Whilst we hold some unique items in our collection, we would never have thought that a plastic watering can from 1957 would prove to be one of our rarest items.
Only other we have traced so far is held by the V & A in London.
This futuristic watering can was designed by Martyn Rowlands and manufactured by Ekco Plastics Ltd, Southend, both being significant in their fields, as you will find below.
Departure from the classic watering can shape, being lightweight and space saving. The graduated bucket came with a detachable hinged lid and spout. Capacity was 1.5 gallons or 7 litres, the graduations to help with mixing fertilizers and insecticides.
Bucket top diameter: 20cm
Bucket base diameter: 17cm
Bucket only height: 30cm
Max height with lid on top of bucket to top of spout: 65cm
Featured on the front cover of Design magazine in October 1957.
Whilst there is evidence of small children’s plastic watering cans in 1950, those of larger capacity were not seen until the mid-1950’s.
Martyn Rowlands was one of the first trained industrial designers to work with plastics in Britain. He tended to work through the development of models rather than by making drawings and his designs are noteworthy for their smooth, clean lines and their practicality. Rowlands was among the first designers to make the most of the relatively new injection moulding process and in 1966 his design for the now iconic Trimphone for STC won a prestigious Design Centre award.
Amongst his many other inventions was a portable baby bath, with an integral drainage hole, supported on a folding wooden stand. He designed this in 1955 and won the Council for Industrial Design, Designs Award in 1958.
EKCO (from Eric Kirkham Cole Limited) was a British electronics company producing radio and television sets from 1924 until 1960. Expanding into plastic production for its own use, Ekco Plastics produced both radio cases and later domestic plastic products.
By 1955 the plastics division, was one of the biggest producers of industrial mouldings and plastic domestic ware.
In 1957 The millionth television receiver left the EKCO factory.
Back to the 'Watering Can'
Although having such a great pedigree, being priced at £2 9s 6d (£2.48) in 1960 we can only assume that it did not capture the gardening public's imagination, especially with Woolworths at that time selling traditional shaped plastic/polythene watering cans for only 14s 9d (0.78p).
There is little evidence of advertising in the period 1957-1962, just the odd small article with no advertisements seen in the national press or indeed gardening magazines.
Image below taken from Sport & Country Magazine, 24th July 1957.
As stated, the only other Ekco watering can we know of is held by the V & A, ours will soon be exhibited in The Museum of Gardening, Hassocks alongside a copper watering can from the 1850’s, the latter being the more common of the two!