In today’s environment of “where there’s a blame there’s a claim”, it was refreshing to find a newspaper article showing how disputes were resolved in Victorian times: in a “gentlemanly manner”.  I am currently mapping the ancestry of the founders of the Cannington Shaw & Co, Glass Bottle Manufacturers of St Helens, Lancashire.

I gave an update talk to the Cannington Shaw Preservation Trust meeting today and finished with an article I discovered from the Manchester Evening News of 9 November 1894. [1] A dispute had arisen regarding the quality of bottles delivered to a customer.  They agreed the dispute amicably, but it still went before a judge so that they could prove their good name.  Here is an abbreviated version of the newspaper report:

 “The action arose out of an order for a certain quantity of half pint bottles given by the defendants to the plaintiffs, who were manufacturers of glass bottles at St Helens and held a high position in the trade.  The defendants complained soon after the bottles were delivered that a great many of them were not of proper capacity. A considerable number were of short measure and some were rather in excess.  The result was a great many complaints from their customers.

 This had come about in this way: At the time the order was given the coal strike was in progress.  Messrs Cannington Shaw and Co’s works were to some extent stopped and in order to supply the order they had recourse to one of the best manufacturers in Germany.  It would be understood that it was impossible to make glass bottles to an exact measure, though the glass blowers with wonderful skill, were able to come within a very narrow margin.

 Their lawyer stated that it was of some importance to his clients that the real cause of their sending out bottles of varying measure should be clearly stated.  The plaintiffs went for bottles to a place where they thought they had a right to expect they would get the very best, because there was no doubt that Messrs Cannington Shaw & Co had a high reputation.

 The plaintiff’s solicitor said his clients were satisfied with the explanation which had been given and had since given Cannington Shaw & Co orders which had been quite satisfactorily carried out.

 The judge said both parties came perfectly clean out of the dispute.  The fault seemed to be with neither. In all probability the explanation was that the German workmen, accustomed to making litres and half litres could not blow with the same accuracy to a different measure.”



[1] The British Newspaper Archive. The British Library Board. [accessed 8 September 2018]

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