This fragment of stoneware pottery is part of a Bartmann jug and was found in Thorton in Lonsdale, Craven.
The angry, bearded face would have appeared near the narrow neck of a bulbous-shaped jug. This style of jug was originally made in the Germany around the 1550s and would have been used as a drinking vessel or for transporting liquids.
Although originally produced in Germany’s Rhineland, they were traded all across Europe and eventually ones were made in England. When they were first made they had very distinct and clear faces, however the faces became more grotesque around the 1700s . With its fierce, scowling face, it would suggest that this fragment comes from a vessel produced during this later period.
It is also reported that by the 1700s Bartmann jugs became witches’ bottles containing various personal items, urine and hair, in order to use in spells to harm or benefit someone.
The term ‘Bartmann’ translates as ‘bearded man’, which is how the jugs received their name. They are also known as Bellarmine jugs, named after Robert Bellarmine who was a cardinal and fierce opponent of Protestantism. The jugs may have been named after him in order to ridicule him because he had a strong anti-alcohol stance. Tradition says that when the jugs had been used people would smash them as a protest to Bellarmino. This name however only appears after 1634.
Examples of similar objects can be seen on the Museum of London’s website.