Recent excavations at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, produced a number of cylindrical marmalade jars, recovered with other debris from a feature interpreted as a store-room. Three jars were kept as a sample. All bear the mark of the Keiller marmalade company of Dundee.
The origins of Keiller’s marmalade are supposed to lie, possibly apocryphally, in a shipment of over-ripe Seville oranges bought by James Keiller and used by his wife, Janet, to make marmalade. The brand was founded in 1797, as the first commercial marmalade brand, and its defining characteristic from the beginning was the characteristic scraps of rind in the preserve. By the late 19th century it was being exported around the world.
Each of the three jars from the College store-room carries a different transfer-printed label, which date the jars to different points in the company’s history. The earliest bears the legend ‘James Keillers [sic] Marmalade, Dundee’. The company became James Keiller & Son in 1828, so this jar must date between 1797 and 1828. The second jar has a more ornate label, which boasts the ‘Only Prize Medal for Marmalade, London, International Exhibition, 1862’, while the third carries a similar label, but also including the ‘Grand Medal of Merit Vienna 1873’. The design of the latter continued in use until the end of the 19th century, but the addition of a date letter ‘H’ below the wreath on the label dates this jar to 1880.