagons from the Swan Hotel. Both are marked “T. GREGORY SWAN HOTEL WOBURN SANDS”.  The first holds 1/2 a gallon, and was made by Skey in Tamworth. The handle has broken off.  This was found buried under a hedge in Hardwick Road (along with a bed frame and an old bicycle!) when the hedge was removed to re-align the gardens.  The other is a miniature flagon, just 11cm tall, also with the handle broken, and George Skey, Wilnecote, Tamworth as makers mark.  This would have been used to take spirits or port wine home from the Hotel.  Thomas Gregory was at the Swan between 1896 and 1903.

Woburn Sands flagon
Little and large from The Swan Hotel
Close-up of the small version


Woburn Sands flagon
Down & Needham

The full story of Down & Needham can be found on another page on this website. They were wine and spirit dealers who were also agents for Phipps Brewery in Northampton, and then also branched out into running a few pubs.  Their premises at the top of Russell Street were known as “The Eagle Malting”, and is still a wine and spirit merchants today. Both the examples of flagon I have seen read “DOWN & NEEDHAM WINE & SPIRIT MERCHANTS WOBURN SANDS” and are printed in blue, which is quite unusual. There is a 1/2 gallon size, with the blue print on face of flagon, and also a 1/4 gallon size with the blue print on a white background on the shoulder of the flagon. Both made by Buchan, Portobello Edinburgh.  Very few examples of these still exist, I know of another three in total.

Down and Needham also produced a ginger beer bottle, marked “DOWN & NEEDHAM CELEBRATED HOME BREWED GINGER BEER WOBURN SANDS”  It comes in the standard two tone colour, with an internal screw stopper marked “DOWN & NEEDHAM WOBURN SANDS”.  The bottles were made by Bourne, Denby.  Unlike the flagons, the print on these is black. 

Small flagon and Ginger Beer
Large flagon


There are many glass bottles from Down & Needham.  I believe that William Needham was producing his own mineral waters first, before going into partnership with Frederick Down, after the death of Frederick’s brother and business partner, Henry, in 1891.  Therefore, the bottles with only an “N” on the base were from the Needham-only era, and others with “D&N” on the base must have come later.  Frederick Down then died in 1902, so it was a fairly short partnership, but they had time to branch out with bottling premises near Bedford bridge, over the River Ouse, and several other outlets in local towns.
Codd style bottles can be identified by their marble stopper. The Codd bottle was filled upside down, so that as soon the filling stopped, the marble fell down against a rubber washer to seal the bottle. Pressure inside the bottle kept the marble pressed against the top of the bottle. To open the bottle, the marble was pushed in, where it would fall into the neck chamber below. If the opened bottle is held the right way, the marble is held inside the neck chamber when the bottle is tilted up for pouring. Many of these bottles were destroyed once empty, as children would routinely break open the bottle to get at the marble inside! This closure device was invented by Hirram Codd, and patented in 1872.  It also gave us the English slang term “Coddswallop” for talking rubbish, as real beer drinkers considered these non-alcoholic beverages to be useless, as the contents were just a load of “Coddswallop!”. Coloured glass versions, or those with coloured marbles, can command extremely high prices, but all the Woburn Sands varieties are plain glass, sometimes called aqua, which can have a slightly green tinge to it.

On the right are large and small size versions of a codd bottle marked “WOBURN SANDS MINERAL WATER WORKS”.  It has a large “N” on the base.  The large size also has the number “9966”, while the smaller has the number 10012.  WOBURN SANDS arches over the top, MINERAL WATER is across the middle, and WORKS arched under the bottom.

Woburn Sands glass bottle
Earliest codds from Woburn Sands?


Woburn Sands glass bottle
Woburn Sands glass bottle
Then there are large and small versions of “THE WOBURN SANDS AERATED WATER COMPY” codd. The text is in a circle around two pointers and a central spot, looking a bit like a compass, or a clock with the hands at 6 o'clock. There is a Niagara patent on back of the bottle. 

The same text and design features on the only Hamilton-style bottle from Woburn Sands. This is one of three found in a cellar in Leighton Buzzard a few years ago. The torpedo-shape bottle was patented in 1809 by William Hamilton of Dublin. The curved bottom had the advantage of forcing the bottle to lie on its side to keep the liquid in constant contact with the cork and thereby preventing it from drying out and allowing air in to spoil the contents; its shape allowed it to be much stronger than conventional flat bottom bottles of equal weight, so it was less likely to crack or break under pressure of the carbonation; it was easier to pack in crates and it is hard to set down an opened bottle till you finished the contents, so customers drank faster!

