Medieval leadglaze drinking mug, rare English lead-glazed type, thumbed base, attr. Donyatt, 14th century


Rare English Medieval drinking mug,  with ‘thumbed’ base and bulbous upper section thickly potted & glazed in a mottled pale amber-green, the lower portion with a clear lead glaze bringing out the orange-brown colour of the body.

14th-15th century

Attributed to Donyatt Potteries, Sumersett

15.5cm high, base 8.5cm wide

Condition: large section of the rim and handle replaced

Provenance: probably excavated in London, from the Noel Hume collection, USA

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This unusual Medieval drinking mug is English, but has the look of a German imported Rhenish Stoneware example of the same period.  The ‘thumbed’ base is the unusual feature, and while it is sometimes seen in English stonewares, the method of doing it –  thumb in / thumb out – is the opposite for each type. This example is a ‘thumb-out’ – apparently very rare in the English products.

In the Museum of London, there is a similar ‘thumbed’ example which is regarded as ‘without parallel … in any excavated pottery from London’ . The style is a copy of the more commonly seen German stoneware examples, which were imported into London in vast quantities from the Rhineland in the 15th-16th centuries. This example is therefore a very rare imitation of a Continental import.

The iron-stained red nature of the body matches the Somersett wares, with Donyatt being a probable source, making similar ceramics from the 13th-16th century.

Ref. Pearce & Vince “Surrey WHitewares” p72 #6 for a discussion of the unparalleled Museum of London example, p168 #559 for the illustration.

Coleman-Smith & Pearson, ‘Excavations in the Donyatt Potteries’ p390 for a Rheinish example and a Donyatt example, found together in excavations at Taunton.




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