Puzzle jugs were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries and made in great numbers in North Devon up to the 1930s, usually carrying a verse challenging the user to drink without spilling. This particular jug was made by William Baron at the Brannam Pottery in Litchdon Street in 1889. He had been recruited from Doulton’s in London and made an important contribution to Brannam’s output before setting up his own rival pottery in 1893.
Peter Brannam explains that jugs like this became uneconomic to make:
“The jugs were entirely hand-made and required considerable skill and patience in manufacture. The body was thrown and at the top of the narrow neck the rim was turned over to leave a hollow tube inside. The handle was made by rolling a ball of clay round a piece of thick cord which was left slightly protruding at each end; a hole was punched low in the jug, and another at a corresponding point in the hollow rim and the handle carefully fixed to these two holes so that the cord protruded slightly into the jug at the bottom and the hollow rim at the top. Three tiny conical spouts were then thrown and each was fixed to a further hole punched on the hollow rim. Finally a small hole was drilled underneath the handle at the point where it joined the rim, a pattern of numerous holes was made all round the vertical neck of the jug and the whole was coloured and decorated as required.”