A Virol Jar

A Virol Jar - one of the Treasures of Market Lavington which can be seen at Market Lavington Museum

Virol was marketed as ‘The Ideal Food’ It was ‘A preparation of bone marrow’ and ‘an ideal fat food for children and invalids’

Virol was first produced, experimentally,  by the Bovril company at their Old Street, London works in 1899. Presumably they decided the product was good for in 1900 the Virol company  became a separate section of Bovril and within the decade it was regarded as an independent company.

Adverts persuading people to buy must have managed to fill parents with guilt, if they didn’t give their children Virol. Simple phrases such as ‘School children need Virol’ were used in adverts that looked rather like editorial content. The message was also shown on enamel advertising signs.

In 1920 production of Virol moved to modern premises in Perivale in Middlesex. Production ceased sometime during the second world war.

Many of the delightful, earthenware jars survive. We have just one small jar at Market Lavington Museum.

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50 Responses to “A Virol Jar”

  1. Derek jones Says:

    i unearthed a jar like the one in your picture today while digging in Irlam Manchester which is in very good condition..

  2. lindsay Says:

    I was diving in the waters around Shetland and found a Virol jar
    which is similar to your picture,but larger and with a smaller neck.

  3. Geoff Heap Says:

    I remember eating Virol as a child in the 1950s so production must have continued for some time after WW2

    • Eileen Sainsbury Says:

      Yes, I remember having Virol too – in fact we used to get it from the “welfare” (as I remember it being called) together with orange juice concentrate just after the war. I think this was for families with small children.

  4. mandy Says:

    how much do they cost

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      That isn’t something we deal in. Our museum is always willing to receive gifts which must have a real connection with the parishes of Market Lavington and Easterton.

      • mandy Says:

        no not sell to you but just see how much

      • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

        Sorry. The point I was making was that we don’t buy things so we have no idea of cash value. All our items have a connection with our villages and are therefore of value to us, beyond price.

        If I want to value something I usually look and see what things sell for on ebay. A virol pot like ours has less than 4 hours left in the auction as I write and has attracted no bids as yet – not even the 99p starting price. A smaller pot has a bid of £11 or so.

        See what they actually sell for and that gives you a guide to value.

  5. D Johnston Says:

    I would like some information on a Virol jar which I found in a field whilst collecting mushrooms. I know there are lots of virol jars around but the one I have is almost 30cms in height.

  6. Mariana Says:

    I found a Virol jar.It is intact. The jar has barely or no scratches. it’s awesome how something like that is intact! it was found while digging under a house in Far Rockaway. (Queens, N.Y)

  7. Jason Johns Says:

    I happened across a virol jar while doing a sewer excavation in Illinois. Perfect condition! Brown glass. with F4 on the bottom. Does that mean anything?

  8. Josie Says:

    Just found a Virol little jar in my garden together with old milk bottles and very old looking tiny toys ..depending where we lightly dig we find other things and in perfect condition. Love it! it says “Ideal food. A preparation of bone marrow. Ideal food for children and invalids” 🙂

  9. Bone marrow-the breakfast of champions in 1913 | Strange Remains Says:

    […] Market Lavington Museum Blog […]

  10. tracey Says:

    hi people im a bobcat operator and unearthed a small virol bootle the same as the museum one whilst trenching unit or flat foundations in bundaberg queensland australia in 2013 reidy.

  11. brian clark Says:

    I have a professionally made photograph record of the whole Virol story, entitled, “Where Health Is Made, The Home Of Virol”. It measures 16 X 11 inches and has 22 pages of full plate photographs with the complete story of how it was made. There is an aero photograph of the factory, and a photograph of all the male staff, named. They had their own sports ground and also invited nurses to visit the factory .I have not been able to date it, but the product was made in brown bottles and 28lb tins for hospitals. One photograph shows 2 stacks of bottles with 288,000 in each. The delivery lorry also has solid tyres and VIROL on the side.

  12. Chris Day Says:

    I was given Virol by my mother in the early 60’s so it was definitely still around then…..

