Analysing the English Collections at the Pitt Rivers Museum

Food and drink for harvest workers

Harvesting was hard manual work before extensive mechanisation and commercial agri-business. Many farms provided food and drink for all the workers who toiled in the fields for long days. The Museum's collections include a canteen and cider-costrils.


Harvest canteen ?England 1957.1.12

Harvest canteen ?England 1957.1.12

The canteen [1957.1.12] is made from oak and barrel-shaped. It is bound with cane strips, and fitted with a leather harness and strap. The sides of the canteen are glass. It is thought it was used by harvest workers during the nineteenth century. It is not absolutely certain that it is English. It was donated by F.J. Parker in 1957, who worked in the Department of Inorganic Chemistry next door to the Pitt Rivers Museum in the University of Oxford's Science area. It had previously been owned by Boris de Chroustchoff who did a Diploma in Anthropology at the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1913.


Two costrils (drinking vessels) for drinking cider [1940.5.79-80] were donated in 1940 by Walter William Skeat (1866-1953) who lived in Dawlish, Devon. He had not recorded where he obtained the costrils from. A costril is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a 'vessel for holding or carrying wine or other liquid; a large bottle with an ear or ears by which it could be suspended from the waist (whence the antiquarian designation 'pilgrim's bottle'), or a small wooden keg similarly used, in which sense it is still in dialect use.' These costrils were used for the labourer's daily ration of cider.

Horn drinking cups

1940.5.73-6 4 horn drinking cups, used by field labourers. These are British but may not be English. They were donated by Walter William Skeat.