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South Holland people urged to dig out their old milk bottle empties

Steve Wheeler is on the look out for milk bottles from South Holland.
Steve Wheeler is on the look out for milk bottles from South Holland.

A quirky English museum dedicated to empty milk bottles has more exhibits from a town in Belgium than it does for the whole of Lincolnshire.

The collection was started by an unlikely candidate, Steve Wheeler, who developed a hatred of the white stuff while a milk monitor at school.

But a chance find of an old bottle while walking in the Brecon Beacons triggered a passion for collecting.

Steve began hoarding our old doorstep empties more than 30 years ago, so far amassing more than 20,000 for his Milk Bottle Museum housed in sheds at his home in Malvern.

Steve said: “I have got an old, cracked milk bottle from Holbeach and I’ve got one from Mumby’s at Long Sutton.”

That’s it for South Holland and Steve would dearly like to find more from the district and the county.

He said: “Although I have a few from Lincolnshire, there must be many places that had dairies and I have missed their milk bottles. They are usually found in old farms and dairies, under sink cupboards, lofts, sheds, or on allotments.

“Electricians even find milk bottles under floorboards when rewiring houses.”

Bottles from smaller dairies are harder to find because almost all were smashed by the bigger dairies who took over, and Steve says this was common and agreed practice.

Earliest examples of glass milk bottles in Steve’s museum date from around the time they were introduced in the 1880s.

He also collects the cardboard caps that were used to seal milk bottles up to 1953 but says they are rarer than hen’s teeth.

“Companies advertised everything on them from coal to suits to shoes,” said Steve. “People used to collect those.”

Steve and wife Sue are coming to Lincolnshire in a few weeks’ time and would like to hear from anyone who could help boost the museum collection.

Steve said: “If anybody has any old milk bottles or cardboard caps please don’t throw them away.”

One day, Steve hopes to hand over his collection to the nation so this aspect of our history is preserved for future generations to see.

If you can help Steve’s quest, please call 01684 569656 or email milkbottlepast@hotmail.com

• Do you have an unusual collection? Email our editor: jeremy.ransome@iliffepublishing.co.uk

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