Lid comes off tip's past: Collectors unearth a treasure trove of Victorian artefacts at dump site that was closed to them for 20 years

THEY style themselves as 'bottle collectors'. They feel it has a better ring than 'dump diggers', which is a more apt description. But then, this is not just any old dump.

The dozen-or-so men who have spent the past two months sifting the entrails of the site at Wroxall, on the Isle of Wight, have waited 20 years for the privilege.

The previous owner's unwillingness to have his meadow torn up had proved an insurmountable obstacle, but the new owner-landlord agreed in an effort to end the problem of the holes that appeared after less scrupulous collectors staged night-time raids.

The tip dates from the late Victorian period when the island was an popular holiday destination for the well-heeled. The result is a treasure trove of Victorian artefacts which, on the mainland, were often lost forever when barges carried away rubbish from the cities to be dumped in inaccessible spots.

But on the island this was impossible and the waste from eight or nine tightly grouped towns ended up at the site which is reckoned to be one of the largest excavations of its kind.

Most highly prized among items remaining after tips were torched to reduce the bulk are lids to the porcelain pots which contained everything from cherry toothpaste to anchovy paste in the days before tin cans.

But among collectors on the island the real quarry are those lids which bear the names of local towns. Toothpaste from the chemists in Ventnor has been of particular interest.

David Goodredge, one of the collectors, said that much of the material will feature in displays on the island, though historians also regard the dump as an important piece in the jigsaw of local social history.

(Photograph omitted)