Hemswell Antique Centres

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A guide to: Antique jugs and decanters

Antique jugs and decanters at Hemswell Antique Centres


Antique jugs hark all the way back to our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. They may have changed little in their form and use over the centuries, but the styles, designs and materials used to craft these ancient vessels make for a fascinating back catalogue. 

From budget to big bucks, the value of antique jugs varies widely. As always, it comes down to a number of factors, such as quality, age, maker and design. Identifying these qualities of antique jugs can help you understand the worth of a piece. Whether you’re selling your stoneware or on the hunt for investable antique jugs for sale, the aim of this guide is to assist you with just that.

Antique jugs and decanters to look out for

Antique Toby jugs
Quintessentially British, antique Toby jugs are a wonderfully unique phenomenon. They often take the shape of a man (usually large and rotund), woman, or animal - famous and fictional. It’s said these original antique jugs were named after Toby Fillpot, a legendary drinker mentioned in the British song The Brown Jug in 1761:

“This Brown Jug that now foams with mild Ale
(In which I will drink to sweet Nan of the Vale) 
was once Toby Fillpot, a thirsty old Soul …” 

Others say they were named after the character Sir Toby Belch in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. Whatever the theory, the curiosity behind these novelty items makes them ripe for collecting. Antique Toby jugs surged in popularity in the late 20th century, particularly among American collectors. Look out for Royal Doulton examples at car boot sales, charity shops and antique centres - a rare or limited edition piece can get you £100 or more.

Earthenware harvest jugs
Crafted in places such as Barnstaple in Devon and Donyatt in Somerset, earthenware harvest jugs are folk art masterpieces. You’ll identify them from their handmade appearance and sgraffito decor, which is engraved in a bold and playful manner. Find one of these antique jugs for sale with a quirky spelling mistake, such as ‘God speed the plough’ and you’re looking at up to £3,000 in value. 

Creamware jugs
If you’re lucky enough to own a cow creamer made by Staffordshire potters John Astbury and Thomas Whieldon, you could make up to £5,000 at auction. These small cow-shaped antique jugs were also crafted at St Anthony pottery at Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1780-1804) and can fetch between £800 and £1,500.

Stoneware jugs
In the 19th century, brown stoneware jugs were crafted at centres in London and Bristol. Recognisable by their two-tone brown glaze, they’re often decorated with hunting men or revellers at the pub. You can grab a Doulton stoneware jug on a budget - those made between 1880 and 1900 go for between £20-£40.

Antique decanters
The early 18th century saw the introduction of the decanter: a stoppered glass bottle used for storing and serving alcohol. Look out for those in ‘Bristol’ blue glass. Engraved and gilded with name labels such as whisky, brandy or sherry, these types of decanters (and those crafted in later years) are coming back into fashion. A pair of early Georgian wine decanters can fetch between £200 to £1,000. Quality examples from the late 19th and early 20th centuries can be bought for a couple of hundred pounds - great news for collectors. 

Where to find antique jugs for sale

When shopping for antique jugs, always try to examine them with your own eyes - rather than a photo on the internet. This way, you can properly inspect the maker’s mark, whether that’s a signature, letter or just a number. More specific factors, such as the word ‘limited’ or ‘Ltd’, means the piece was made after 1861. You can also check out the designs and decoration to make sure they’re painted on, rather than printed or stamped. 

You’ll pick up antique jugs everywhere from jumble sales to auctions - you might even discover one in your own attic. The sheer breadth of these fascinating vessels can be seen in our collection of antique jugs for sale. You’re guaranteed genuine, valuable jugs when you buy from us. 

The best way to see our antique jugs in their full glory is to visit us at Hemswell Antique Centres in quaint rural Lincolnshire. Many of our visitors plan a day at our extensive antiques getaway: meandering the maze of mesmerising rooms in each of our historic buildings for hours and discovering many a delight along the way. 

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