Kings head dripping pan

Object info
Low Countries Ware
The King’s Head Dripping Pan, 1325-1350

Where to see it
Hull and East Riding Museum of Archaeology

Accession number

Purchase a print or image licence
Kings Head Dripping Pan on Bridgeman Images

About the object

This wonderfully weird medieval dish is a dripping pan from between 1325 and 1350. It's made in a distinctive type of pottery known as Low Countries Redware.

The dripping pan was discovered during an excavation on the corner of High Street and Blackfriargate in Hull’s Old Town. Described as the "most spectacular vessel from the site", when complete it would have been around 80 cm in length. Even though about half of the pan is lost, it's still remarkably heavy.

What makes this object special is the head and face of a "king" wearing a crown modelled around the pouring spout. While animal heads are found on other examples, the Hull "king" is considered unique.

What is a dripping pan?

Dripping pans were used to catch the fat and juices from joints of meat roasting on a spit. If you look closely, you can see soot marks on one side where this pan was placed a little too close to the flames. Meat juices were used to make sauces and stocks, nothing was ever wasted. The pan would also have served to keep the fireplace clean and stop the fat from sizzling in the flames of the fire. 

This pan has a hole, probably one of an original pair, on one side so it could be hung up out of the way when not in use. There's a ridge along one side of the base to make sure that the vessel remained in the perfect position to catch the juices. This stopped it from wobbling around and spilling its contents.

About Low Countries Redware

From the thirteenth century onwards, several places in what is now the Netherlands and Belgium made Low Countries Redware.

A limited number of forms were imported into Britain. Particularly into the ports of the east coast like Hull. Low Countries Redware makes up a large percentage of the imported pottery found on medieval sites along this stretch. The most common forms are cooking pots, tripod pipkins (known as ‘grapen’ in Dutch) and frying pans.

Medieval Hull and the continent

This pan highlights Hull's powerful continental connections, which are echoed by many of the finds from medieval Hull.

Much of the town’s thriving trade was in perishable goods: wine, grain, wool and fish. Pottery offers tangible reminders of the networks that existed across the North Sea and beyond during the early decades of Hull’s rise.

A study of Low Countries Redware frying pans shows they were probably made in the Flanders region. Hull’s role in supplying wool to the Flemish cloth-making industry may be behind the popularity of this type of pottery here.

This pan would have made a stunning addition to even the wealthiest households. And the unique spout must have been a great talking point during a feast.

But pity the poor person who dropped it and broke it in half – you can bet they were unpopular!