My Great-grandfather, John Espiner, bought 5,6 and 7, Dam St. in 1888, the year my grandpa was born. It was already a pop factory belonging to a Thomas Raistrick. 8, Dam St. belonged to Lol Trillo in the 50s, and was a garage for 4 ice-cream vans. Tommy Bainbridge (which he always pronounced “Braimbridge”) had his factory at No.9. He was about as old as my Grandpa which, when I started filling vinegar bottles for my Dad in 1950 (when I was 3) seemed very old. Tommy had no sons so the business died with him. He had a daughter, Thomasina, although I don’t think I ever met her or his wife. They lived on the corner of the road up to Liverton Mines, just under the railway bridge and almost opposite the station.
I really liked Tommy as he was eccentric and a teller of tall tales. We often used to chat when I was loading and unloading, as I did this parked outside Lol’s (usually empty) garage and Tommy always worked with his doors open. He once told the following story:- His lorry wouldn’t start, so he used the crank handle. Unfortunately, he had left the lorry in gear and it started to move forward. He had to hold it back with his shoulder for a long time until it finally ran out of petrol. My Grandpa once told me that Tommy’s factory caught fire while he was at the pictures. They stopped the performance at the Empire to tell him. Tommy said “It’s insured. Let the bugger burn!” and left when the picture finished.
Espiner’s and Bainbridge’s were never in competition as he delivered only house-to-house and the vast majority of our business was with shops, clubs and pubs (although I delivered to houses in Loftus, Moorsholm, Roxby and Ugthorpe, as well as the youth hostel in Westerdale). I never tasted Tommy’s pop, so I can’t comment on the quality of it. I have no Bainbridge’s bottles, although I have a selection of Espiner’s, including a Codd’s Patent like the one in the illustration. Hiram Codd was an American who invented the system in the late 19th century.. They were filled upside down and the pressure of the carbon dioxide in the pop kept the glass alley up against a washer. The alley was knocked down by a peg (and I have one of these, too) and rested against a lip on the inside of the neck as the pop was poured. My Grandpa used to say that they would still be in use if kids hadn’t smashed the bottles to use the alleys in games of marbles. The story that it was the origin of the word “codswallop” has no basis in history, as the word was around before the bottle was invested. But I would love one of Tommy’s Codd’s Patents.
When I was a lad small pop factories were common – Garnett’s, Jones’s and Lowcock’s in Middlesbrough, Richardson Bros. at Normanby, Hoggarth’s at Whitby and Clarke’s at Scarborough. These all closed down along with the two Loftus firms, although I have heard that Lowcock’s has started up again for the heritage market. Corona, the biggest independent soft drinks manufacturer in England, now makes only Tango. This leaves only Vimto in Manchester and Barr’s in Glasgow, and a few who make pop for the supermarkets. Life is a lot different.
Brian Espiner (the last of the sons in J.Espiner & Son)