Laser-scanning the 18th-century Kiln at Dunster

The kiln in Dunster is the oldest ‘complete’ pottery kiln in Britain and sits alone in the corner of the grounds of Dunster Castle in Somerset. It was built in 1759 and its construction is recorded in detail in the Lutterell family papers. Like the watermill nearer to the house it was designed as a working feature within the naturalistic design of the castle park. The potters, John Mogg and his wife Ruth, would have had to both make and fire pottery and cope with the attentions of the Lutterells’ guests. At the mill, the millers still have the same situation today but nowadays their employer is the National Trust.

Following on from recording the old kiln at the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, David Dawson, Bill Stebbing and I have begun laser-scanning the Dunster kiln – Exmoor National Park, the National Trust and the other stakeholders having given their permission. David and I have a long association with the kiln at Dunster having played a significant part in its rediscovery, excavation, conservation, recording and publication.

Figure 1. Laser-scanning the 18th-century pottery kiln at Dunster Castle, Somerset.

Figure 2. The 18th-century pottery kiln at Dunster Castle, Somerset is partially buried by a metre or more of later dumping of construction debris and soil.

Some History

We researched and published the pottery, The Pottery House in the Old Park as it was known, in 2007. Read or download pdf from This is a quick summary:

The Dunster Castle park was extensively remodelled by Henry Fownes Lutterell from the 1740s onwards and the pottery was one of a number of features designed to animate it. Lutterell’s agent George Gale kept detailed accounts for each project. In February 1759 Gale advertised in The Western Flying Post for ‘a person that can undertake making and burning all sorts of Coarse Pottery Ware.’ Construction seems to have started under a potter called James Saunders but by August matters are in the hands of John and Ruth Mogg from Bristol. The accounts detail bills for carpentry, lime supplies, masonry, blacksmith’s work, clay, lead ore as well as workshop tools such a sieves and a file. The Moggs had to site-manage – the account notes:

’15 days Work directing & helping to put the house in order to go to Work… By lost time afterwards in directing the Masons about Building the Kiln – and for preparing the clay & making Arches to go round the bottom of the Kiln – and repairing the bottom of the Kiln 3 times.’

The first firing was in November 1759. It obviously went well because the cash book shows steady pot sales from the 13th of the month onwards. There were six further firings between February and October 1760. Things seemed to be going well but by Christmas John Mogg was dead. In January 1761 Ruth was paid £13.10s – their remaining wages plus a gratuity of £1.10s from Mr. Lutterell and was gone. The accounts note further purchases of lead and ‘potter’s wood’ and on June 30th Gale ‘gave John Norris a potter towards his expenses in coming from Crock Street to take the work.’ (Crock Street is in Donyatt in South Somerset. The Norris’s were the largest of the potter families there). There the account stops.

The pottery must always have been fairly impractical. It is on a little knoll up which everything had to be hauled, clay, water, fuel, everything. It was always first and foremost for show. Nonetheless the archaeology suggests it continued in us for some time.

Excavation of the kiln interior revealed that the fireboxes had been blocked in the 1830s or 40s. The floor had been removed and lowered at this time and the flues filled in to make a clay floor. In the flues were fragments of unfired pottery suggesting that at the point of demolition there had been recent activity in the pottery. The estate chose to retain the kiln as a landscape feature whilst demolishing the house and workshop. That and other building work behind resulted in a raising of the ground level burying the lower metre or more of the kiln and making the interior and exterior flush. Eventually forgotten, overgrown with ivy and used as a shed it remained so until its rediscovery in 1989. Now conserved and presented once more as part of the Castle grounds it has come back to life.

