For Better or Worcestershire Sauce

By Josefin Jimenez

For the past weeks, as the paper conservator, I have been working on a collection of bottles of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce found in the loft of the Southern Cross expedition hut at Cape Adare in Antarctica. Some 30 bottles were found in the loft, in addition to others found in the dining area. Food for the expedition, even if in ample supply, was of little variety and Borchgrevink himself wrote: “Seal beef and roasted penguin flesh became a frequent repast as we grew frightfully tired of tinned food”.

Whether or not this went down well with a dash of Worcestershire sauce remains unsaid.

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce was established in 1839 so would have been a household name by the time Borchgrevink went to Antarctica. The bottles themselves are beautiful objects and it’s stunning to see them emerge from the debris.

Before treatment image of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

When they arrive to the lab they are covered in grit and penguin feathers and often the sauce has spilled and dribbled from the bottle. Traditionally, the bottles were labelled with a decorative printed label and then wrapped in paper for transport. In some cases only traces of paper remain on the glass; at others, the spills have so impregnated the paper that it is no longer possible to distinguish the paper from the glass.

After treatment image of Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

But for a few of them, where the wrapper has remained, lifting the wrapper reveals a label of startlingly vivid orange colour and delicate blue printing and borders.  Much of the printing is often lost but in good examples the following can be read:

'Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce Pronounced by Connoisseurs as The Only Good Sauce For enriching Gravies, and for use in Game, Steak, Cold Meats, Soup & Curries. It forms an agreeable addition to SALAD & CHEESE. As spurious imitations of this are offered to the public, ensure with each purchase that the name of LEA & PERRINS is on the Wrapper and Labels as well as on each Bottle and Patent Stopper. Manufactured solely by LEA & PERRINS, WORCESTERSHIRE, and sold by CROSSE AND BLACKWELL, and the Warehousemen, London: JOHN DUNCAN'S SONS, NEW YORK, and vendors of sauces generally throughout the world.’

Detail of lifting the wrapper to reveal the label underneath.

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