Medieval brass ewer

Contributed by Bryan Sitch

This handsome vessel was thought to be Roman because it was found at Gilsland near Hadrian's Wall in the early years of the 20th century but there is no doubt that it belongs to a class of Medieval copper alloy vessels known as tripod ewers. Typically these ewers, which were used for pouring liquids, have a tall slightly outward curving neck and a bulbous lower body. The long narrow spout is joined to the body of the vessel by a bridge. The vessel is held by means of a long strap handle and stands on three legs. The spout has a terminal resembling an animal's head. It probably dates from the 13th or 14th centuries.

The ewer has been in the Smith family's possession for something like a century and has occupied pride-of-place on the hearth. Unfortunately the use of metal polish has probably obscured much evidence of the casting and finishing off process but we have to be philosophical. The ewer has survived because it was loved by the family and if it hadn't decorated the family hearth for all those years perhaps it wouldn't have survived at all.

Through this object the Smiths are united with their family history and involvement with the railways in a tangible way.

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Gilsland near Hadrian's Wall


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