Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

The evolution of the humble, hand-held screw focused on the efficacy of cork extraction – in 1795 Samuel Henshall discovered that the cork could be rotated in the bottle neck by attaching a flange to the head of the screw, in 1802 Edward Thomason patented the barrel screw, a model popular among the lazy-armed today, where a cork would simply be removed on the turn of the counter-threaded worm. Later additions to this oeuvre of openers included champagne pliers and the American Screwpull. But it was not until the 1860s, when Charles Hill had developed a machine capable of producing a worm so finely turned and coarsely pitched that it could be driven into the cork without the need to turn a handle, that the fixed bar screw was born.

Many different patents were granted for such idiosyncratic models as ‘The Don’, ‘The Acme’, ‘The Rotary Eclipse’ and also the ‘Original Safety’, an example of which, right, was consigned to Greenslade Taylor Hunt’s sale of collectables in Taunton on August 12. Like many bar-screws, this example had probably pulled dozens of corks every day for many years and its mechanism was not in the best of condition. It sold to a collector at £45 (plus 15 per cent premium).