In January 1862, while draining a field close to the site of Duffield Castle in Derbyshire, workmen from the Kedleston estate happened upon a quantity of ancient pottery shards.
What they had found was the site of the
medieval Burley Hill Pottery.
The finds were brought to the notice of the
local antiquarian Llewellyn Jewitt whose excavations on Burley Hill
found that two circular barrow-like mounds at opposite ends of the
field were the discarded remains from a 13th century potter's
Large quantities of a distinctive brown
lead-glazed earthenware characteristic of the late Norman period -
predominantly fragments of small jugs, shallow dishes and
porringers (or pippens as they were known locally) - were recovered
on the instruction of the landowner Alfred Curzon, the 4th Baron
However, the principal discovery among the
Burley Duffield pots was a large, and wholly intact, 13th century
ale or cider 'harvest' jug standing some 16in (41cm) high and
applied with heraldic decoration in slip.
The device of three horseshoes and buckles
is the badge of the Ferrers family, earls of Derby and Nottingham
and the largest landowners in Derbyshire for much of the last
millennium. Henry De Ferrers, a Norman soldier rewarded with land
after victory at Hastings, had first built fortifications at
Duffield in or around 1066, and it was logical to conclude that
this jug had been made c.1220-50 for use by his descendants at the
The pitcher appears to owe its preservation
to a fire crack on one side near the bottom for which defect it was
probably thrown aside by the potter. In the course of time it was
buried. At the time of discovery, it was described as "one of the
most important and interesting early medieval relics of the
The jug remained in the collection at
Kedleston Hall (although not recently on display) until current
occupant, the Right Honourable Richard Curzon, chose to consign it
for sale with
Hansons of Etwall, Derbyshire on September 28.
Historical importance does not always
translate into great financial worth for medieval vernacular
pottery, but Charles Hanson's confident valuation of £30,000-50,000
was rewarded when it sold on the low estimate (plus 17.5% buyer's
premium) to a private buyer.
A lot of money, but a lot of history too.
"It really is a magical item," said Mr Hanson. "When I initially
assessed the jug I was informed the pet dog had on a couple of
occasions come close to wagging its tail a little too close and
knocking it over."