Study Group for Roman Pottery

National Research Framework: West of Britain

Research & Publication Priorities: Industries/Kilns

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Edited by Paul Booth & Steven Willis on behalf of The Study Group for Roman Pottery, Western Regional Group October 1997; selectively revised 2002


3.1 Introduction

The basis for understanding production sites per se is Swan (1984). As elsewhere in Roman Britain there was a range of such industries, from those of national importance to very minor ones. A number of these can be highlighted as requiring work at several different levels.

3.2 Mancetter-Hartshill

The publication of the 1960-84 excavations on these sites (mainly by K. Hartley) must be considered a national priority, particularly for kiln and mortarium studies, though the coarse wares are also regionally important. The need for publication of these sites was identified as a first order priority by Fulford and Huddleston (1991, 39). It would have implications for pottery studies in Northern Britain, allowing more meaningful correlation of production site types with dated stratified sequences on the northern frontier containing these types.

3.3 Severn Valley Ware

This remains an industry where very few production sites are known; any such sites are therefore of above-average importance. Three approaches to this industry are suggested:

3.3.1 A programme of active fieldwork, including geophysical survey, to locate production sites.

3.3.2 Prioritization of analysis of material from known production sites, particularly that of the large assemblage from the recent Hereford and Worcester excavations at Madresfield, near Malvern.

3.3.3 Further refinement of Severn Valley fabrics identified in fabric series within the region, for example, by programmes of analysis. A pilot NAA study of Severn Valley fabrics from Alcester, Worcester and Malvern Link showed an encouraging correlation between chemically and visually-defined groupings. This work should be developed further. Specific aspects for treatment in this way could include the definition and isolation of the 'Malvernian' Severn Valley Ware fabric. Once defined, examination of the distribution pattern of specific Severn Valley Ware fabrics could be of great value in developing understanding of the workings of this industry.

3.3.4 The Severn Valley industry (and perhaps the comparable Cheshire Plain tradition) offers opportunities to study in a broad manner the development of a tradition through the late Iron Age and Roman periods. In particular, since these traditions are locally dominant, the question of how their development relates to regional social changes might be considered. This approach may be linked to broader themes in Romano-British research such as the impact of the army or of urbanisation.

3.3.5 There is a need to ensure publication of important Severn Valley Ware assemblages from settlement sites. The dating of the ware remains vague due to a lack of published well-dated groups. A new synthesis of the ware will become possible once more well-dated assemblages are published.

3.4 The Malvern Industry

This production centre is of great interest being a rare example of a tradition with a direct continuity of fabric, form and technology from the Iron Age into the Roman period. It has a significant regional distribution, yet production sites remain unknown. Location of such sites should be a priority, noting, however, that they may not be characterised by readily recognisable features such as kilns.

3.5 North Wiltshire

A wide range of pottery in a fine sand-tempered tradition was produced at a number of sites in the Swindon area. These industries, the products of which probably include the so-called 'south-western white slipped ware' (and perhaps also 'south-western brown-slipped ware') are of major importance in the middle part of the region. They are poorly published and understood. A synthesis of current evidence, with characterisation of fabrics and establishment of a dated form series, is a high priority for the region. The relationship of this industry to the Savernake industry (cf. below) also requires urgent consideration.

3.6 Savernake

The situation with this industry is similar to that of the nearby North Wiltshire industries, though it is perhaps even more important. In the early Roman period the products of this industry seem likely to have been more widely distributed than so far realised. Characterisation of the fabric(s) is crucial as the industry seems to have prompted the development of one or more 'clones' in the Upper Thames Valley. The chronology of the early phases of the industry is still unresolved, but inter alia has a major bearing on the question of the introduction of 'Belgic type' grog-tempered wares to the central part of the region, as well as being important in relation to the question of military involvement in pottery production. Again the establishment of a dated form series is crucial. The material to achieve these objectives is probably already available in collections from the production sites and in assemblages from settlement sites in North Wiltshire and the Upper Thames Valley.

3.7 Black-Burnished Ware

While recent publications (and unpublished work) have shed considerable light on aspects such as the range of Black-Burnished Ware types and features of its distribution, significant areas remain for future study.

3.7.1 The most important of these is the consolidation of understanding of centres of Black-Burnished Ware production other than the Isle of Purbeck. The importance of these alternative sources is only beginning to be understood and until the details of their fabrics and repertoire of vessel types and decorative motifs can be defined and placed in a chronological framework it will remain unclear. The Exeter publication (Holbrook & Bidwell 1991), however, marks a significant step in this direction.

3.7.2 The work of Malcolm Lyne on Black-Burnished Ware, in the course of his thesis study of Roman pottery in Southern England, has important implications for the understanding of the distribution of Black-Burnished Ware, particularly in the later Roman period. This is a topic of much wider relevance, and the publication of part if not all of Lyne's work is to be encouraged.

3.8 Gabbroic Wares of the South-West Peninsula

These are regionally very important, and remarkable for continuity of tradition through both ends of the Roman period. It is strongly felt that they would repay systematic study.

3.9 'Caerleon Ware'

There are considerable quantities of unpublished pottery from Caerleon, including extensive collections from pre-war excavations, which would benefit from re-examination. A fabric type series of pottery made for the legion should be a priority. This would not only help those undertaking excavations in the area but would facilitate studies on the impact of the legion on the economy of south-east Wales (see also 5.2 and 5.3 below).

3.10 The Oxford Area Industry

Recent work on production sites in and around Oxford has produced data which renders this industry ripe for re-synthesis. Such work would concentrate as much on aspects of individual site layout and organisation and the broader workings of the industry as on its products, but the two aspects are intimately interrelated. An essential element in advancing understanding of this industry is the publication of C. Young's excavations at the Churchill Hospital.

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