"Compass Point" design codds
"Compass Point" Hamilton


On the left is a codd marked WOBURN SANDS AERATED WATER COMPANY with a J W Dobson, Barnsley Maker mark. The text is written vertically around the bottle. To the right, codds marked “BEDFORD & WOBURN SANDS AERATED WATER COMPANY”, and a J. W. Dobson makers mark. These must have come later, after they opened their depot at Bedford. Both variations have “D&N” on the base. The "Bedford..." one comes in large and small sizes.

They had certainly opened the Bedford factory by 17th July, 1897, as this appeared in the Beds Times, under the headline "What an electric motor can do":

"Messrs. Down & Needham, manufacturers of aerated waters, work their machinery at the Bridge Hall, St. Mary's, with a 3 horse-power motor, which is probably the only one in Bedford. It does not stand more than 15in. high, and weighs under hundredweight. There is no noise, dust, fuel, or delay in getting it to work, and it can run at any speed. It works all day and drives six machines for the insignificant wage of 1s 2d. a day. Guided by a few human hands, the machine so operated cleanses 31 dozen of bottles at once, and remove the old labels, besides filling syphons and bottles with about a dozen different beverages, as required. There is a very pretty set of machinery on the premises. Bottles are automatically filled and stopped with extraordinary rapidity, all are well guarded so that if one flies now and then nobody is hurt: various gauges indicate the pressure; cisterns regulate the supply of syrups as they filter in a purified form from the stores on the upper floor; and an airy and commodious packing-room is a scene of constant activity at this time of the year. Even the stone bottles have the approved screw-stoppers, and the home made ginger-beer is having a good vogue. Orange champagne and ginger stout are among the specialties, and for winter consumption the drinks are Winter Cheer. Nip Nagal, non-intoxicating orange and ginger wines. Messrs. Down and Needham have stores at Rushden, Potton, Dunstable, Woburn Sands, and Bedford."

Woburn Sands glass bottle
Woburn Sands codd
Woburn Sands & Bedford codds


Woburn Sands glass bottle
Woburn Sands bottle stopper
Next is a ½ pint internal screw shouldered bottle marked “DOWN & NEEDHAM WOBURN SANDS”. There is an eagle with its wings spread in centre of text. "Eagle" was the name of their malting building in Russell Street. 

There is also a version, as above, but the text reads “DOWN & NEEDHAM BRIDGE WORKS BEDFORD

Bridge Works bottles must pre-date 1902, as The Bedfordshire Times & Independent of Friday 8th March, 1901 reported:

THE BRIDGE MINERAL WATER WORKS ST. MARY’S, BEDFORD. Messrs. STAFFORD & ROGERS, Ltd. Have been instructed by Messrs. Down and Needham, who are relinquishing this branch of their business, to Sell by Auction, on Tuesday, March 12th, 1901, at 11 o’clock punctually, The Whole of the Highly Valuable and nearly New PLANT and MACHINERY, by Riley, including a Patent Screw-Thumb Stopper Machine, fitted with 2 oz. syrup pump, a Syphon-filling Machine with guard; one No. 3 Patent Safety Generator complete; 3 in. Soda Water Machine with 14 gall. copper, cylinder, Ioose driving pullies, &c , complete: 2 Vauxhall Codds Filling Machines complete; Patent Rotary Washing Machine, 22 doz. size, double brush heads and two 1 doz. rinsers; a 12 doz. Barnett and Foster’s Rotary Washing Machine; a 2½ in. Barnett and Foster’s Soda Water Machine, with copper cylinder, &c., complete Barnett and Foster’s Copper Gasometer; Galloway’s Horizontal Gas Generator complete; Syrup Supply Pans. Slate Solution Tanks, Cisterns, Corking and Bottling Machines, Capsuling Machine: the 3-h.p. ELECTRIC MOTOR, recently laid down, with accumulating coils, &c., complete, by Davis, No. F. 2; 3 cases of Kola Hop Bitters; 3 Capital SPRING VANS, Office Furniture and Fittings, Fire Proof Safe, &c., together with the excellent and nearly new HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, comprising superior Wilton Pile and Axminster Carpets, rugs, fender kerbs, implements, large mirrors, a high-class Dining Room Suite in saddlebags, single and easy chairs, walnut telescope, dining, fancy, and occasional tables, very superior 6lt. Dark Oak Sideboard, splendidly fitted; 6¾ -oct. Cottage Pianoforte, by Broadwood; quantity of Cutlery, plated Goods. China and Glass; Bedroom Appointments, Kitchen Requisites, &c.

