This article appeared in the Summer 1975 (Issue #40) edition of the Kent Archaeological Review.
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Stoneware Bottles from Dartford.
On the 28th of October,1974 workmen with a JCB dug away part of a chalk block lined well at the rear of the Royal Victoria and Bull Hotel during excavations for the foundations of part of Dartford's new Town Centre Scheme. Fortunately a small part of the well survived and it was possible to record the following in- formation. The minimum depth of the well was 2.70 metres the width 1.50 metres and the fill was black, silty loam with a few chalk blocks fallen in from the upper lining.
The fill contained two complete stoneware bottles and parts of at least four others together with fragments of pipe stem and part of a red earthenware dish.
The complete bottles are tall and have a mottled brown glaze. The most notable feature is a raised plaque with an embossed bull which had been applied after the pot had been thrown. The letters T P are incised on either side of the plaque. The fragments of two other bottles of this type were found.
Two of the damaged bottles are of a different shape, the base being larger and the side coming in sharply at a much lower level thus making the bottle short and squat with a long neck. This shape is similar to glass bottles of the period. The bull plaque bears the bull facing in the opposite direction and the letters T P are absent.
These stoneware bottles are well developed in shape and it is unlikely that they would have been made before 1700 and certainly not after 1750 when glass would have been cheaper. They must have been made specially for the Bull Inn and the letters T P are likely to be the initials of the innkeeper. The Fulham potteries were producing stoneware of this type at the time and it is possible that these bottles were made there.
The interesting nature of these finds prompted some research on the Bull Inn, now known as The Royal Victoria & Bull Hotel and the following facts were brought to light.
The first account of the Bull was in 1508 when the occupier, Richard Fyke Baker, paid 40 shillings for one year's rent for the premises then known as Le Hole Bull. In 1627 Sara Putt granted a mortgage of gardens at the rear of the Bull Inn to a Mr Thomas Valentine. 1670 saw the first stage coaches rumbling through Dartford on their way to Chatham, Canterbury and Dover. At this time they used to ford the river as the bridge was too small. In 1703 William Wingham and John Twisleton signed articles for the building of the Bull Inn and the first recorded innkeeper was Henry Pierce in 1712. His father, also Henry Pierce, was a shop- keeper in Dartford and at one time issued his own tokens. Both father and son were churchwardens at Holy Trinity Church, Dartford. The son died on 1st November 1724. The next known innkeeper was Charles Fry, 1751-52. In 1754, two years later the bridge was partly rebuilt and widened to help with the increased traffic through Dartford. John Essenhigh was the innkeeper in 1813 and he advertised neat post chaises and post coaches to any part of England. Mr Rowley Edward Potter was the next innkeeper and his wife, Mrs Francis Potter, was appointed Posting Mistress for Dartford in 1838. Business must have been brisk in Dartford during Mr Potter's time for in 1851 it was recorded that 72 coaches were passing through Dartford every 24 hours. Mr Potter remained at the Bull until 1856.
His successor was Mr W T Bray, who advertised his business as follows:
'clarences, broughams and open phaetons, good beds, stabling, loose boxes etc.'
In 1877 Mr Bray covered in the open courtyard and let the local Merchants and
farmers use it as a corn exchange. By 1899 the Bull was owned by Sir James
Whitehead and an annexe was built which was later acquired by the London and
In 1906 workmen laying tramlines in front of the Bull uncovered the remains of the old town stocks and a wooden post which may have been a pilory. The Victoria Assembly Rooms used to be at the rear of the Bull but these were later demolished to make way for the present Wedgewood Hall. A stream called the Cranpit used to run alongside the Bull and in early days would burst its banks in times of heavy rain and flood large areas of the town. This stream still runs under Lowfield Street in a culvert.