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.


The Hop Calendar

Beer was introduced into Britain from continental Europe during the fifteenth century and hops are an essential ingredient. Prior to that, an ale was brewed which did not require hops.

The hop is a herbaceous hardy perennial plant which dies back to its rootbass every year but will live for twenty years or more. Its shoots climb aided by tiny hairs on the stem and leaves. The hop always twines clockwise.

The hop growing year starts immediately after picking. In October the plant is cut close to the ground and drainage furrows are dug. The hop yard is then allowed to stand for the winter, and any repairs needed to the poles or overhead wires can be made at this time. From February, the plant starts to shoot again. ‘Stringing’ begins in March which adds a pair of strings for each plant to climb from the soil to the frame wires. Traditionally these were added either by a man on stilts or by using a hooked ‘monkey pole’. ‘Tying’ takes place in April or May, each hop plant having thrown out 10-20 ‘hop wires’. All but six are weeded out and the remaining shoots are wound up the supporting strings – three per string. Throughout the summer the plants are traditionally fed with farmyard manure and pests control needs to be vigilant. Hop picking takes place in September.

Picking provided seasonal work in Worcestershire for a large number of families as this photograph from Worcester City’s collection shows. The hops were picked off the plant into a crib and from there measured by the bushel [equivalent to 8 gallons, or 36 litres – about the size of a carry-on suitcase] into sacks. The number of bushels collected was recorded and converted into the payment for the picker.


This article was compiled from a museum panel written in the 1970s. Old interpretation, when useful, is retained within the museum archives for future reference and research. At this point, hop yards were still a familiar sight locally, with several to be seen around Worcester’s city boundaries.

Hopfields under Snow by Joyce Austin

This oil painting of Hopfields under Snow is the only artwork in the Worcester City collection by talented local artist Joyce Mary Austin.

Born in Kidderminster in 1911, Austin’s interests and artistic inspirations were widespread – whilst she concentrated mainly on landscape watercolours and oil paintings, Austin’s subjects and styles varied widely as a result.

Having trained at both the Kidderminster and Birmingham Schools of Art, Austin was appointed to Worcester College of Education as a Lecturer in Art and Craft, where she would lecture for 22 years. Austin exhibited her work often both locally and further afield, including at the Royal Academy, selling many paintings in Worcestershire and beyond. Austin retired from teaching in 1966, and passed away in Malvern in 1988.

Hopfields under Snow came into the collection in the 1960s, and has been a very popular picture with our visitors. The scene is set on a wintry day in West Worcestershire – snow covers the dormant hop stocks, which are waiting for the warmer days of spring before bursting into life. It will be over six months before the hops are ready for picking, drying and sending off to the brewery. Sadly over the years these traditional hop-yards are slowly disappearing from the Worcestershire landscape, with some being replaced by the new dwarf varieties.

Miniature Model Beer Engine

0125maThe model beer engine was made by William Stokoe (whose granddaughter-in-law donated it to the Worcester City museum collection in 2001) a water engineer working around Worcester circa 1900, and is thought to be an apprentice piece made by Mr. Stokoe during his training. The beer engine is believed to be a miniature copy of the type of pumps used to raise beer from the barrel to the glass in a traditional public house.

The beer engine has a wooden case decorated with floral marquetry. Inside the lower case are four working brass valves connected by rods to four working levers on the curved upper section of the case. The valves are also connected to four taps on the front of the model; below the taps is a lead lined sink with a small drainage hole. Access to the lower case and the drain is via a small door on the case front.