Bearded Jug

This particularly interesting looking jug from Worcester City’s collection is known generally on the Continent as a Bartmann or “Bearded” jug. In England it is known as a “Bellarmine” jug, possibly named after the Italian Jesuit theologian, Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542 – 1621), who was a leading figure of the Catholic Counter-Reformation and staunch advocate of no alcohol. Bellarmino disagreed with James I on papal dominion and the jug may have been a way of ridiculing him with a humorous depiction on a vessel that would have contained alcohol.

These salt-glazed stoneware jugs were made predominantly in the 16th and 17th centuries, more commonly manufactured in Europe, mainly Germany to start with, then eventually, English examples were found; their defining features are the bearded man depicted at the neck of the vessel and decoration around the bulb. This particular bottle was found in Worcester.

Discovered in unlikely contexts such as buried beneath floors or tucked behind fireplaces, these bottles were used as “witch bottles”. The bottle would be filled with articles such as sharp objects, nails, pins and human urine. This was then sealed and buried to keep witches at bay.


Loyalty comes in many guises

In August 2017, a metal detectorist came across this wonderful find in the Worcestershire countryside. It is a silver gilt incomplete pendant with Charles I on one side and a crowned shield of Great Britain (i.e. the Stuart Coat of Arms) on the other. It was reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and declared as treasure by the coroner.

A few years later and Worcester City Museums are now the proud owner of the artefact. This pendant was a way of showing your personal declaration of loyalty to the monarch. Other items such as buttons and badges were also commissioned and worn for this purpose. They would have been worn in the 17th century, up to 1660 when the crown was restored back to the monarchy.

Although there are other examples from around the country, not many have been found in this county, despite our Civil War heritage. Some versions combined the personal arms on one side with the owner’s initials on the other indicating their royal allegiance.

Museums Worcestershire would like to thank the generosity and continued support of The Commandery Members who have enabled us to acquire this wonderful object for the museum collection.

Treasures beneath our feet

Museums Worcestershire has collaborated with Birmingham Museums Trust since 1997 to host the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme. The Scheme was set up to record archaeological artefacts and coins discovered by the public, whether they were using a metal detector, gardening, walking across fields or playing in the mud. In the past 21 years the Scheme has recorded over 15,000 finds from Worcestershire, dating from the Stone Age through to the Post Medieval period. These finds can be viewed at

One find recently recorded is a miniature axe found near Earl’s Croome, dating to the late Iron Age to Roman period (about 100 BC to AD 200). The axe is made of bronze and measures 28mm long and 18mm wide. It is not certain what these miniature axes were used for, whether they were toys or apprentice pieces, but the most likely interpretation is that they were used as a ritual object. Examples have been found on Roman temple sites, for example in Baldock, Hertfordshire, but there is no evidence of a temple in Earl’s Croome. What this axe was doing in Earl’s Croome remains a mystery, but it could be as simple as a Roman soldier dropping it as they marched through the parish to reach their fort in the Welsh Marches 2,000 years ago.

If you are lucky enough to find buried treasure you could you add more pieces to the jigsaw by recording your finds with the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Angie Bolton
Senior Finds Liaison Officer – Portable Antiquities Scheme

Tudor Candlesticks from a Forgotten Palace

Tickenhill Manor in Bewdley was once the home of James and Alice Parker. The Parkers were keen historians and for many years had been collecting “every sort of variety of relic so long as it appertained to Worcestershire”. In the 1930s they began to show these objects as a ‘folk museum’ at their own home. Over 30 years they amassed a collection of around 30 tons of objects and were attracting up to 2000 visitors a year. This collection became the founding collection of Worcestershire County Museum in the 1960s.

Few people are aware, however, that a royal palace once stood on the site of Tickenhill Manor; a Tudor palace, built by Henry VII for his eldest son and heir, Prince Arthur. Arthur married Catherine of Aragon in the chapel at Tickenhill Palace at the tender age of 12 in 1499. The palace was built for royalty and furnished accordingly. Two candlesticks, now in Worcester City’s collection were excavated from the grounds there. They are fifteenth/sixteenth century in date and once lit the halls of this royal palace. In common with most metal candlesticks of this date they are made of brass, now tarnished by many years buried underground and would, most likely, have held wax candles.

Just three years after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Arthur died and the course of English history was changed forever. His younger brother became Henry VIII and with him came the foundation of the Church of England and the reformation. Arthur’s body was taken to the chapel at Tickenhill and then on to Worcester Cathedral where he lies today. In time, the Palace became home to Henry VIIIs daughters, Mary and Elizabeth and later hosted Charles II who wrote from there to Prince Rupert, urging him to relieve York, leading to the Battle of Marston Moor. Despite this royal pedigree, some 350 years later, Tickenhill Palace is all but forgotten.

Medieval Roof Tiles from The Commandery

The largest collection of late medieval roof tiles found in Worcester came, not from an archaeological excavation, but from the roof of a building.

The tiles were found, still in use, on the roof of the Garden Wing at The Commandery. It is possible that these tiles have been reused in their current location from an earlier building (possibly at The Commandery, but not necessarily) and that they have been taken off and put back on this present roof a number of times.

