The Bellarmine Museum

I came across an online article in Beachcombermagazine.com by Jason Sandy entitled “Mudlarking: Bellarmine Jugs and Witch Bottles” The article follows the story of Jim Ward’s discovery of a Bellarmine jug partially exposed in the muck while walking along the Thames River.

Photo: Sharon Sullivan

Bellarmine jugs were salt fired stoneware vessels produced in 16-18th centuries In what is now Germany. They were widely exported into England as well as elsewhere in Northern Europe and even to the American colonies. Bellarmine jugs are immediately recognizable by two features: a round, bulbous shape topped by a thin neck, and a bearded face decoration carved into that neck where it met the shoulder of the vase. The Bellarmine is said to be named after a Cardinale Roberto Bellarmino, a famous anti-Protestant who proposed banning alcohol, prompting Protestant drinkers to toast him with alcohol poured our of jugs named in his honor. 

In putting together his article for Beachcombermagazine.com, Jason referenced the Bellarmine Museum located in the small English town of Swaffham, northeast of London. The Bellarmine Museum was founded by Alex Wright 4 1/2 years ago. The museum holds 150 Bellarmine jugs and over 300 other Germanic pots in its collection.

An extensive article about the Bellarmine Museum in the Eastern Daily Press explains more about the museum, its establishment by Alex Wright, and detailed information about Bellarmine jugs. Rather than repeat that information here, I’ll point the reader directly to the articles.

I found additional information about Bellarmine jugs on Wikipedia and at the Pitt-Rivers Museum (part of Oxford University’s museum complex).

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