Object of the month: The Puzzle Tyg

Hampshire Cultural Trust has received funding from National Lottery Heritage Fund to help reimagine the Allen Gallery and its nationally significant ceramic collection over the next year. As a part of this project, we are researching and discovering the collections’ untold stories.

This months article focuses on a puzzle tyg in the gallery's collection.

The Puzzle Tyg

The Puzzle Tyg in the Allen Gallery is lead-glazed earthenware, with white slip and a transparent yellowish glaze. It was bought in 1979 ,with the aid of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.  The decoration is a heart and the initials G R, probably by George Richardson.  The dark brown ground is profusely decorated with slip, with stud and dotted embellishments. George Richardson was the first to inscribe his ware with the name WROTHAM.  It is dated 1682, and made in Wrotham, Kent.  

The tyg has a false bottom and three handles with thumb-pieces pierced, only one of which connects with the cup interior.  There is also a ceramic sectioned model of the inside of the tyg to show how the puzzle element worked.  This is displayed next to the Puzzle Tyg.  Puzzle jugs were commonly made in Europe, especially England, from the 17th to the 19th centuries.  This example is also called Wrothamware.

Puzzle jugs were intended to provide amusement in the local tavern or as a conversation piece at a dinner party.  The design intentionally prevented any liquid in the jug from being poured or drunk, and provided great entertainment when the uninitiated attempted to drink from the vessel.  They would either get soaked or achieve nothing if they did not know which holes to cover with their fingers!

In the 17th century, the Weald area of Kent produced a simple form of pottery based on the red surface-clay found locally.  The pottery became known as Wrotham Pottery.  Although centred on the village of Wrotham, similar pottery wares were produced in a number of surrounding villages.  The nature of the pottery was necessarily uncomplicated, based on the lack of resources provided from the landscape.  The Weald of the 17th Century was a combination of bare heathland and forests, with little farmland.  The pottery was therefore simple and practical.  It was not until the appearance of slipware, that the pottery started to have decoration added.  Coloured slipware production at Wrotham has been recorded between 1612 and 1739.

Drinking cups with more than one handle were the great speciality of Wrotham potters in the 17th century, and have been described as 'tygs' by collectors since the 19th century.  They were made of red or brown clay, decorated in white with slip-trailing, moulded prunts, and motifs on applied pads of clay, which appear yellow under the lead glaze.  Many of them bear dates and the potter's initials also on applied pads of clay, sometimes accompanied by one or two other sets of initials presumably those of their owners.

Generally, Wrotham forms include loving cups, candlesticks and puzzle jugs.  The tyg form has the typical Wrotham looped handles ornamented with contrasting coloured, thickly slipped spots of clay.

Written and researched by Jackie Breakspear, an Allen Gallery Research Volunteer.

For more information about our Rediscovering the Allen Gallery project, click here.

Rediscovering the Allen Gallery | Hampshire Cultural Trust
Alton’s Allen Gallery is an intimate setting for one of the nation’s most outstanding collections of ceramics. Supported by initial funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we are thrilled to be embarking on the first phase of an exciting project to rediscover the Allen Gallery for the commu…

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Hampshire Cultural Trust

From museums to galleries to arts centres, we manage and support 24 attractions across the county, welcoming over 740,000 people each year. Our charitable purpose is changing lives through culture.
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