Things That Matter Most: Breakfast Cups

Francis Pryor - In the Long Run

A few years ago we made a Time Team film in an 1870s railway navvy camp high in the Yorkshire Dales, on the Settle-Carlisle railway. Navvies, like archaeologists, were known for their boozy lifestyle and we fully expected to find massive evidence for drinking. And we did! There were trayfuls of sherds, but they weren’t glass. No, they were mostly pieces of blue-on-white china, usually from teacups and saucers. Tea, it would appear, was the hard-bitten navvies’ tipple of choice. And I have to confess that as I get older I find tea and coffee are getting more and more inviting. Which is why I’m writing this rather unusual, for me, blog post. Time for another memory.

Sometime in the mid-1990s I went with English Heritage (now Historic England) on a trip to Stoke-on-Trent to look round a rare working pottery. During the late 20th century many manufacturers…

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