Reece Hygh holds a Victoria Brewery beer bottle shard from the 1880s he found in the Gorge. Hygh and friend Chris Hill use snorkles and a rake to find the old bottles buried under silt and grasses. He also found a black and a blue glass bottles from the same era

Reece Hygh holds a Victoria Brewery beer bottle shard from the 1880s he found in the Gorge. Hygh and friend Chris Hill use snorkles and a rake to find the old bottles buried under silt and grasses. He also found a black and a blue glass bottles from the same era

Relics of history remain hidden in Gorge waterway

One colonist’s trash is another man’s treasure, given a century or so.

One colonist’s trash is another man’s treasure, given a century or so.

Hunt around long enough in the Gorge Waterway and antique bottles can emerge from the muck.

For Reece Hygh, the Gorge remains a treasure trove of old handmade bottles and clay jugs produced in breweries and factories dating to the earliest days of Fort Victoria.

“The Gorge is one of the first places people partied. For Fort Victoria, the British colonists drank there and would toss in their bottles,” Hygh said.

“You can still find really old bottles, embossed pop and beer bottles. We’ve found bottles marked ‘poison’. We’ve found U.S. Navy mustard bottles that date to 1858, dried mustard bottles. That is cool.”

Probing the grasses and mud using a rake and a snorkel, Hygh and friend Chris Hill recently found a shard of a bottle stamped with ‘VB’ for Victoria Brewery, which is circa 1868.

That early brewery first used water from Swan Lake and then moved into downtown Victoria. They’ve found ginger beer and pop bottles from Alex Phillips, the first bottler of soda pop in Western Canada, and from Christopher Morely, who had his factory in Waddington Alley in a building since refurbished into condos.

The practice of hunting through silt and muck is called mudlarking, and dates back two centuries to impoverished Brits who scavenged the shores of the Thames River.

Hygh, 54, has collected antique bottles for 40 years and enjoys the thrill of treasure hunting and its connection to local history.

“I’m a history buff. I like relics like embossed bottles from Victoria or Nanaimo or Vancouver or San Francisco,” he said, noting that Alex Phillips first imported his bottles from San Francisco. “I do this as a hobby. We are the keepers of relics. We keep them for a while, then pass them on.”

He normally hunts for old bottles “above the falls,” otherwise known as west of the Tillicum Bridge. Many sections of the Gorge were popular for swimming and socializing in the early 1900s, before the era of industry and pollution.

“I walk the Gorge a couple times per year,” said Hygh, who lives in Nanaimo. “Other collectors walk it every day and still find stuff. Some people go in the water with (fishing) boots and wetsuits. That’s not for me. I scrounge around along the side.”

–with reporting from Sharon Tiffin

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Crews disassemble the iconic red and white KFC bucket from a sign on Goldstream Avenue. (Photo courtesy of Mark Schoor)
Iconic KFC bucket removed from Goldstream Avenue

Popular fast-food chain closes Langford location

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

A Cowichan Valley mom is wondering why masks haven’t been mandated for elementary schools. (Metro Creative photo)
B.C. mom frustrated by lack of mask mandate for elementary students

“Do we want to wait until we end up like Fraser Health?”

Most Read