Laser-Scanning the Kiln

The images below are screenshots based on our initial scanning data. There is more surveying to do as well as processing so they are far from perfect. Nonetheless they show some great detail. It is possible to see how much of the building is buried and how it is built as a brick structure encased in the thick stone exterior. Inside, the surviving lower courses of the underfloor flues fan out from the two fireboxes, off-centre and irregular. They must be the ‘arches around the bottom of the kiln’ that the Moggs had to repair several times. If you look carefully you can see that the flue leading from the top side of the left firebox has melted and is blocked. There is more damage in the centre. The height of the firebox gives an idea of where the floor would originally have been. Both have ledges for fire-bars and project a long way into the kiln.

Figure 3. The 18th-century pottery kiln at Dunster Castle, Somerset. Screenshot from the initial laser-scan data showing the front elevation. Copyright Scan to PLAN.Figure 4. The 18th-century pottery kiln at Dunster Castle, Somerset. Screenshot from the initial laser-scan data. Cross-section through the doorway, showing the western firebox and the remains of the flue structure. Copyright Scan to PLAN.Figure 5. The 18th-century pottery kiln at Dunster Castle, Somerset. Screenshot from the initial laser-scan data. East-west cross-section. Copyright Scan to PLAN.

Figure 6. The 18th-century pottery kiln at Dunster Castle, Somerset. Screenshot from the initial laser-scan data. Plan view of fireboxes and flue structure. Copyright: Scan to PLAN.

Why get so excited about an old kiln? It is surprising how poorly documented the development of pottery technology is. Basic questions about fuels, fireboxes, chimneys and kiln furniture can be a challenge to answer. Kiln design, by which I mean building an innovative structure with a particular aim in mind as opposed to working within a convention or tradition, might be said to emerge in the late 17th century. This kiln has ledges for fire-bars, a conical brick chimney, a flue structure directing heat into the centre of the floor. These are aspects of innovation – not necessarily at Dunster literally but in the context of the pottery industry in the mid 18th century. It is securely dated and many of the people who built it can be identified. It is a small window but it is very exciting!


David Dawson and Oliver Kent, 2007. ‘‘Animated Prospect,’- An 18th-century Kiln at ‘the Pottery House in the Old Park, Dunster, Somerset,’ in J. Finch and K. Giles, (eds), 2007. Estate Landscapes. Design, Improvement and Power in the Post-Medieval Landscape. Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology Monograph 4. Woodbridge: SPMA/Boydell and Brewer, 95-112. Read or download pdf from

David Dawson and Oliver Kent, 2008, ‘The development of the bottle kiln in pottery manufacture in Britain.’ Post-Medieval Archaeology, 42/1, 201-226. Read or download pdf from

For more on laser-scanning at the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, see my blog post from April 2017 Laser-Scanning the Old Winchcombe Pottery Kiln.

All photos copyright Oliver Kent, 2018. The laser-scanned images are copyright Bill Stebbing/Scan to PLAN, 2018.

Updated 6 Aug 2018.

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The Babel Tower Brickworks

Tower of Babel. Joos de Momper, Antwerp c.1600. Oil on canvas. 175cm x 249cm. Musee Royaux des Beaux Art, Brussels. (Wikipedia Commons)

Whilst at the Medieval Pottery Research Group conference in Brussels at the beginning of June some of us found time to visit the Musee Royaux des Beaux Arts. I particularly wanted to see the Brueghels. Near to those was this huge Tower of Babel by Joos de Momper, painted around 1600. De Momper lived in Antwerp and was a friend of Jan Brueghel and his son, sometimes collaborating with them but generally specialising in landscape rather than genre painting.

The story of the Tower of Babel appears in Genesis 11: 1-9 and explains how the multiplicity of human languages emerged. (I have quoted the English King James Bible. De Momper would probably have read it in Flemish or French.)

1. And the whole earth was of one language.

2. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3. And they said to one another, Go to, let us make Brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime (sic) for morter.

4. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth.

5. And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language, and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them which they imagined to do.

7. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

8. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

The painting shows the Tower of Babel mid-way through construction with Nimrod and his entourage inspecting the works in the foreground. Babel was a popular subject and many painters included construction details – lots of scaffolding – but what is arresting about De Momper’s depiction is the sheer density and range of activity. He has taken verse three as his theme, ‘Go to, let us make Brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime (sic) for morter.’ In some languages the mortar is given as bitumen but De Momper seems to have gone for lime as a logical interpretation.

The Babel Brickworks, Tower of Babel (detail). Joos de Momper, Antwerp c.1600. Oil on canvas. 175cm x 249cm. Musee Royaux des Beaux Art, Brussels.

In the foreground on the right a group of limekilns are distinguished by their square shapes and the barrow runs to their rims. One glows from the top and smoke billows around them.

Behind and above them a vast spill of terracotta forms a significant splash of warm colour across the middle of the canvas, the brightest of a series of diagonal lines across the painting, retreating in scale and leading the eye from the masons in the bottom right all the way to the top of the tower. This a huge disorderly stack of fresh bright brick set out in front of a building and a group of large round brick kilns, each with a surrounding timber shelter. Flames belch from the nearest kiln as carters load up and foremen inspect and organise.

In effect this is a convincing picture of brick production in the large 15th century with a convincing representation of a functioning brick kiln. It is interesting that De Momper shows a round updraught kiln with a wide top rather than a clamp which one might assume was more usual. Archaeological excavations of early kilns invariably focus on the kiln itself and pay scant attention to the surroundings. When post-holes are identified they are rarely interpreted as parts of the kiln or are too unclear to be read at all. Here De Momper clearly indicates a lean-to roof resting on the kiln and supported by posts. Such structures are known from 19th century examples in Britain, often walled in as at Barham Brothers Brickworks in Bridgwater, Somerset or indeed the Bulmer Brick and Tile works in Essex as well as from smaller potteries.

The painter uses the kilns for another purpose of course. The people of Babel are to be punished and these are reminders that they are transgressing and that the fires of hell are ever present. Do not overreach yourselves, the painting warns. The structure, colour and message is remarkably similar to De Loutherbourg’s much later painting Coalbrookdale at Night with its sensual and sinister depiction of the Bedlam Furnaces in Shropshire.

Coalbrookdale by Night, (Bedlam Furnaces). Philip de Loutherbourg, 1801. (Wikipedia Commons/Science Museum, London)
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Modernism in Bristol: Charlotte St and Gill Sans

Bristol bookseller Douglas Cleverdon is best remembered as the man who asked Eric Gill to paint a shop-sign for him. The lettering that resulted was seen by Stanley Morison of Monotype who asked Gill to develop it as a full typeface. The result was Gills Sans.

A black and white photograph of Cleverdon’s shopfront in Charlotte Street, just off Park Street, shows two windows sitting close to the steeply sloping pavement, the sign and a few bits of the surrounding architectural detail. The address was 18 Charlotte St.

I have tried several times to work out exactly where Cleverdon’s shop was and where the famous sign hung. No one seems to have photographed the lower end of Charlotte St – essentially the side and rear of 71 Park Street. Hill St behind is little more than a back alley. The present street numbering and that used in the 1920s/30s do not seem to match; Charlotte St has no number 18.

In the blitz on November 24th 1940 the end of the block between Park Street, Charlotte St and Hill St was gutted and subsequently demolished. A photograph of the junction of Park St and Charlotte St on the morning after the bombing shows the destruction. The corner building (71 Park St) has lost its front, roof and floors and the side wall into Charlotte St only remains vertical because steel joists and a column inserted as part of the street level optician’s shopfront are resolutely holding on. The side wall running up Charlotte St is visible as far as the front door to the building above and a bit beyond. The door is gone and opens on nothing but the opposite wall. Above is a large Guinness poster. A few doors down and two more shops are completely gone.

Today an eccentric and temporary looking single storey post-war building functions as a shop on the Park St level with Vincenzo’s pizza restaurant above on the flat roof and behind it becoming ground level further up Charlotte St. Vincenzo’s is a longstanding Bristol institution if ever there was one with its chianti bottles hanging in nets from the ceiling. Both give 71 Park St as an address; Vincenzo’s is 71a.

