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Porringer, Europe, 1601-1900

Porringers are small food bowls used for porridge. They usually have one or two handles and are made in a range of materials. They were often used when feeding the sick or elderly. This example is made of glazed earthenware and is decorated with a picture of St Barbara who is believed to protect against various diseases and is also the patron saint of those faced with sudden death by lightning, collapsing mines and cannon-balls. The story goes that she converted to Christianity much to the anger of her father who tried to kill her. She was saved when her father was hit by lightning. There is a small lightning bolt in the top left of the bowl. Porringers may also have been used in bloodletting.

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    Glossary: patron saint

    A saint believed to protect or guide a place or particular group of people.

    Glossary: nursing

    The study and practice of caring for and waiting on the sick, injured, or others unable to look after themselves or to deal with their specific medical needs.

    Glossary: porringer

    A small bowl with one or two handles, usually made of silver or pewter and most commonly used for eating greul or porridge. Popular in England and America from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

    Glossary: bloodletting

    Puncturing a vein in order to withdraw blood. A popular medical practice for over two thousand years. Bloodletting often involved withdrawing large quantities of blood in the belief that this would cure or prevent many illnesses and diseases. The practice has been abandoned for all but a few very specific conditions.