A Costrel, Verwood Pottery, Dorset, England, 19th Century


One of the most iconic and identifiable shapes in all of Country Pottery are the Dorset costrels. Becoming increasingly scarce and much sought after, these beautiful tactile shapes with short necks and hanging lugs that have the appearance of eyes or ears resulted in them becoming known as Dorset Owls or Pills. Pottery from the Verwood kilns was produced continuously from Medieval times until the 1950s. These wonderful pots were much admired by Michael Cardew and Bernard Leach for their fine generous shapes made with humility and skill.

Designed to hold liquids, the necks of the costrels were carefully shaped so they could be sealed with a stopper. When being carried to work in the fields by agricultural labourers, the costrel was intended to either hang from the shoulder by a long cord or by a short cord to be carried manually. The hanging lugs were pinched and moulded with pie crust edges then holes pierced through to take the cord.

Our splendid costrel here has been formed in the distinctive buff earthenware with a pale yellow glaze, a fine circle lightly inscribed around the circumference of the pot, down to the top of the shoulder, as a rough guideline to glaze to. This also had the secondary effect of producing an attractive simple ornamentation.

The tones of glaze produced in the Verwood kilns varied in colour considerably from pale yellow to rusty reds. The fuel used to fire Verwood pots was mainly wood and furze faggots, the pottery glaze consisted of a mix of galena and clay applied as a liquid, by brush, pouring or (later) dipping. The colour of the delicate and variable glaze depended on the yearly calendar of firing, on how fresh or old the fuel was, and how much combustible vegetable matter was held in the fuel and the pot clay, this could relate to the amount of reduction gases rushing through the kiln. With the alchemy of pottery making, all these variables of fuel and materials would affect the final glazed result.

19th century.

6.75” H x 7” W      O/A approx.

In very good condition with mild chipping to the foot rim and only very minor wear commensurate with age and use. Still retaining cork pushed inside. Rare in this condition, a wonderful thing.

Due to how different monitors display colourisation, the images may not show the colours of the costrel completely accurately.

£375   $475-USD

Ref Number: 324001B
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