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A Puzzling Situation: Agecroft's Fuddling Cup

Not all of the artifacts we have at Agecroft can be on display all of the time. When objects are on view in the house, they are part of a larger interpretive story that we are trying to tell. We have very few items that are in separate display case. That means that our curatorial storage area has some fun items that you might not see on a regular tour. I asked our Curator of Collections, Libby Howlett, if we could highlight a fun item in storage, and she suggested our fuddling cup.

One of these objects is this fuddling cup. Fuddling cups are drinking vessels that have three or more cups or jugs that are connected. You must drink from the cup in a specific order, or else the liquid will spill out. Basically, it’s a puzzle that is meant to be entertaining at the dinner table. People in Tudor England loved to have dramatic food, and fuddling cups were a fun aspect of entertaining.

Agecroft’s fuddling cup dates from approximately 1650. It’s a style of pottery known as English Delft Ware, which is a tin glazed earthenware that is generally blue and white. Its name comes from the Dutch city that was a major producer of this style of pottery, but ours was manufactured in London. The cup is small, only standing 3 1/8 inches.

Take a look at the pictures of our fuddling cup below. Can you imagine using the cup at a dinner party? Keep in mind that in 17th century England, sharing a drinking vessel was not uncommon. Today, especially as we are in the midst of a pandemic, we avoid sharing drinking vessels if possible. But in Tudor England, remember that they would not have known about germ theory, so there would have been no reason to avoid sharing. Especially if you were trying crack the puzzle of the cup!





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