Stephen Groome recently published the wartime photo on the Facebook group Bristol – Then and Now Photographs and pointed out a detail I had not noticed before. Above the side door to the burnt-out building are painted the words Clifton Arts Club.

Suzanne Clarke wrote a history of the Clifton Arts Club in 1993. The Club originally met in the Royal West of England Academy but by 1922 the space was needed for other things and they sought new premises. In 1923 they moved into 17/18 Charlotte St ‘over number 71 Park Street… a large room with a stage, a smaller room and a kitchen, the rooms being entered up some steps from a door in Charlotte Street.’ ‘Further up Charlotte Street, in the same building was Douglas Cleverdon’s antiquarian bookshop… started in 1927.’ Above the CAC rooms the two upper floors were a flat and photographic studio belonging to Methven Brownlee. According to Suzanne, Douglas Cleverdon rented the flat and Eric Gill was a frequent guest (the reference is to Fiona MacCarthy’s 1989 biography of Eric Gill).

So the destroyed building on the corner of Park Street was a shop on the lower ground floor numbered 71 Park St. The Clifton Arts Club meeting rooms on the upper ground floor and a two floor flat above were accessed from the main door to the side in Charlotte St and numbered 17/18. Behind the main building prewar maps show the rear yard/outbuilding area back to Hill St as built over and this must be Cleverdon’s shop also numbered 18 Charlotte St. The neighbouring building at 69 Park St has a small yard and a two storey stable/outbuilding at the rear. Judging from the photo of the bookshop the same was true for 71/17/18 – the maps showing that the yard area had been built over long before.

The photo shows a two storey building with an internal floor level cutting into the slope. This can only be the upper ground floor would seem that Douglas Cleverdon’s bookshop was in a two storey building on the corner of Charlotte Street and Hill Street where the main entrance and bar of Vincenzo’s restaurant and linked to the building fronting Park Street. Bearing in mind the floor levels and the slope of the pavement, the

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Laser-Scanning the old Winchcombe Pottery Kiln

As a contribution to the project to repair and present the old bottle kiln at the Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, David Dawson and I, together with Bill Stebbing of Scan to PLAN offered to carry out a full 3D laserscan survey of the kiln and its surroundings. Matt Grimmitt and the team were keen and we spent a cold couple of days in the snow in early March.

Laser-scanning is an incredibly quick way of recording 3D objects in very fine detail. The resulting plan can be rotated and manipulated on screen to look at the subject from any direction – to fly through – and sliced to make plans, elevations and sections wherever needed. Millions of digitally recorded points mean that measurements are quickly available and very accurate. It seem odd to map and survey without a tape or paper but it works.

The precise history of the pottery at Greet near Winchcombe is sketchy before it was bought by Michael Cardew in 1926. Brick historian Martin Hammond, who surveyed the kiln in the 1999, identified the bricks used in the lower parts of it as late 18th century and those above and forming the conical chimney as 19th and 20th. The pottery was connected to a brick and tile works on the north side of the village and a potter and a brickmaker were recorded in the 1841 census (for a brief history see British Brick Society, Information, 121, 2012, 3-8) The pottery site as a whole is quite large and includes extensive clay pits and a variety of buildings of all periods including workshops, a large 19th-century red-brick house, a ruined stone cottage and a late 20th-century brick bungalow.  By 1900 it was known as Beckett’s Pottery making red earthenware country pottery and a range of horticultural wares which closed around the time of the Great War. Purchased by the Cardews in 1926, it was restarted with the help of former employee and thrower Elijah Comfort. The bottle kiln was used – sometimes with difficulty – throughout Cardew’s time there and subsequently by Ray Finch. It was extensively remodelled internally in 1950 before going out of use in 1953. Under Mike Finch, Matt Grimmitt and the team, the pottery continues to operate making stoneware and earthenware domestic and kitchen wares and is well-known across the world.

