When it comes to collections, Steve Wheeler and his collection of milk bottles, must be one of the largest.
Dating back over 30 years, his milk bottle collection contains over 17,500 items. Based on a rough calculation this equates to about 14.5 tonnes of glass.
Mr Wheeler started collecting milk bottles after he found one whilst on a mountain walk. Further research discovered that the dairy it had come from was closing.
Intrigued with finding out more about the industry, the quest to preserve the humble milk bottle and the history of local dairies began.
Milk bottle searches
Searches for the elusive bottles has taken Mr Wheeler all over the UK. For him, the social history is as important as how much the bottles cost and how they were designed.
Sizes range from the small 0.25, 0.3, 0.5 and 1 pint bottles to the larger 1.5 pint, quart and gallon. Modern measurements have brought along the litre bottle, 0.5 litre and 0.3 litre bottles used in schools.
Many of Mr Wheeler’s bottles are sorted in county order, stacked on shelves in his 78 x 12ft wooden shed at the bottom of his garden.
The oldest bottle dates from 1850 and is a Grimwade Patent Milk bottle found by a diver in Sydney harbour, Australia.
Film and tv appearances
The mammoth task to photograph and catalogue his collection has recently started. He has, so far, recorded about half of the collection.
Interest in the unusual collection of bottles has come from the film, television and theatre world. Bottles from the collection have appeared in Jerry Lewis’s “Great Balls of Fire” and many playhouse productions, Joe Orton’s amongst them….
As with any collector, Mr Wheeler has his favourite. His is a bottle with a picture of Zoe Newton, who, in the 1950’s was the pin-up girl for the ‘drink a pint of milk a day’ campaign.
Although some modern, current bottles have made it into the collection, it is the older bottles possibly stored at the back of the garage or in the garden shed that are required for the collection. This avoids taking active bottles out of circulation, says Mr Wheeler.
It is hoped that a permanent home can be found for the collection which Mr Wheeler values as priceless.
Help add to the milk bottle collection
Always on the lookout for new bottles for the collection, Mr Wheeler can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone 01684.569656.
You can also post bottles to him using the address – Milk Bottle Collector, Malvern.
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