Gurgle Fish Jugs

The Dartmouth Pottery Gurgle Fish Jug is world famous. So one might be interested to know where it came from. Gurgling fish jugs were originally made by Thomas Forester and Co. c1870′s. They were also made by George Morley & Co c1880 and much later by Grimwade c1930′s

It is reported that in the late 1940′s the Grimwade/Royal Winton firm of Staffordshire who had been making these fish shaped jugs in the 1930′s were still tied to wartime restrictions so were unable to allocate materials to restart manufacture of their gurgle fish jugs to meet fresh orders. The newly established Dartmouth Pottery had spare capacity and few if any wartime restrictions, so a deal was struck for the Dartmouth Pottery to slip cast jugs for Grimwade’s to decorate and in return Dartmouth had the right keep and use the moulds.

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Dartmouth Pottery did design and produce their own version of the gurgle jug called a Cod Fish jug which was mould marked 144, but this was anatomically incorrect and had a tail likely to break during manufacture. Those that were made have been seen in copper green as well as the metallic colours of gold, copper and silver. The master block moulds for these jugs were found in the pottery cellars in 2002 still marked “New gurgle jug”. Much more interesting are the fine Merman/Neptune and Mermaid gurgle jugs thought to have been designed and made in the early 1950s. The mermaid continued to be made for a while with her finer points enhanced , no doubt by the pottery workers.

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Certainly by 1958 Dartmouth were selling and advertising the Grimwade designed jugs as their own. They used the gurgling noise they made when poured by referring to them as “A novelty that always attracts attention” or “A Jug That Gurgles”. In that same year the Britannia Royal Naval College commissioned a pair of special gurgle jugs to be made for presentation to the Queen and Prince Philip. Eventually the standard jugs were made in three sizes with the early Dartmouth marked jugs being hand decorated in the same pale colours as those produced by Grimwade’s before the war. Later most jugs were glazed in plain or metallic colours prior to the multi coloured hand decorated versions ceasing in the early 1960′s.

Plymouth Gin Gurgle Fish Jugs. 

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These were made large size only of blue dyed clay and clear glazed. These were mould lettered also white highlighted by hand before final glazing with; ‘Plymouth Gin The Spirit of the West’ or ‘ The Spirit of England’ spread from fish gills to base of the pot. A few can be found lettered with ‘For a Plymouth Man’ and are scarcer, possibly because they were made for a sales promotion that may have been run only in the USA. These jugs are believed to have been made from the 1950’s, and started during the period when ceramic colours were still restricted after the war, hence the use of blue dye in the white clay.

Other Plymouth Gin large size Gurgle Fish jugs were made of white clay and covered in a blue glaze. These were produced later and are mould lettered only around the gills. Some jugs have been seen in other colours mainly green but also brown and were produced between 1970 – 2000. Similar jugs were made in various colours for several Scotch whisky distillers notably: Old Rarity Scotch, Ambassador Scotch and Gorrill’s.

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In 1964 another version of a gurgling cod fish jug was made (also in three sizes) for Shreve Crump & Low of Boston USA, these continued to be produced up until closure of the pottery in 2002.

At the turn of the century Dartmouth made a new larger size jug, hand decorated in multicolours they also revived it in the traditional sizes. These later jugs were only in production until to pottery closed so will eventually become very collectable as are already the small miniature jugs in various colours when found.

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After the closure of the factory in 2002 gurgle jugs carrying the Dartmouth mould mark but labelled Wades were on sale in the Devon area. Today Wades make the jug in Stoke on Trent, with many being marketed in new attractive colours by Gluggle Ltd.

The Sandygate Pottery (1951-c1990′s) of Kingsteignton made an fine gurgle fish jug decorated in plain and multicolours as well as a very attractive mermaid jug. Also Britannia Designs (1985) Ltd., a short lived business made a crude version of the gurgle jug but closed down shortly afterwards.