By the time Michael Cardew acquired the pottery, the kiln was located within a long building made up of four components. Drawings and photographs show two two-storey sections to the west, one stone fronted and the other brick which formed the workshops. At the eastern end was a two-storey stone cottage. The cottage was the Cardew’s home in the early days. The linking section between the two contained the kiln which poked out through the roof. Subsequent to its disuse, the building housing the kiln collapsed and later the stone cottage to the east. In the 1970s the workshops to the west were demolished and rebuilt retaining a version of the original frontage. The present pottery operates from a separate range of buildings at right angles to the south. Behind the main range of buildings is an open area with the remains of a horse drawn pug-mill for processing raw clay. This was dug from the extensive area of clay pits beyond and now covered by scrub and coppice.

As it stands today, the pottery and the kiln are a complex collection of elements that reflect its long history as a working pottery and the honest and unsentimental way it has been used and modified over that time. Everything from the filled in pits and coppice woodland to the brick paths, the apple trees and the Finch’s bungalow are relevant.  It does make the understanding of the place difficult.

The kiln with the rebuilt workshops behind and the Pottery’s vintage Nuffield tractor. Below the rebuilt workshops, and a view from the clay pits beyond.The horse-drawn pugmill behind the workshops.

Our primary aim has been to record the kiln and the area immediately round the kiln, including the cottage and the horse-drawn pug-mill to the rear. The Winchcombe potters have worked hard to clear away the scrub and trees from around the kiln and the ruined cottage. Inside the ware chamber a collection of kiln-shelves and a few saggers and old pots of various kinds obscured the floor. On day one we scanned the interior as found – the surprise being the additional collection of saggers and a large 1940/50s? hump-mould hidden on top of the chamber roof, in the chimney. Matt is very pleased with the mound and plans to put it back to work. Subsequently both spaces were emptied to enable full recording.

Above, saggers and other pottery debris on top of the ware-chamber vault. The hump-mould may date from the 1940/50s. Matt Grimmitt plans to dry it out and reuse it.

Below are a selection of low-resolution laser-scanned images. The internal and external features are clear except in inaccessible areas. The kiln is typical small bottle kiln with four grated fireboxes, flues leading into the ware-chamber against the walls and in the floor. A shallow vault pierced with 20 holes vents into a conical chimney with a door to one side. On top a metal damper provides weather protection. The three main building phases are visible. The chimney brickwork is distinct from the lower part of the kiln, having been rebuilt in the 1930s. The 1950 reconditioning of the kiln in refractory concrete includes all four fireboxes, the underfloor flues and the floor itself. With these came the bag-wall which lines the chamber protecting the load from the direct flames from the flues around the base of the wall. Hennell’s earlier drawing suggests that the layout of the firebox and floor structure was changed only slightly, the addition of bag-walls being the main innovation. The presence of the bottom ring of kiln shelves indicates how the kiln was packed latterly.

Isometric view of the kiln. White areas are caused by snow and movement.

Vertical section of the kiln through the centre of the ware-chamber door.The SW (clearest) firebox with refractory concrete repairs from 1950. On the ledge above is a matching cast iron fire bar. The bar support is missing at the front but can be seen at the rear. The beautiful vault of the ware-chamber seen from below. The 20 vent holes are mostly blocked with a brick to help keep the rain out. Horizontal section across the kiln at ware-chamber floor level indicating the location of the fireboxes and the 4 floor flue openings. 11 (presumably of 12) kiln-shelves are still in place on the floor.Vertical section through the base of the kiln showing the floor and fireboxes.

The kiln and the ruins of the surrounding building and the pottery cottage.

The above images are low-resolution ‘stills’ from the data which can be viewed as a fly-through (see Bill Stebbing/Scan to PLAN’s YouTube video). It can also be converted to produce detailed conventional plans and cross-sections. The main limitation is the scanner’s inability to see into flues and other inaccessible places as can be seen in the floor areas where the detail of the relationship between the fireboxes and the ware-chamber cannot be made out.

