Rare 17th Century Wine Bottles Worth a Fortune Unearthed in England
A number of rare wine bottles from the 1600s are expected to fetch a small fortune when they go under the hammer at an auction in the United Kingdom. The seven wine bottles are believed to be worth about $22,000 (£20,000). They were probably owned by one of the leading English aristocrats of the late 17th century.
The wine bottles were recently found on a construction site, near Kinnersley, Worchester, in England. They were unearthed near the Croome Estate, which was once the home of the powerful Earls of Coventry.
The Unearthing of the Wine Bottles
The operator of an earth-moving vehicle, while working on a trench, saw one of the bottles glinting in the sun and he decided to investigate. Alan Blakeman, who works with specialist auctioneers BBR, stated that “He pulled it out and the others were there to just pluck from the clay. It’s incredible they didn’t damage them” reports The Drinks Industry .
The unearthed bottles were later shown to be “shaft and globe style bottles, thought to date to c1665-1670” according to The Drinks Industry . They are made from black glass and are almost completely encrusted with gold and are about 8 inches (3 centimeters) high.
The hoard of six ‘shaft and globe’ wine bottles found in Worcestershire. (© BBR Auctions )
They are very striking because they have an “iridescent ‘nature’s gilding’ patina associated with centuries underground” reports the Antique Trade Gazette . Finding bottles from this period of time is very rare and quite a discovery.
The seals on the wine bottles are well-known to historians. Two of them have the Coventry coat of arms enclosed by a coronet. A bottle with the Coventry coat of arms is part of the collection of the National Museum in London.
The gold encrusted bottles carry the seal of the Earl of Coventry who lived at the Croome Estate, which is less than a mile from the building site. (© BBR Auctions )
Who Owned the Coventry Wine Bottles?
It is possible that the coat of arms may indicate that they were owned by George 3rd Baron of Coventry (1628-80). It is more likely that they were the possessions of George Villiers , Duke of Buckingham and 2nd Earl of Coventry (1628-1687).
He was the son of the infamous George Villiers who was the advisor and possible lover of James I. This monarch elevated George to the title of Earl of Coventry. During the English Civil War, the 2nd Earl of Coventry fought for the Royalists and fled the country after the victory of the Parliamentarians.
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George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham may have owned to the wine bottles. (DcoetzeeBot / Public Domain )
After the Restoration (1660), Villers was restored to his old titles and lands by Charles II. The earl was a leading English statesman during the Restoration period. He was also something of an entrepreneur and he owned a number of glassworks and had a passion for the manufacture of glass . According to the Daily Mail , Villiers “was granted an exclusive patent in 1663 for plate and mirror glass at Vauxhall glassworks in the area now called Glasshouse Walk in London”.
It seems that he had the wine bottles specially made. Mr. Blakeman told the Daily Mail that “back then, you had to be filthy rich to have your own wine bottles made, with the seals providing an extra status symbol”. The English aristocrat had a luxurious and lavish lifestyle and was notorious for his partying and many affairs.
What is in Store for the Wine Bottles?
The bottles were found near one of his many homes, the Croome Estate . However, the original mansion was destroyed in the 18th century. The existing palatial building only dates from 1751 when it was constructed by the 6th Earl of Coventry. Today it is managed by the English National Trust.
Croome Court, in Worcestershire, close to where the wine bottles were discovered. (Tony Hisgett / CC BY-SA 2.0 )
The bottles will be auctioned over three auctions in the coming months by BBR. The bottles are valuable because of their style and age. Those bottles without a seal are worth up to $2,200 each.
However, those with seals and names are more valuable so the two with the seals could fetch considerably more. The bottles are being sold by the owners of the construction firm whose employee unearthed the rare finds.
This group of four neck fragments, including one with a seal, found with wine bottles. (© BBR Auctions )
Top image: Ancient wine bottles discovered by construction crew to be auctioned off. Source: © BBR Auctions .
By Ed Whelan