  13. Pete Marks Says:

    My first job starting in our local factory was on the “Virol filling machine”. I used to put the Virol in the jars!! This I did from 1974 to 1976. Production of Virol did continue after that….to about 1977/78. After that, the machinery was removed from our factory and it is rumoured that it was shipped to somewhere in Scotland

  14. Jan Burke Says:

    I remember my mum giving us Virol in the late 50s, a spoonful every day, but I am sure it was a brown sticky substance based on a malt extract so maybe they changed the product…certainly more appealing taste than bone marrow fat!

  15. karina jobson Says:

    my man dug one up in Townsville Queensland
    in Australia. Near an old WW2 Army Camp..it is in Worn condition.as like the picture .

  16. Peter Marks Says:

    I don’t know, but I think that everybody are talking of finding old Virol jars like the one shown in the photo, but in the mid ’70’s the jars were of 2 different sizes and very much like a Bovril/Marmite sort of design, made of brown glass,

  17. Karen Crookshank Says:

    Virol was still around in the 70’s. I gave it to my children, born in 1976 and 79, but it was thick brown, almost like treacle, made from malt. It was delicious. When babies were extra hungry or off colour we used to dissolve a spoonful in their bottles of milk! Sure that would be frowned upon nowadays!

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      Thanks Karen – and it does say Virol now so I’ll delete your other message. Do you know I never saw it for our children (born 1977 and 1980). Mind you, in deepest rural Wiltshire we didn’t find much that was a tad out of the ordinary.

      We love these personal memories. It brings things alive.



  18. Peter Riley Says:

    I was born in1949 and as a nipper we were always given a spoon of Malt Extract and concentrate Orange on a spoon. I’ve been trying to remember the brand or name of this juice.Anybody help out?

  19. Jenny wilkinson Says:

    My partner has just dug up two virol jars both different sizes. Both in mint condition. Very fascinating to learn what it was used for. Staffordshire. Looks like it’s well travelled.

  20. Keith greener Says:

    A have a excellent example of the pot in the picture is there any value in this quality pot .

    • marketlavingtonmuseum Says:

      What do you mean by value? As an ornament it is entirely for you to decide. Unless it has some specific historical value, then they are pretty common items. If you mean cash then we have no idea or really much interest in that.

      See what they fetch on an internet auction site!

  21. Joan Kerns Says:

    I was given a Virol jar by my aunt who was given the ” Bone-Marrow” preparation as a baby in 1909. The virol was sent to her (she lived in Alberta) from England by her grandfather. The jar is in good condition, it has a tinier neck and is made of polished earthenware.

  22. Andy Davidson Says:

    In 1950, at the age of six, I was in hospital in Scotland for a couple of weeks. I recall the nurses came around the children’s wards every morning and offered us the choice of a teaspoonful of either Malt or Virol. Virol was a sweet, sticky substance, very similar to malt but somewhat darker in colour. Both the Malt and the Virol were in large glass jars with metal screw tops.
    I also remember orange concentrate around the same time. It was sold in a small, rectangular medicine bottle and you bought it from the local pharmacy. It had a rather bitter taste … probably with no added sugar!

  23. anna heyes Says:

    We found one exactly like the one shown here in great condition in our rose garden in New Zealand about 10 years ago. We were digging it up and came across all sorts of old bottles. We have kept it in our kitchen on display. I was just pesuaded by my 10 year old to look up its history on the computer after a conversation about it whilst we were sucking the marrow out of lamb shanks. I love things with a story.

  24. Kevin Turner Says:

    I have just found one in my garden in Worthing, West Sussex, UK. Its dark brown glass with Virol embossed on the side. I like the one in the picture though. kev turner

  25. Claire Says:

    Hi I recently found one of these pots and know nothing about it are they rare I had never heard of it before

  26. Keith southgate Says:

    I used to have virol every day as a child along with the rest of the family I remember it tasted a lot better then modern day malt extract

  27. Sandra Malone Says:

    If production stopped during the Second World War how is it I was still eating it in the sixties as a child? Did another company take up the reigns ?

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