Eagle motif, on Woburn Sands & Bedford
Top of an internal screw stopper


The “DOWN & NEEDHAM BRIDGE WORKS BEDFORD” name also appears on this codd bottle with a “D&N” base and “TT&Co Ltd”, and also this miniature brown spirits bottle.

Woburn Sands glass bottle
Woburn Sands glass bottle
Bridge Works, Bedford codd
Miniature spirit bottle
A July 1897 advert from the Beds Times


Lastly from Messrs. Down and Needham, there are pint and ½ pint internal screw shouldered bottles marked “DOWN & NEEDHAM BEDFORD & WOBURN SANDS”, with the text vertically around the bottle.
Woburn Sands glass bottle
Vertical internal screw bottles, one with 'pinch-top' stopper, which also has 'Down & Needham' on it.
Woburn Sands glass bottle
Other Woburn Sands Firms

The other local firms who used embossed or etched bottles for advertising were few and far between. There are these ½ pint internal screw clear bottles marked “J. BELLAMY WOBURN SANDS” with the number “375” or “J.L&Co- C” on the base. I have not discovered who J. Bellamy was. The only J. Bellamy on the 1901 census was listed as a 'Brick Burner'. By the style of the bottle, it looks like a grocers shop perhaps? A John Bellamy appears on an auction poster in 1903, when two houses near the railway station that were let to him were being sold.

Where's the other half!

It is etched “HORTON AND BAYES PHARMACEUTICAL AERATED WATERS - IMPROVED SYSTEM - WOBURN SANDS”.  I have another example of the metal top, which they also had marked with their details.

Horton and Bayes were the chemists in the same shop that remains a chemist today. This example of their soda syphon was dug up in Aspley Heath in 2011. Horton and Bayes sold out to Bathurst in 1906, so as this could possibly have been in the ground for 105 years, it has survived remarkably well!
And lastly, I have an example of a stoneware hot water bottle, transferred “GEO. TANSLEY IRONMONGER WOBURN SANDS”.  The Tansleys had many business premises in the High Street over the years, and also dealt in decorative china etc.
Warm feet, but a bit bulky!

Milk Bottles

Some acid-etched milk bottles from Bakers of Station Road and C. C. Green, Woburn Sands, make a change from all the embossed glassware.

Woburn Sands glass bottle
C. C. Green Woburn Sands

Mr E. Woods: "The C.C. Green bottle is pre-1950 as it was this dairy that became the Haines Land Farm Dairy of 24-26 Aspley Hill that my parents owned and ran.  Mr Green went bankrupt but the property was owned by Mr Cecil Curtis of Great Brickhill, who was my uncle. Cecil also owned Haines Farm in Great Brickhill which is the reason for the name."

Bakers Dairy Station Road, Woburn Sands 1/2 pint
Aspley Hill Dairy

One I am still looking for.... the Aspley Hill Dairy

Haines Land Farm Dairy For Service and Civility

Mr E. Woods: "My parents Reg & Wyn Woods took over the shop and dairy in 1952 and continued until they sold it to Dennis Farmer in about 1964.  Haines Land Farm Dairy was at 24-26 Aspley Hill, Woburn Sands. This was not on bottle, as the Farm was in Great Brickhill. We bottled it at Aspley Hill in the days before pasteurization!"

Other local villages

There are two flagons for Woburn, 1/4 gallon in size, marked “J BARR BEDFORD ARMS WOBURN” with a Doulton & Watts potters mark. Barr was at the Bedford Arms between 1861 and 1864.

The Heighington family held many trades and positions in Woburn for decades. This 1 gallon flagon, marked EDWD. HEIGHINGTON WINE & SPIRIT MERCHANTS WOBURN BEDS could be quite early, as he was running adverts in the Northants Mercury in June 1834, selling J. T. Betts Brandy at 18s. per Imperial Gallon. Edward died 1859.

There is a flagon for Wavendon, one gallon in size, marked “GEO. E. KING PRIMROSE VILLA WAVENDON BLETCHLEY”, with a Doulton potters mark.  Primrose Villa is a few doors up from the ex-Leathern Bottel pub, now Wavendon Arms.  The King family were brewers and farmers in Wavendon for many generations.

Woburn flagon
Wavendon flagon
Woburn flagons
Wavendon flagon

I am not aware of any bottles from Aspley Guise or Bow Brickhill.  If you have any examples of local bottles not listed here, please let me know, and I can add a photo if you don't mind.


I would like to especially thank the Northants Bottle Collecting Club members for their help over the years in acquiring some of these examples.