J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Putting Together a Puzzle in Ipswich

This is a story from Christchurch Mansion, a historic house museum in Ipswich, England, as reported by the B.B.C. and the Ipswich Star.

Among the items in that museum is a Delft puzzle jug, dated to about 1785. This ceramic vessel has three spouts so reportedly “when tipped it is a matter of chance which spout the water or wine will pour from.” So much fun at drunken parties! Puzzle jugs of this age and quality can fetch £2,000 at auction.

Last summer a family visited Christchurch Mansion—the museum isn’t saying exactly when. At the time the jug was displayed on “a low window ledge.”

By the end of that visit, the puzzle jug looked like this, and a five-year-old boy was extremely sorry for having accidentally knocked it over.
Over the last year, museum “duty officer” Carrie Willis (in background above), under the direction of conservation officer Bob Entwistle, reassembled the jug’s sixty-five pieces. This summer the restored jug went on display at the Ipswich Art School Gallery.

In addition, Christchurch Mansion put out a call through the British media to the family who’d had such a disastrous visit—obviously the museum hadn’t taken down their names at the time. The museum staff wanted the little boy to know that the damage had been repaired.

This month the museum was able to announce that the boy’s mother had gotten in touch to say the family was “thrilled” to know the jug was looking like its old self. The family is, however, remaining anonymous.

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