Tantalising tygs

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It's always fascinating delving through archive boxes from earlier, past excavations; you never quite know what you’ll come across! While searching through a box of finds from the 1980s Castle Hill excavation in Newton-le-Willows, I came across a few familiar pottery sherds which I recognised almost immediately as being similar to 17th century drinking cups I had excavated a few years ago at Rainford Tennis Courts, in the village of Rainford near St Helens. These drinking cups were historically known as ‘tygs’ and were generally multi-handled cups made in the 16th–18th centuries. This particular form has been referred to as a ‘faceted tyg’ and is very distinctive having been locally produced, using local clays, in potteries in Rainford. Rainford is a very interesting place archaeologically, and was the subject of a community archaeology project 2012-2014. An article written by JH Gibson in the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire (1877) gives an early description of the function of a tyg:
‘The three-handled Tyg, a kind of loving cup, had the handles so arranged that three different persons drinking out of it, and each using a separate handle, brought their lips to a different parts of the rim’.
The fragmentary, but instantly recognisable, dark glazed tyg sherds from Castle Hill Newton were almost certainly made in Rainford, and then probably used in Newton before being thrown away, broken. The little-known castle site in Newton-le-Willows was excavated in 1987. Finds from the Roman to modern periods area have been included in a new temporary display in the History Detectives gallery at the Museum of Liverpool, helping us explore the site’s history and understand more about the remains of a Norman motte and bailey castle.