Day 2 of the NWAG Advent Calendar!

It’s Day 2 of the NWAG Advent Calendar, and we’re already craving a festive tipple!

Copper-alloy tap key from metal-detecting at Lower Collier’s Hill Farm, Bayton (¬© North Worcestershire Archaeology Group)

This unusual looking object is known as a ‘tap key’, and was presented to NWAG in 2013 as part of a collection of metal-detected finds from a field near Lower Collier’s Hill Farm, Bayton. It’s one of three tap keys found in the field, each of which has a distinctive oval bow and diamond-shaped bit. Intended for use with casks of ale, beer, and cider, they would slot neatly into a ‘barrel tap’ or spigot and, when turned, allowed the contents freely flow into a mug or tankard.

Three men emptying casks of ale (from Cruickshank’s The House that Jack Built, 1853, public domain courtesy of the British Library)

Tap keys are quite commonly found by metal-detectorists in western England, but are usually too modern to record on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. But why should they turn up so often on fields? In Worcestershire, they might reflect the part-payment of farm workers in ale and cider during the busy harvest season – a practice that is known to have continued well into the 19th century.

Our report on the tap-key, as well as the other finds from the site, is available on our website, so why not give it a read!