The Bellarmine bottle with a missing handle was found in 1955 under the floor of the Peacock Hotel in Market Harborough (now Pizza Express). The bottle has been dated back to the 16th/17th century when wines and beers were decanted from wooden barrels into stone jugs, bottles and pitchers for easier transportation.
The name ‘Bellarmine’ comes from the cardinal Robert Bellarmine who published anti-Protestant literature in Holland at the time, opposing the Dutch Reformed Church.
The signature decorative face seen on neck of the bottles are recreations of Bellarmine; It became popular for Protestants who disagreed with his texts to smash the jugs and shout his name!
The bottles were also known as ‘witch bottles’. People believed that filling them with iron pins, hair, urine and other charms, before sealing and burying them in their gardens, or placing them at entrances to their homes would protect them from a witch’s curse.
Of around 200 witch-bottles recorded in England, 130 are Bellarmines.