The Pottery are raising funds towards their restoration plans and have a Just Giving page. We have carried out this work on a no-cost basis, giving our time and covering expenses and equipment hire costs ourselves. We see the recording of the kiln as valuable to the restoration project and equally to the study of ceramic history and the studio pottery movement.

For more information on the Winchcombe Pottery see:

Web, Winchcombe Pottery; Instagram #winchcombepottery #mattgrimmitt

All images are copyright Scan to PLAN/Oliver Kent.

Updated 27.04.18

Posted in Archaeology, bottle kiln, Folk and Country Pottery, Kilns and Kiln-building, Post-Medieval Archaeology, Slipware, Studio Ceramics, Winchcombe Pottery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Jars and Jugs from Newport Medieval Kiln excavations

The late 15th/early 16th century pottery kiln preserved beneath the Memorial Hall in Newport, Pembrokeshire is a remarkable survivor (see The Newport Medieval Kiln, Pembrokeshire (Feb 2016). Identified by Mortimer Wheeler during the building of the hall in 1921 and scheduled as an Ancient Monument it had become more or less forgotten until recently. The current project to revitalise the hall has involved substantial groundworks to the rear of the building and as part of its plan will present the kiln and its products to the public (an intention of the 1921 scheme that did not come to fruition).

With the excavations in and around the Memorial Hall completed and the building work coming together, the emphasis has moved to finds processing. The volunteers have washed everything and the process of sorting, weighing and classifying is moving on rapidly. The excavations outside the NW corner of the building removed a couple of metres of 20th-century fill and landscaping containing medieval pottery before cutting into some undisturbed archaeology below foundation level. Evidence for a second kiln recorded in 1921 appeared only as rubble beneath the corner of the building.

It is becoming apparent that the pottery from the site is not uniform but falls into two similar but distinct groups. Both are forms of what archaeologists term Dyfed Gravel-tempered Ware. The pottery disturbed in 1921 and redeposited in the foundation trenches of the hall forms one group. The second is present in small amounts throughout but is chiefly found in the undisturbed layers below the level of the 1921 works. The impression is of two phases, fairly close in time. The earlier pots are almost exclusively jugs and jar/cooking pots; simple forms, thinly thrown and with decoration restricted to occasional indentations in jar rims and thin glaze on the shoulders of the jugs.

‘Phase 1’ gravel-tempered thrown jar/cooking pots in several sizes. The flat-topped or slightly bevelled rims flow into the shoulder.

The second group are very similar to the first. The jar and jug forms are larger and more heavily potted. The jar rims are more sharply defined with a cordon at the neck and a pronounced outward bevel to the rim. The other change is the appearance of a variety of new shapes including dripping pans, pipkins and even alembics. Glaze continues to be uncommon except on the exterior of the jugs.

‘Phase 2’ gravel-tempered thrown jar/cooking pots in at least two sizes. More robust than the earlier jars, the rims are bevelled outwards and a cordon or line creates a clear distinction between rim and body. These examples are from stratified levels in front of the west firebox.

‘Phase 1’ jug rim, handle and shoulder sherds. These are thinly potted and the clay has no added temper. The thumbing at either end of the handles is the most obvious decoration.

Some of the ‘Phase 2’ pots from the stoking area have cross-mended to give an impression of the main shapes. The jug fabric remains untempered or lightly so and the shoulders are usually glazed but undecorated. Forms include larger ones (bottom left). The throwing is generally very good and unfortunately the upper parts of the jugs tend to smash into very small sherds making reconstruction very difficult.

‘Phase 2’ wares include a variety of new forms including pipkins, dripping pans, alembics and a candlestick? as well as ridge tiles.

