Historical information

A tankard is a form of drinkware consisting of a large, roughly cylindrical, drinking cup with a single handle. Tankards are usually made of silver or pewter but can be made of other materials, for example, wood, ceramic or leather. A tankard may have a hinged lid, and tankards featuring glass bottoms are also fairly common. Tankards are shaped and used similarly to German beer steins. The word "tankard" originally meant any wooden vessel derived from the 13th century and later came to mean a drinking vessel. The earliest tankards were made of wooden staves, similar to a barrel, and did not have lids. A 2000-year-old wooden tankard of approximately four-pint capacity has been unearthed in Wales.
Metal tankards often come with a glass bottom and the legend is that the glass-bottomed tankard was developed as a way of refusing the King's shilling, i.e. conscription into the British army or navy. The drinker could see the coin in the bottom of the glass and refuse the drink, thereby avoiding conscription. However, this is likely to be a myth, since the Navy could press by force, known as press-ganging, rendering deception unnecessary.
In a bar fight, the first punch was thrown while the recipient had the tankard raised to his mouth; another legend has it that the glass bottom was implemented to see the attack coming.
A further story is that the glass bottom merely allowed the drinker to judge the clarity of their drink while forgoing the expense of a fragile pint glass. It is unclear if all or any of these legends have any substance.


The Tankard is associated with the shipwreck of the Loch Ard which is of significance for Victoria and is registered on the Victorian Heritage Register (S 417). Flagstaff Hill has a varied collection of artefacts from Loch Ard and this tankard is one item from the largest accumulation of artefacts from this notable Victorian shipwreck. The tankard was found on the wreck and it gives us a snapshot into Victorian maritime history. Allowing us to interpret the story of this tragic event. This drinking vessel is also archaeologically significant as it represents aspects of Victoria's history that allows us to interpret Victoria's social and historical themes of the time. The tankards significance is unfortunately its association with the worst and best-known shipwreck in Victoria's history. (See note section this document for history of the Loch Ard wreck)

Physical description

Pewter Tankard with marine encrustations from the shipwreck as the Loch Ard.

Inscriptions & markings

Attached label "LA 33 255"