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About Us    
The idea of a museum dedicated to the broad range of everyday glass and pottery bottles and jars being dug up by bottle diggers on abandoned Victorian and Edwardian rubbish tips was first mooted in the mid 1980s.  These utilitarian and often attractive items revealed a lot about the eating, drinking and social habits of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Public interest in antique advertising pieces, pharmacy equipment, shop and pub memorabilia was growing quickly.


Barnsley Council purchased the derelict Elsecar Workshops site and work began to create a Heritage Centre.  The project aimed to reflect many aspects of Barnsley’s local history including its importance as a major glass bottle manufacturing and coal mining area.  Linked projects included the regeneration of a derelict stretch of the local canal, preservation of a Newcomen Beam engine in its original housing on site and a working steam railway run by volunteers.  Alan Blakeman’s outline concept of a bottle museum fitted well into the overall aims of the scheme.


The Bottle Museum was opened in a small upstairs room at Elsecar, in a part of Alan’s BBR publishing business.  The Coddswallop Trust was formed with the aim of presenting specialist displays and building an international archive.



A Company Limited by Guarantee was created with seven voluntary directors.  Three of these original volunteers, including Alan Blakeman, are still working for the trust.


The museum moved into more spacious, ground floor premises on the Elsecar site with financial support from Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council.  Still situated next to BBR, it opened to the public at weekends and during the week whenever volunteers were available.


The trust was registered as a Charity with the support of eight voluntary trustees.


The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £4550 and Coddswallop was offered the opportunity to become part of the new Elsecar Antiques Centre that was to open in 2003.  A temporary period of closure followed to prepare for the move.


An imposing range of illuminated foyer display cabinets, funded by the Lottery Fund grant, was constructed in the style of a double fronted Victorian shop front.  The museum formally reopened during the popular Summer National Collectors weekend in early July with the first foyer display dedicated to foot and muff warmers.  The museum could now be opened seven days a week, 10am to 5pm, with the support of the Elsecar Antique Centre staff.  A ninth working trustee joined the group.


Foyer displays featured antique mining lamps and memorabilia, advertising and perfumery products, baby feeding bottles and equipment and Guinness advertising.


The Trust received a Coalfields Regeneration grant of £9672 to buy IT equipment and cover some of the museum’s running costs.  The first Coddswallop newsletter was published using the new computer and printer.  Foyer displays included Co-op commemorative china, pre-nationalisation railway silverware, Fire Brigade helmets and equipment and grocery packaging and advertising.