Skip to main content

Tam O'Shanter Jug: C.1273-1928

Object information

Current Location: Gallery 27 (Glaisher)


Tam O'Shanter Jug


Pottery: William Ridgway & Co
Modeller: Abington, James Leonard (Probably)
Pottery: Ridgway & Abington ((from 1845))




Buff coloured stoneware, relief moulded jug, smear glazed.

Inverted-coneshaped body, with flared neck and lip and an over-arching handle, set on a low pedestal foot. The exterior covered with relief moulded designs. Round the middle are two scenes: the first shows a man lighting his pipe before a fire while his dog looks on and behind him companions are drinking in an ale house; in the other, Tam o’Shanter rides though a wood, pursued by two flying figures, one of whom grasps the horse’s tail. The handle is moulded in the form of a hand clutching a horse’s tail. Ornate patterns run around the neck and foot: a wreath of thistle between rhe body and the neck and a leaf scroll beneath the neck rim. The outside is smear-glazed, the interior fully glazed and shiny. The underside is recessed and smear-glazed.


History note: Bought on 15 December 1904, from Woolston, Cambridge, by Dr Glaisher, Trinity College, Cambridge

Legal notes

Dr. J.W.L. Glaisher Bequest, 1928

Measurements and weight

Height: 21 cm
Width: 16 cm

Place(s) associated

  • Hanley ⪼ Staffordshire ⪼ England

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1928-12-07) by Glaisher, J. W. L., Dr


Production date: dated AD 1835


The Ridgway family produced both stoneware and porcelain, in Staffordshire, from the 1790s until the 20th Century. Trained by their father Job, the brothers William and John had already gained a reputation for drab (coloured) stoneware decorated with stoneware crisply finished applied relief sprigs when William Ridgeway established Church Works, Hanley, in 1831. With his partner James Leonard Abington and (later) his son Edward, by 1843 he operated six separate pot-works in Hanley and Shelton. He was also a noted philanthropist, building alms houses and a school for local children – many of whom he employed in his potteries. William Ridgway & Co. (later Ridgway and Abington) became particularly known for relief-moulded jugs, for which it is likely that Abington was the modeller. One of the first to offer such jugs, in the early 1830s, they produced some 26 designs over the next 30 years. Other potters followed, notably Minton and Charles Meigh, and relief moulded jugs (some with ceramic or metal lids) in a wide variety of design became a popular household mainstay for water, beer milk and other liquids which might now be kept in bottles, cans or plastic jars.

The jug, one of several in the Fitzwilliam Collection, is an example of the‘artistic’ relief moulded jugs which were popular in mid 19th Century homes. The scenes are taken from Robert Burns’ narrative poem ‘Tam o’Shanter’; the story ends with Tam pursued by witches, who pull off his horse’s tail just before his escape. The smear-glazing makes the most of the way that colour-stained clays show off crisply-moulded ornament, whilst the stoneware would be durable in an everyday setting. The modelling follows engravings by J.Thompson and by Slader of Thomas Landseer’s illustrations for Marsh & Miller’s 1830 edition of Tam o’Shanter. The poem, written in 1790, was widely known at this time and used as a source by other potters too: the British Museum holds a 1934 relief moulded jug by Machin & Potts of Burslem, which carries a similar but differently modelled design (Cat. 1887,0307,R.12). ‘Tam O’Shanter’ was also used as a brand name for products, such as pipe tobacco.

School or Style


People, subjects and objects depicted

Components of the work

Decoration composed of glaze

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Press moulding

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: Published by/ W. RIDGWAY & Co / HANLEY/ October 1 1835
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Factory mark

Inscription present: anchor symbol

  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impressed
  • Type: Factory mark
  • Text: '6' or '9'
  • Location: Underside of base
  • Method of creation: Impessed
  • Type: Mark

References and bibliographic entries

Related exhibitions

Identification numbers

Accession number: C.1273-1928
Primary reference Number: 107884
Old object number: 2207
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 15 July 2020 Last processed: Wednesday 13 December 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Applied Arts

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2024) "Tam O'Shanter Jug" Web page available at: Accessed: 2024-07-24 10:17:47

Citation for Wikipedia

To cite this record on Wikipedia you can use this code snippet:

{{cite web|url= |title=Tam O'Shanter Jug |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2024-07-24 10:17:47|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

API call for this record

To call these data via our API (remember this needs to be authenticated) you can use this code snippet:

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...