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The two bottles were used for the storage of bunches of grapes.  The jar on the left is French and is known as a ‘Thomery Jar’ and the one of the right is a British bottle of slightly later date.

In Thomery (a commune in the Ile-de-France region) the jars were used commercially for the long storage of the locally produced grapes. The British jars were not used commercially but were used in the productive gardens of the owners of large estates.

The process was the same in both cases. A bunch of grapes was cut with a large section of the vine left attached to the bunch – this formed a T shape. Special shelving units were constructed with the shelves set at an angle and with holes drilled in each shelf. The ‘jars’ were placed in the holes and filled with water and then one end of the T was inserted into the jar. By this means bunches of grapes could be kept fresh for long periods.

There were two problems with this method: the first was that special shelving units with angled shelves had to be produced – the second problem caused greater difficulty. The water in the jars had to be topped up and it was very difficult to do this without drips falling onto the bunches leading to mould and rot and the loss of the bunch.

As always the Victorians set out to improve this and the result is the third bottle shown in the photograph.  The is known as a ‘Copped Hall’ bottle and was produced by William Wood and Sons of Wood Green.  This new design solved both of the aforementioned problems. As the bottle had a flat base ordinary shelves could be used – nor more angled shelves and no more hole drilling – and as water could be added via the hole in the ‘top’ of the jar the problem of drips landing on the grapes was eliminated.
Victorian horticultural ingenuity at its best.

Robert Myerscough

Yesterday the RHSI learnt with great pleasure that John Anderson has been awarded the Veitch Memorial Medal (VMM) by the RHS in London. The VMM is an international award honouring individuals for their exceptional involvement in the advancement of the science, art and practice of horticulture, and is the highest award the RHS can give to a horticulturalist, not born in Britain, or who resides outside the country. Our former Patron, Helen Dillon is one of the distinguished holders of the VMM.

Today, John is Keeper of the Gardens of Windsor Great Park. In awarding its medal, the RHS recognises that John Anderson has furthered the careers of many through sharing his expert plant knowledge, in addition to serving on the RHS Woody Plant Committee since 2007, formerly as Vice Chairman. John Anderson assumed the role of Keeper in June 2016 and has responsibility for 120 hectares across the Windsor Estate, including The Savill Garden and The Valley Gardens, as well as the private garden at Frogmore House.

Having studied at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, John’s professional career started at Mount Usher, in County Wicklow, where he was soon acknowledged as an outstanding plantsman and horticulturalist. From there he moved to the National Trust’s beautiful Inverewe Garden, on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands as head gardener. After a relatively brief time there, John moved south to Hampshire, and the magnificent Exbury Gardens, with responsibility for its 200-acre woodland garden, world-famous for the Rothschild collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and rare trees and shrubs.

John Anderson has been a long-time friend of the RHSI, and we are especially proud that this Irishman has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to horticulture in the United Kingdom, at the very highest levels.

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