These medieval tiles were locally made in Worcester and are significant for the stamps that many of them carry. In 1467 Worcester City Ordinances introduced compulsory tiling on roofs in an attempt to reduce the number of houses with thatch roofs and therefore the number of fires. The tiles had to be stamped with an individual maker’s mark so that tiles could be traced back to their original workshops in a bid to ensure high quality in production.

Maker’s marks on The Commandery roof tiles include indented rings, petals, triangles, crescents and arrangements of dots and lines. A number of the tiles also preserve the footprints of animals, long gone, that walked across them when they were being manufactured: animals like dogs, cats, deer and heron. These marks, an early form of building control, are not thought to be found anywhere else in the country outside of Worcester.

Buried Treasures

A rare coin hoard of medieval Long Cross silver pennies found by metal detectorists in Dodderhill was recently acquisitioned into the Worcestershire County Museum collection.

Hoards of the Long Cross period are relatively rare – only 37 are known from the whole of England and Wales and this is the second such hoard in the care of Museums Worcestershire, the first being from Belbroughton. This hoard is thought to date back to the 1270s.

The hoard includes two relative rarities: a complete 3ab1 penny of Hereford and a European-brabantinus. There are fewer than 5 Hereford 3ab1 pennies and only 9 Brabants recorded in the Portable Antiquities Scheme database, out of around 43,000 medieval coins. The Portable Antiquities Scheme records discoveries by metal detectorists and other members of the public.

This hoard amounts to 5s 2.5d, which would have been equivalent to over 40 days’ wages in the 13th century, so could either have been a considerable purse loss, or the accumulated savings of a peasant.

The coin hoard will be kept in the county thanks to generous donations from Felicity Marshall and from Worcestershire Archaeological Society.

Here be dragons

This floor tile from the Museums Worcestershire collection was discovered during excavations at the Commandery in 2005-6. The tile is likely to be of local Worcestershire production, and dates from the 14th century when the Commandery was still serving its original purpose as a monastic hospital – a function which it fulfilled for 500 years.

The tile is thought to have been part of a single paved area, demolished sometime between the late 18th – mid 19th century. By this period, the Commandery had become a family home, and was later transformed into a pioneering school for the blind sons of gentlemen.

The tile is decorated with a four legged beast with a long curved tail. There has been some debate as to whether this creature is a dragon or a wyvern, but the lack of wings on this example may suggest that it in fact represents a dragon. The image of a dragon on this Worcester-made tile, and in the context of its original location within a monastic hospital is thought-provoking. Perhaps the image alludes to the legendary stories of Saint George, famous amongst many other saints for his traditional run-in with a dragon.

The dragon has been universally adopted, and adapted, throughout the last millennium, and across the world. There have been many suggestions as to the origins of dragon and wyvern myths – snakes, crocodiles, sea creatures, dinosaurs and even rainbows have been suggested as the common origin of the mythical beast. In Chinese traditional culture, the dragon has been viewed as a symbol of strength and good, whereas more fearful tales from other cultures present the dragon as a villain.

Roman Milestone

This slab of stone with Latin dedication has been described as a Roman milestone from the reign of Constantine the Great. It was discovered early in the 19th century in the kitchen garden of Court House, Kempsey, and used in a garden wall before finally finding a home within the Worcester City collection.

In-keeping with most Roman milestones, this slab records only the name of the Emperor, although does not offer the dates of his reign as in some instances. The word mile is derived from the Latin milia passuum, ‘a thousand paces’, for Roman miles were a thousand paces long.

Kempsey itself sits on the Roman road between Metchley and Gloucester – it was the site of a military camp, once situated close to the present church. Evidence supporting the presence of a camp was uncovered during the 19th century, including coins, tiles and the milestone itself.

A well planned and maintained road network was key in holding territory after the initial Roman conquest of Britain over three centuries before Constantine’s reign. The Roman road network connected settlements, allowing Roman trade, military might and cultural practices to spread throughout the country.

As this stone demonstrates, roads also allowed the image and name of the Emperor to travel where he could not go, stamping his identity upon new places and re-defining the boundaries of the Empire. Although the first line of text is missing from the stone, a key word in its translation is ‘INVICTO’, or ‘un-conquerable’. Whatever the stone was used for, we can assume its message was visible to the passer-by, who would have been assured of Constantine’s empiric character, and reminded of who was in charge.


Kate Banner

Collections Assistant

Hallow Handaxe

In 1970, a field at Moseley Farm near Hallow was ploughed for the first time in 40 years, ready for a crop of potatoes. A sharp-eyed observer, identity unknown, spotted a peculiar piece of flint on the surface and took it to Worcester City Museum.

Hewn into a teardrop-shape by overlapping chips that left tell-tale ripples radiating from the edges, it is a Stone Age flint handaxe in remarkably fresh condition. It comes from the top of gravel deposits formed between 240 and 130 thousand years ago. During the earlier, warmer part of this period, small groups of early humans called Neanderthals moved along the river valleys, before climate change drove them from Britain for more than 120 thousand years.

But this find is at the heart of a scientific puzzle: tools like these were outdated by the time the Hallow gravel was formed. Some scholars argue that handaxes of this date had been tumbled in rivers for millennia by the time they ended up in the gravels where they’re discovered, but this example shows none of the battering you would expect from such treatment. So, is this artefact one of the final clues left by a dwindling band of Neanderthal settlers, the last to lay human eyes on Worcestershire for 6000 generations?

Rob Hedge

Lost Landscapes Project Officer