Chalice dating from 12th - 13th C

Why would you not want your regular tipple in this cup, dug up near the Old Castle Inn by the man shown?

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Answer

Apart from the fact that it was reserved for sacred use, you would not want to drink regularly from medieval pewter because of its lead content.

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On September 18th 1854, John Yonge Akerman dug this up, he wrote

 

“We………………….. proceeded to excavate in the corner of the paddock attached to the (Old Castle) inn, immediately opposite the entrance to the rings. ……………After excavating to the depth all three feet a purer chalky soil was reached and two feet lower the men arrived at a cist cut in the chalk rock. ……………… Around the head and shoulders of the skeleton which lay in this cist were some large flints………… and at the feet were some iron nails…………….The body lay north west by south east and the head north west. ……………….On widening the trench and continuing it westward other skeletons were discovered but these were not so deep as the first internment. One of them was a man who had passed the middle age, the cranium well developed, and the teeth nearly perfect. At the left side of the head were a chalice and paten of pewter”

He donated the chalice, of pewter and from the 12-13th C, to the British Museum [1] in 1854 who in turn gave it on long term loan for the Wessex Gallery to Salisbury Museum [2] in 2014. It remains on display there. The skeleton was presumably that of a priest and as the Cathedral had a burial ground within the outer bailey for their clergy and pewter would have been a bit downmarket for them, he is more likely to have served a church of lesser status. The Church of the Holy Rood (Cross) would be the most likely as the closest, with St John and Anthony on the road to Ford as a possibility to avoid being buried with the unclean.

John Yonge Akerman, who as a boy lived in Wiltshire, was secretary to the Society of Antiquaries (of London) and (not all at the same time) the Numismatic Society (of London), the London and Greenwich Railway Company, and to William Cobbett. He wrote about the Wiltshire dialect and words used. Thanks to him we know still of some 19th C Wiltshire profanities like “cussnation” (curse nation) and Drattle (God Throttle). Cock Sqwoilin was popular (throwing stones at birds). To accept an invitation to join in you would use “Eez” for yes or “nit” for not yet.

Kerry O’Connor

Local History Group

Sources

Akerman, JA. 1842 A Glossary of Provincial Words and Phrases in Use in Rural Wiltshire

Akerman, JA. 1852 Spring-Tide or the Angler and His Friends. Frontispiece sketch of author with fishing tackle.

Akerman, JA. Notes on Antiquarian Researches in the Summer and Autumn of 1854. 1855 Archaeologia, or, Miscellaneous tracts relating to antiquity, published by the Society of Antiquaries of London. Vol 36 p 182-3

[1] British Museum https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1854-1202-1

[2] The image of the chalice at the top of this page was taken in the Wessex Gallery, Salisbury Museum on 16.9.21.               

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