The Jug: Historical Information

The Stirling Jug, or the Scots Pint, Gun metal, 1511

the Jug

Sixteenth-century Stirling was the home of a thriving brewing industry, developed largely by women. Brewers and sellers lived with constant council regulations; ale tasters routinely tested quality, determined price, and checked that the correct weights and measures were being used. When it came to ale, passions ran high: angry and intoxicated customers often accused sellers of foul play, inciting brawls. For sellers, the constant regulations were a source of concern; it was a fear realised by one Jonet Howlat who was banished from Dundee in 1523. Indeed, breaking the assize was one of the most common charges for women. Although using false measurements would result in prosecution, the standard measure for a pint was unclear. The Scottish solution to this was to create the Stirling Jug, granted by act of the Scottish Parliament in 1457. The one in the Smith collection was made in 1511. Imbued with Scottish and Stirling insignia, it was a source of national and civic pride, and often paraded. It was, as Alexander Huntar declared in his 1624 treatise on weights and measures ‘the Scottish pinte’.

Card written by Alicia Marchant and Susan Broomhall for “Stories of Emotions and Scottish Objects”, a research partnership between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

Return to catalogue