This spectacular jug celebrates the peak of traditional North Devon pottery making. It was mended with metal staples at some time in the past, so was clearly a precious possession.
Fragments of decorated North Devon pottery are a common find throughout South-West England and are found as far away as the New World. From the middle of the 17th century potters in Barnstaple and Bideford made wide-rimmed dishes of Fremington clay, coated them with Peters Marland clay slip and scratched through a design before firing and glazing.
The increasing availability of good-quality tablewares from Bristol and Staffordshire from the 18th century led North Devon potters to concentrate on plain pitchers, bowls and storage jars, but the decorated sgraffito jugs maintained their place in local households, often carrying an inscription that shows they were used at harvest celebrations.
The North Devon harvest jug tradition continues unbroken to this day. Jugs can still be commissioned from Harry Juniper at the Bideford Pottery to mark events and celebrations. This particular jug was made for John Phillips in 1760 by the Bideford potter Thomas Fields, who produced some of the most spectacular surviving North Devon harvest jugs. It bears the royal coat of arms, together with mermaids and monsters, and is dated 1760.
When I was in my native place
I was a lump of clay
And Digged up out of the earth
And brought from thens away
But now a jug I am become
By potters art and skill
An I your servant am became
And Carie Ale I will