For more on the project see my earlier posts: The Newport Medieval Kiln, Pembrokeshire (Feb 2016), (Re) Excavating the Medieval Kiln at Newport, Pembrokeshire, (Dec 2016), Finds from the Medieval Kiln-site at Newport, Pembs, (Feb 2017) and Latest News from the Medieval Kiln at Newport, Pembrokeshire (May 2017).

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Two New 17th-century Potteries in Dorset

The post-medieval pottery of South Somerset has become increasingly well known and studied; the best recorded potteries being those around Donyatt that survived into the mid-20th century. Richard Coleman-Smith in particular excavated there and wrote and lectured extensively. In practice in the 17th and 18th-centuries similar slipwares and redwares were made across a wide area of the south and east of the county. Quite distinct from the pottery of North Devon to the west or Hampshire to the east the Somerset pots are characterised by wide variations in fired colour, vigorous wet-slip decoration and trailing, loose sgraffito and an enthusiasm for mimicking stonewares, delftwares and even Staffordshire/Bristol slipwares.

Two recent sites from west Dorset extend the region over which these wares were made. Holnest near Shaftesbury is next door to the village of Hermitage which has an extensive documentary history as a pottery centre as well as an excavated medieval kiln. These sites, one to the north of Holnest parish (originally identified in 2001) and the recent one to the south, both date to the mid to late 17th century and consist of pottery waste dumps. They have been revealed during earth movements in fields that have remained unploughed for many generations (I have agreed not to give precise locations).

Finds from the site on the north side of Holnest parish in 2002 (Site 1).

Sample pottery wasters from Site 1 at Holnest. 1650-1700.

Above: Site 1 Holnest. The ‘smeared’ slip decoration on the left and the rouletted ridge on the unglazed exterior of cup/porringer forms may be distinctive. 

Sample pottery wasters from Site 2 on the southern edge of Holnest parish. 1650-1700. The large fragment of blackened fired clay with a smoothed upper surface may be kiln structure. Below: jar and bowl rim forms from Site 2.

Site 1 was heavily disturbed and the precise context lost. It is no longer easily accessible. Site two consists of a mound in the corner of a field consisting entirely of soil and sherds. On the other side of the hedge a level area is shown as a small enclosure on the 1st edition OS map and contains a small building. Such are the similarities between the two groups, it is possible that they reflect one pottery rather than two but more systematic analysis of the pottery and perhaps some excavation will clarify. If they follow the Donyatt/Horton Cross model then there are a number of small, possibly seasonal, potteries serving a common market. 

The local history group led by Luke Mouland are keen to develop their knowledge of the local pottery industry and are coordinating with other local groups, museums and the Medieval Pottery Research Group. It will be interesting to see whether a search of local excavation archives reveals examples of Holnest products which are likely times have been catalogued as Donyatt/South Somerset in the past. 

I will post links asap. 

Posted in Archaeology, Folk and Country Pottery, Kilns and Kiln-building, Post-Medieval Archaeology, Slipware | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Another Kiln: The Pott House, Bedminster, Bristol

A late 18th to mid-19th century redware pottery called The Pott House, was excavated in Boot Lane, Bedminster, Bristol in 2002. 

The closure of Bristol and Region Archaeological Services has been as sad day in the history of archaeology in Bristol. The records are at present being sorted and archived. One of their last publications has been Kai Mason’s report on the Barton Hill Pottery a small 19th-century redware pottery principally making horticultural wares for the local market gardeners and chimney pots (see my earlier posts Archaeologists Excavate the Barton Hill Pottery 4 Feb 2014 and Potter’s Cat Buried with Honour 4 Feb 2014). Although there were quite few redware potteries in Bristol in the 18th and 19th centuries few have been studied or excavated and Barton Hill is unusual nationally in having been fully dug across its whole footprint. 

