DATE RANGES FOR SALT GLAZED FLASKS
The spread of dates for the manufacture and use of the saltglaze stoneware spirit flasks in the London area appears to fall between 1825 and 1855.
The earliest positively datable merchant-named example that I have found comes from the mid 1820s. It is marked 'G HARDEN/Wine & Spirit Merct/16 HIGH STREET/ISLINGTON'. Using information from the Sun Insurance Records which are held at the Guildhall
Library, it is evident that George Harden was a wine and spirit merchant and victualler at the Three Hats P.H., near the Turnpike,
Islington, from March 1826. Robert Heathcote was insuring the property from 1 February 1827, indicating that the production date for this piece is almost certainly 1826.
As can be seen from the photograph (right), it is a crude and slightly irregular form, with large lettering impressed across the front of the bottle.
The latest datable saltglaze flask is an impressed example used by John Gregory (left). From contemporary commercial drectories, it is apparent that J.Archdeacon was at the White Hart, Duke Street, Chelsea in 1853, but John Gregory is there by 1854. He is last recorded here in 1862. This would suggest that Gregory took over the public house during the course of 1853, and the flask could not date from earlier than that (although it could of course be later!)
This flask is of a moulded pattern with fluted shoulder decoration, similar in style to those produced at the Stiff Pottery in Lambeth, from the early 1840s.
It may be that saltglazed flasks were in production for a couple of years or more beyond this date, but they just cannot be dated accurately. Certainly the existence of specific publicans who used such flasks continued on into the 1860s and beyond, but it cannot be established at what point their flasks were manufactured.
A study of surviving flasks would suggest that the earliest examples were of a thrown oval form, but that from the early 1830s, moulded types started to be introduced. By the late 1840s, the majority of flasks were moulded, most frequently with some form of fluted shoulder, although thrown types still continued to be used contemporaneously, but on a smaller scale than previously, particularly for the larger capacities.
Both moulded straight sided flasks and thrown oval flasks can be found with Bristol glazes, but they are outside the scope of this study.