From the days of the dandyhorse: The Big Jug

By Tammy Thorne
Photos courtesy of Lorne Shields
Special thanks to research by writer Roger Street (via Lorne Shields.)

How we got here...

From the days of the dandyhorse
A series – from the collection of Lorne Shields.

Since 1967, Lorne Shields has developed a detailed knowledge of bicycle history and his collection is now considered a national treasure. In the 1980s, he donated a portion of his collection, including 42 world-class bicycles, to the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

Some of the items that remain in Lorne’s possession will be shared here in our series: How we got here...

Item: The Big Jug


What is it?

A large and important Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe Cobourg commemorative jug of cycling interest, circa 1818-19.

Who made it?

A potter named Thomas Brough of Lane End. (Longton is the modern name for Lane End.)

Who owned it?

It bears an intriguing inscription on its front reading: “Richard Cooper’s Hobby Red Lion St Helen.” Richard Cooper was the licensee of the family-owned Red Lion public house in St. Helens, Lancashire, in the year 1820.

What era is it from?

The ‘pedestrian hobby horse’ images prove that the jug must have been produced at least a year-and-a-half after Princess Charlotte’s death, when her loss would still have been keenly felt. Sadly, after only eighteen months of married bliss, Charlotte died on November 6th 1817, following the birth of a stillborn son. The whole country mourned “their dear Charlotte”.

How big is it?

It stands 14” high and has a diameter of 12” at the widest point, but is 16”overall from handle to spout. At its widest point the circumference is 38” – 3’ 2” or almost a metre wide. It weighs 11 pounds. For real ale enthusiasts, it holds 25 pints to the bottom of the rim, though it would take a strong person to lift and pour it when full.

Why it was made:

The jug must date from the hobby horse era of 1819 to 1821, but probably the earlier date. The jug was likely to have been a special commission. It was common in the 1800s that pubs would have a dominant object, which was their ‘wonder’ – a large decorative piece – such as the big jug, or often, elaborate pieces of Stourbridge coloured glassware or the famous large stuffed pike in a glass case. The jug belongs squarely in that tradition, and likely served as an attraction and advertisement for the Red Lion at St. Helens. Pubs had to advertise, as there was fierce competition from other pubs.

Why we love it:

No less than twenty-four (mostly repeated) illustrations of the hobby horse velocipede appear around the body of the jug.

There is one single illustration of ‘The Real Dandy Hobby’ – being a true depiction of the exciting new machine as ridden by the dandies and others in London and elsewhere in Europe in the Spring of 1819.

The Real Dandy Hobby close up

The Real Dandy Hobby is visible bottom left.

Special thanks to research by writer Roger Street (via Lorne Shields.)

The book Dashing Dandies by Roger Street can be found here.


Next item up: the "skirt lifter"

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