Codswallop! But did a Barnsley soft drinks maker who patented his own clever bottle really lend his name to the exclamation? John Vincent reports.
In 1872, engineer Hiram Codd designed and patented a bottle filled under gas pressure which pushed a marble against a rubber washer in the neck, creating a seal perfect for carbonated drinks.
Naturally, a bottle that kept its fizz became popular with the soft drinks and brewing industries. Codd soon met Ben Rylands and by 1877 they were running Hope Glass Works in Stairfoot, Barnsley, turning out Codd’s Globe Stopper bottles by the thousand.
Wallop was a slang term for beer and pub drinkers would certainly be disdainful of bottled soft drinks, as well as weak, gassy ale. So the expression Codd’s wallop – abbreviated to codswallop – was coined to mean that something was nonsense or rubbish.
Well, it makes a good story. But a story is all it is probably is as the expression does not seem to have been coined until the mid-20th century and was not widely used until a 1959 episode of Hancock’s Half Hour which had the lad from the fictional address of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, saying: “What a load of rubbish. ... I have never heard such unadulterated codswallop in all my life.”
Whatever the origins, old Hiram Codd and his famous bottles, along with a game of solitaire made with Codd marbles, will step back into the limelight as part of a collection of mechanical gadgets and domestic curiosities assembled by Maurice Collins and displayed under the title From Victoria to George VI: Gadgets, Gizmos and Thingamajigs at the Antiques for Everyone summer fair at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, from July 20-23.
Mr Collins, whose 1,500-piece collection began when he dug up a Codd bottle on a Victorian rubbish dump, also exhibits in his 150-piece display an early mechanical teamaker, patented in Birmingham in 1902; a Victorian head- measuring device made of ebony; a quack’s cure-all electric shock machine from 1860; moustache protector; oyster opener; ladies detective bag; pea-podder; envelope-gluing machine; and a 1900 footwarmer so big you didn’t have to remove your boots.
Back to Hiram Codd... he was born in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, the son of a carpenter, and after starting as a mechanical engineer joined the British and Foreign Cork Company, where he realised the need for better bottle-filling machines and a new type of closure to reduce the need for cork. In 1870 he invented a bottling machine and came up with the Codd-neck bottle two years later.
He died at 49, in 1887, from “congestion of the brain and chronic disease of the liver and kidneys” and is buried at Brompton Cemetery. His famous old bottle lives on and is still made in New Delhi by the Khandelwal glass works, and also mass-produced for the Japanese soft drink Ramune. His earlier bottles are prized by antique bottle collectors worldwide.