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Cookham man's bottle digging hobby uncovers Maidenhead's brewery past

A ‘history hunter’ from Cookham has collected more than 700 bottles which give an insight into Maidenhead’s brewing past.

Stuart Badock has been bottle digging since 1994 and his collection features examples from old breweries in the areas of Maidenhead, Windsor, Taplow, Slough and Wooburn Green.

The 46-year-old discovered his unusual passion after he spotted a man digging holes in the grounds of an old lodge next to his workplace in Taplow.

“After inquisitively inquiring what he was doing he invited me to join him the following day and that’s where it all went wrong,” said Stuart.

The antiques dealer has dug on many sites in the area including an undug dump in Taplow riverside area and in Braywick behind Lidl supermarket.

Stuart also has a passion for collecting local things and spent a few years diving into rivers with underwater metal detectors in a quest to uncover history.

His collection includes bottles from two breweries which used to be in Maidenhead including Fuller Story, which took over Bell Brewery in Bell Street, and Nicholsons Brewery, which closed in 1960.

It also includes pieces he has bought in auctions including a Wooburn Green enamel sign, and family trophies belonging to his father Edward and uncle George, who won the Maidenhead to Bray swim 13 years in a row.

One of Stuart’s favourite pieces is a cherry toothpaste pot from a Taplow chemist in 1896 and the Nicholsons brewery bottles from 1880.

He said: “Just when you think you’ve seen them all, along comes something new.

“All these local artifacts are each part of a jigsaw puzzle that forms the bigger picture of our local history.

“Some friends have described me through my digging antics as a treasure hunter but one old boy some years ago called me a history hunter which I much prefer.”

Each bottle digging trip is researched and planned, and the group often hires a digger for the bigger sites as there is less danger of damaging the bottles.

He said: “After I find the bottle I will research the brewery, the wonder of the internet means it is a lot easier to find new sites now, I used to have to look at the library archives.”

In 2016, the group was granted permission from developer Redrow and its ground preparation company McAuliffe’s to recover local bottles from a site in Braywick which was used as a bottle tipping site by the Victorians.

The developer did not ask for any payment, so Stuart made a donation to the Advertiser Cracker Appeal on its behalf.

He said he would like to search The Landing site in the future, which includes King Street, Queen Street, and Broadway, but sites are becoming harder and harder to find.

He said: “Opportunities are becoming fewer and fewer with the relentless pace of development locally.

“If any readers can help with sites or if they have any old bottles, signs, or just any old interesting local pieces of any nature it would be great to hear from them as I’m always looking for new additions to acquire.”

Email louisamace@hotmail.co.uk if you can help Stuart on his quest for new bottles.

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