In the 17th and 18th centuries such bowls were used for serving spoonmeats or pottages, a semi-liquid food eaten with a spoon. The French traveler Henri Misson in 1700 described the form's use in England, writing "When they have boil'd meat, there is sometimes one of the company that will have the broth; this is a kind of soup with a little oatmeal in it, and some leaves of thyme or sage.... They bring up this in as many porringers as there are people that desire it; those that please crumble a little bread into it, and this makes a kind of pottage", quoted from Amanda E. Lange, Delftware at Historic Deerfield, 1600-1800, Deerfield, 2001 p. 89.
The form was also produced in pewter and silver and may have served a dual purpose as a bleeding bowl. The inventory of the Pickleherring pottery lists 7,748 porringers, the second largest group of objects after apothecary wares, as referenced by Michael Archer, Delftware, The Tin-glazed Earthenware of the British Isles, London, 1997, p. 280.
Michael Archer illustrates a bleu persan porringer splashed in white in Delftware in the Fitzwilliam Museum, London, 2013, p. 230, F.2, where the author notes on p. 281 that an almost entire example was excavated in Lambeth. A very similar bleu persan porringer painted in white with a Chinoiserie figure was in the F. H. Garner collection, sold, Sotheby's, London, March 2, 1965, lot 180.