Objects Unwrapped – Tankard

It’s the late 18th century and the Yeoman Body are ending their busy shift guarding the Tower of London. Warder Francis Dobson heads down to the Stone Kitchen Tavern for a well-earned pint in his personalised tankard; obviously a regular! Sometime later, the tankard is cast aside as rubbish, thrown into the Tower moat to be recovered 200 years later.

This 18th century pewter tankard was found during archaeological excavations of the moat in 1996-7. It was from one of the many trenches dug in the moat during these excavations, which revealed many fascinating objects that give us an insight into what life was like at the Tower of London. The tankard, along with several other finds, was found in a trench located in the southwest corner by the Byward Tower.

The tankard is engraved with ‘F Dobson, Stone Kitchen Tower’ and the initials ‘DFS’ are marked on the thumb rest. Francis Dobson became a Yeoman Warder in 1791 and would have frequented the Stone Kitchen Tavern. Several tankards were found within the moat backfill, including a second one belonging to Francis. Along with his name, it was engraved with a shield containing the St George cross and a crown flanked by W and R for William IV, thus suggesting he frequently drank at the Stone Kitchen into the 1830s. The tavern was one of many public houses within the Tower walls, used by the many employees based there. It was situated by the Byward Tower, at the entrance to Mint Street, where the Royal Mint was located.

tankard belonging to Francis Dobson, Yeoman Warder.
tankard belonging to Francis Dobson, Yeoman Warder.

Along with the tankard, several other objects were found in the same moat backfill, including a spade, four saucepans, a boat hook, and a bone toothbrush. The moat was clearly considered to be a large rubbish pit for those living and working in and around the Tower! Today, the tankard has been catalogued and carefully packed and stored by the Collections Care and Conservation department of Historic Royal Palaces; turning rubbish into a research tool!

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