Archaeology of a Crisp Packet

During one of our YAC meets I began seeing similar bits of plastic amongst the finds, my first thought was ‘it’s just rubbish’ but in truth this crisp packet is more interesting than just any bit of litter. Just as shown in the pictures the front of the packet remains intact, unfortunately the same can not be said for the rest of it and there is a chunk of packet still missing from its back. The design is fairly simple, sporting three main features –

1. The “New! CRACKLE fresh” headline.

Golden Wonder Crisp Packet
Golden Wonder Crisp Packet

As there was no date to be found on the remains of the package we can’t say exactly when it was from, we can assume though that it is from 1965-66 as that is when Golden Wonders brilliant new packaging came out. Branded ‘crackle fresh’ and far more efficient at keeping your crisps fresh than anything else at that point, with the bold lettering at the top of the packet proclaiming that this packet is “now crackle fresh!” we can safely assume that it was made not long after the release of the new packaging

2. “Golden Wonder Crisps”

This is a strange one as I have not been able to find any similar packaging on the internet. However, it does have a recognisable Golden Wonder figure.

3. A Blue Man

Golden Wonder Crisp Packet
Golden Wonder Crisp Packet

A blue, silhouetted man sporting a bonnet and eating from a bag of crisps. Our little ‘Golden Wonder’s man is one of the old logos for the company, in fact he is the original face of Golden Wonder Crisps – aside from their creator William Alexander. Due to the shape of the red bubble “Golden Wonder Crisps” resides in it is fair to say that this little man is proclaiming the brand name.

4. “Smokey Bacon”

And finally a red strip containing the number “4.0” and the words “Smokey Bacon Flavor”. Within the YAC group we decided that the “4.0” probably means the pack cost 4p when it was bought, with means that it would have cost about 74p if purchased today. Which is the same price as most single packets of crisps.

As for the flavour – Smokey Bacon – not much can be said, but the packet does have a fairly cute pig on the back. Although Golden Wonder was the first company to flavour their crisps, releasing their Cheese and Onion crisps in 1962, so they must have done a lot of work after the success of them as our crisp packet is from only 3 or 4 years later.

Finding this packet prompted me to look into the history of Golden Wonder’s and crisps in general, here is some of the information I found – it may be interesting to you.

The Golden Wonder crisp was born in 1947 when an Edinburgh baker (William Alexander), started to make crisps in the afternoon when all his baking was finished. He had the inspiration to call his crisps after the Golden Wonder potato, and when production really took off, it’s said that his factories ‘could transform an unpeeled potato into a “crackle fresh” cellophane bag in twelve minutes!’

Golden Wonder Crisp Packet
Golden Wonder Crisp Packet

The original crisp however was made in England by Dr William Kitchiner in the early 19th Century, this is proved by his published book, ‘The Cook’s Oracle’ which contained a recipe for crisps. Another English man, Frank Smith (a greengrocer) began selling crisps to London shops and pubs. In 1913 he was producing 1000 bags of  ‘Smiths Crisps’ every week, and by 1920 it was half a million bags per week, Smiths Crisps continued at the head of the market until 1965, when Golden Wonder officially gained  the largest share of the market.

Interestingly, it was ‘Smiths Crisps’ that were sent to the front line to try and keep British troops spirits lifted during World War II, and at about the same time, more and more butchers and bakers began to fry their own crisps during times of rationing to supplement their income.

Anyway… you can see from the pictures, the size of crisp packets today have not changed much from those in 1965, there may be less weight of crisps in them today however, and the oils used for frying the potatoes in is definitely lighter. Dr Kitchiner suggested using lard or dripping, whereas we now use the lighter choice of vegetable oils – and it’s not just potatoes that are used nowadays – it’s all kinds of vegetables and pulses – there’s almost too much choice…..

Maybe someone in the future will also find themselves strangely interested and invested in one of our discarded crisp packets.


Something Medieval?

Page of medieval, ecclesiatical music with words in Latin
Music Manuscript Page: Side 1

I have recently been given a large sheet of paper with music on both side and Latin words. It looks really old, but I don’t really know much about it at all. I know it isn’t what wwe usually think of as archaeology, but perhaps some YAC members might be interested in doing some research about it?

Here is what I know. The page was bought by my father-in-law from a bookseller in Dublin in the 1950’s. Apparently the seller was pulling pages from a large book and selling them for so many shillings each to customers. There is a bad tear and several scissor or knife cuts. The page is vellum; stretched, dried animal skin. It was used to make good quality and long-lasting paper for many centuries.

The first side has what may be a page number in the top right: XXVI, Roman numerals for 26. Curiously there are no musical notes on the first line (stave), but it is possible to see very faint writing immediately below. It looks as though it has been painted out with something. Perhaps the copyist made a mistake? A piece of vellum was probably too expensive just to throw away, so the mistake was covered up and the copyist started again.

Page of medieval, ecclesiatical music with words in Latin
Music Manuscript Page: Side 2

The reverse of the page is noticably darker. I wonder why? Is this normal with vellum perhaps? There seems to be a circular stain in the top right of the page, perhaps from a coffee cup?

There is also some modern writing in pencil in the middle of the margin on the left. The firtst line seems to read 35/68 but I’m not sure about the four letters or numbers beneath.

So; questions. How old is the sheet? Where is it from? What was the music for and who sang it? How does one look after old vellum? Is there any way to find out what the first line of the text says?

Anyone interested in helping to find out more can let me know.