Friday, September 28, 2007

Jane Austen's milk jug

I thought the world ought to see my jug collection.

This one is my favourite – or at least, one of my favourites – because it’s the oldest. It’s a Worcester fence-pattern sparrowbeak jug, made about 1780, which means that Jane Austen might have used it. All right, so it’s not very likely. But can you prove that she didn’t? She took good care of it, anyway, since it isn’t chipped or scratched, though I've seen some similar jugs which have lids, so possibly she dropped this in her excitement at getting her first book deal.
I do wonder where it had been all its life till I bought it in a rush of prodigality with some birthday money in 1997. Wouldn’t it be great if such things came with details of their previous lives?

It cost £190!!!! I still can’t quite believe that I paid that much for a jug that probably sold for about a shilling in its day. (I have no idea what it would have cost, really. But not a lot. It’s not handpainted; just transfer printed. But it’s quite old. And if anyone out there is an antiques expert and knows that it’s now worth £6.50, just keep this information to yourself.)
The only other elderly jug is the blue and white one in the middle of the second top shelf, but this dates only from about 1900. I got it in an antique shop on the island of Arran, one of my spiritual homes. The big one at the bottom right used to belong to my mother-in-law. It’s Portobello pottery – Portobello being the part of Edinburgh where I spent most of my life, though not the last eighteen years - as is the one at the back at the left of the shelf above. I can’t quite think where I got that one, but it was in the early days of our marriage. All the others I just bought because I liked them, mainly but not all when we were on holiday, as souvenirs.

There’s something very satisfying about jugs – their solidity and roundness and also their usefulness. I do use some of them, though obviously not Jane Austen’s one.

But you really came to see a cat picture, didn’t you? So there it is. And here are some flowers.

Sedum in the Botanics.

Clematis in the Life garden...

... and some more fuchsias.
Have a good weekend.


  1. Beautiful collection, Isabelle. I have a collection of woven baskets that have been souvenirs I've picked up on trips and vacations.

    One of my favorite things to do is remember where I purchased the baskets, and if I can, what the store or flea market was like.

    Great post. Lovely botanical pictures.

  2. I was delighted to see your collection of jugs! They are lovely. As you say, there is something very satisfying about a jug, -the shape, the purpose, & often, the decoration.
    Goes without saying, the cats are a treat, as are the flowers.

  3. Just been catching up on your blog and laughing my head off at those catlets.

    And of course am v.impressed that you have Jane Austen's jug. I have Clarice Cliff's jug, but it has a chipped spout. Those bohemian types weren't as careful with crockery as genteel literary ladies I suppose.

  4. I have a bit of a collection of jugs and vases, I like to put them into Still Life Paintings. I'd go a bit crazy with yours.
    I have managed to break many of them, but I stick them back together.

    But Gosh, Jane Austen, that's pretty impressive, I'm sure she was using it when receiving an important letter or something. Perhaps writing with one hand and pouring with the other.

    Literary History in your hands!

  5. Lovely snaps and collection.
    I love the previous post snap of The Cats.
    I once had a half-Burmese called Claude, very like these two.
    He looked as though he permanently wore a very snazzy dinner suit.
    So elegant!

  6. At the risk of sounding risque Isabelle, I just love your jugs! I am a collector of jugs myself. I didn't realise it until I read this post. But I have accumulated quite a few over the years. I agree there is something very appealing about their roundness and their shape. Perhaps because my own personnal endowments are very meagre...teetering on the edge of risque again there!. Seriously though, if you decided to issue a challenge---"Show us your Jugs" for instance, I'd be willing to show mine! Your picture, BTW, is worthy of Country Living or some such classy publication...and the tigers. Well they continue to grow in velvetiness and adorableness...

  7. I love your jugs. I have a bit of a collection too, though mine are all white.

  8. Gorgeous photos! I especially LOVE your cats. I have three myself and two dogs too. They all love each other and get along wonderfully!

  9. That is a wonderful collection and your flower shots are gorgeous too.

  10. What a lovely collection! I think you were quite right to invest the birthday money in Jane Austen's jug. I do have a few myself, so I'll see about taking up your challenge.

    The oldest thing I own dates from 1789, and is English. In Australian terms I think about it being just about the same vintage as the First Fleet, which arrived in 1788, and that boggles my mind. How they survived. The stories they could tell.

  11. ha ha ha ha!!! There are people that fill their blogs with jokes, but I find your unique sense of humour much funnier! I don't collect jugs, but I can see why one would after looking at yours. I like the way each one has a provenance, or at least a provenance that has been dreamed up by you (grin). Bit like some of my linens. I'll never know who stitched them, but I can imagine.

  12. Love the blue spotty one. I was just considering buying a tablecloth exactly like that! Nice to know you are from Portobello - memorably described in a set of estate agents' particulars I once saw as "Edinburgh's Riviera!" (With more chips):-)

  13. What a beautiful collection Isabelle! Love the close-up of Jane's jug (;-) ), but just seeing it makes me nervous -- just a little slip of the fingers and.... I'd love to collect jugs (and dare I say, that's one collection suggestion that the Mr. would support!) and just may think about it upon your inspiration! Thank you for sharing!

  14. What a great collection!
    Can't believe you've got one old enough to be used by Jane!