World-famous jars

With thanks to the Conisbrough & Denaby Main Heritage group, who helped us piece together the Kilner history locally, and who kindly supplied the historic picture of Denaby and Conisbrough Kilners glassworkers celebrating Queen Victoria’s jubilee on June 22, 1897 – parading with a wagon entiredly loaded with Kilner jars! The picture was taken near the Dam and on the extreme left you can make out a stone stile, into the Castle grounds.

For nearly 200 years, Kilner jars have been known – and sold – the world over for preserving, pickling and storing food… long before the fridge had been invented!

There’s probably not a kitchen worth its salt that doesn’t have one of these – with it’s metal clip-down lid, or screw top – on show somewhere.

What is less well-known is this amazing invention came from Yorkshire – and was made in **Conisbrough, at the base of the Crags!

**Although the works is clearly in what is now Denaby, there was no “Denaby” at the time – only Old Denaby. In fact, Denaby Main colliery’s first shaft was just coming into working, prior to the establishment of the mining village.  Thus the postal address for Kilners was Conisborough.

John Kilner and Co introduced the Kilner jar to the world in 1842 – and with its unique two-piece seal system with a glass lid and metal screw band, it revolutionised preservation, while minimising the danger of food poisoning.

The original jars were large – holding nearly three pints! They were made at Kilners’ original glassworks at Thornhill Lees in Dewsbury. But as demand soared for the jars, the factory’s resources were soon hard-pushed. So Kilner opened a new Providence glassworks, in “Conisbrough”.

The works – on the banks of the Don, and adjoining the main Doncaster railway line – covered 11 acres. It boasted its own private wharf for water transport, and employed 400 people – many living in 76 cottages provided for them by the company.

If you find an old glass bottle with KBC stamped on the bottom, it was made by Kilner Brothers, Conisborough.

By the 1870s and 80s, Kilner jars were winning awards in places as diverse as Paris, Sydney, Melbourne and Philadelphia and were a phenomenon of the age.
Of course, modern technology saw Kilner in decline in the early 20th century and the Providence works was shut in 1937.

But the access to the works, Kilner’s Bridge, still exists today, close by the STONE RAILWAY site and the works can be seen on our OLD MAPS for 1931 and 1948.