Friday - 21 November 2014

Gosnell’s giant among pot lids

16 August 2005Written by ATG Reporter

At first glance there’s nothing very exciting at all about this Prattware pot lid.

Printed in green and bronze with a portrait of a young Victoria, it carries the inscription Cherry Toothpaste Patronised by The Queen For Beautifying and Preserving the Teeth & Gums, Prepared by John Gosnell & Co Ltd, London.

The product was among the most successful of the age and if this lid were a standard 3in (7.5cm) diameter it would command perhaps £30. In fact this particular lid measures a massive 19in (47cm) across - the size of an average car tyre.

Extraordinary 'magnum' size products were seemingly a speciality for the publicity-minded Mr Gosnell. An original advert surviving from the mid 19th century shows the manufacturer's exhibition stand and the availability of 'magnum bottles', 'magnum packets' and 'magnum pots' of Gosnell products. Magnum pots of Cherry Toothpaste - each promotional jar containing 300 standard-sized pots - were priced at £20 each.

Only two of these super-sized lids are known. The first recorded example of this lid was found on the site of the original Pratt factory in Fenton, dug up during roadside works in the late 1970s.

That cracked but intact lid - the provenance seems to confirm the attribution to F&R Pratt - belongs to auctioneer-collector Alan Blakeman and survives in his bottle museum at the BBR Heritage Centre of Elsecar, North Yorkshire.

This example, offered for sale by BBR (12% buyer's premium) had surfaced more recently, apparently discarded from storage by a college and rescued from a skip by a lecturer. It had a couple of chips to the top edge and a hairline to the flange. Mr Blakeman had hoped to attract interest from outside the immediate collecting community for an object with such impact and decorative qualities - he suggested the addition of a piece of reinforced glass would create a fine coffee table.

But ultimately the one seriously interested party at the £3000-4000 estimate was the Robert Opie Collection of British nostalgia and advertising memorabilia, currently housed at Opie's Museum of Memories at The Wigan Pier Experience. On July 3, it was added to the collection of over 500,000 items at a bargain £2600.

Roland Arkell

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