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Wolverhampton bottle’s link to a Victorian scandal

By gavin jones  |  Posted: July 01, 2010

The Lawrence bottle.

The Lawrence bottle.

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NOT TOO many weeks go by without a bottle or two being brought into Bugle House. Whether freshly unearthed or found some years ago, these little time capsules, stored underground and by their very nature immune from deterioration, remind us of local firms long gone or tell us of companies otherwise forgotten.

Brian Baker of Wombourne showed us a small collection which he unearthed about thirty years ago from a Victorian tip on Springfield Road, Wolverhampton, known locally as Fowler’s Field.

Two of the bottles, almost a matching pair in heavy green glass, are for Gallacher and Co and Louis Connolly respectively, each bearing ‘Wine Merchant’ across the centre and ‘Wolverhampton’ across the bottom. Connolly’s, Brian remembers, were still in business well into the twentieth century.

Also unearthed from the same site but not shown here are bottles from the Old Wolverhampton Breweries of Market Street and the still-with-us Banks and Co.

But the one which caught Brian’s imagination was the item from ‘J Lawrence of Wolverhampton and Birmingham’.

Lawrence’s son Edward was famously tried for the murder of a local woman, and released due to lack of evidence; a decision which did little to persuade the rest of Wolverhampton that he was innocent.

In 1908 a young Wolverhampton woman by the name of Ruth Hadley was shot through the head, and Edward Lawrence, a successful businessman and apparently respectable middle class gent, was charged with her murder.

Lawrence was a married man but a known philanderer; a heavy drinker who would often be found brawling in the local pubs. He was the heir to his father Joseph’s brewing business and seemingly took his considerable inheritance for granted; the ultimate spoilt little rich boy.

He was found in a room with a gun in his pocket, next to a girl with a bullet in her head. But with no witnesses his barrister, the legal legend Edward Marshall Hall, managed to get him off citing a lack of evidence. Though the judge was not convinced of Lawrence’s innocence, the jury was, and the defendant walked free.

And yet Edward Lawrence continued pretty much where he left off. Just three years after his trial, at the age of 45, he was dead, and the assumption was that his drinking was the cause.

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