It reminded me that amongst the BaRAS archive is another small redware pottery excavated in 2002 in Boot Lane, Bedminster and which I helped interpret and write up (the unpublished report is now available online through Know Your Place). The Boot Lane site was much more disturbed than Barton Hill but that is balanced by the remarkable survival of a document entitled the Pott House Day Book for 1788-9, found reused as a baptismal register for St John’s Church, Bedminster in the 1980s. Evidence within it seems to tie it to this site.  I thought the would be a good time to write a few words about the Pott House and its products both to publicise the archaeology and to expand the known range of sources of what I have termed Severnside redwares (Bridgwater Jugs – 19th Century ‘Severnside’ Redwares. 12 Jan 2017).

Above: Boot Lane is top left running south from Bedminster Parade. The Pott House is located the southern corner of the block in the L-shaped building. (Ashmead, 1828). Below, the kiln as excavated and before the removal of parts of its base (Adrian Parry/BaRAS).

Like Barton Hill, the site at Boot Lane was a small pottery with one coal-fired four-firebox updraught bottle kiln. It was tucked in a back street close to the south end of Bedminster Bridge. Bedminster, south of the river has historically been an industrial area dominated by coal and tobacco processing. Once a separate (and older) town it has retained that sense of itself and in terms of development and indeed archaeological investigation has tended to be overlooked. Nonetheless the proximity of its northern edge to the port and the city centre has been an advantage and its economic contribution to the area has been significant. 

The L-shaped building on Ashmead’s 1828 map is the pottery with the kiln in the left hand wing against Boot Lane. The excavations by Adrian Parry covered the south part of the block including a small tenement called Squires Court and about half of the pottery. Redevelopment since the 1850s had reduced the pottery to fragmentary foundations. Just over half the base of a brick built updraught kiln with two out of four fireboxes identifiable was cut by more recent foundations one of which retained the NE side of the kiln as a part of it. The NW firebox was almost complete and the NE one retained an iron support for the fire bars above the ash pit. The ledge at firebox top level indicates the approximate level of the ware-chamber floor. The internal flue structure is missing but the pattern of brickwork suggests that each box had a flue running from it towards the centre with four triangular platforms supporting the floor above. The exact form is difficult to work out – the beginning of an arch beside the SE firebox suggests more flues running parallel to the kiln wall. There is a lot to learn about the development of the firebox and flue structures of updraught kilns in the 18th century and of coal technology. The kiln is set in a rectangular room and it is clear it is a bottle kiln.

The kiln after the excavators had removed the surviving bottom courses of the NE side of the interior exposing the rubble foundations. The central strip is the base of flues running into the centre from the NW and SE fireboxes. The NE box retains an iron cross bar from its grate.  The step in the outer wall at the level of the top of the fireboxes would carry the ware chamber floor. The SW side was completely destroyed by later building. 

Small quantities of redware wasters were found. They included typical late 18th/ 19th century pancheons often with two small lugs pressed onto the rim, a common Bristol/Severnside feature. Jug handles were pressed on rather than pulled on the pot and a round thumb impression made at the base again typical. See English Country Pottery – or is it? Bristol Jugs and Pitchers 3 Mar 2015.

The wasters from Boot Lane (drawing Ann Linge, BaRAS).

The Day Book found by Reg and Philomena Jackson was published by them in 1982 (Jackson, R., Jackson, P. and Price, R., 1982. ‘Bristol Potters and Potteries 1600-1800.’ Journal of Ceramic History, 12. Stoke-on-Trent City Museums. pp. 213-226). Reused as the Baptismal Register for St John’s church in Bedminster, it covers the period from September 1788 to October 1789. Other evidence shows that the pottery was in existence by 1786 and closed in 1851. The Jackson’s named it the Bedminster Pottery. 

The Day Book includes wage bills, clay and transport expenses as well as sales. The pottery employed 5 men and a boy in 1788 increasing to 7 men. The apprentice roles show that Samuel Sheppard was apprenticed to Richard and Mary Room as a potter from 1786-1805 and provides a name for the pottery proprietors. Room in turn had become free as a potter in 1784. Wages varied and two of the men seen to have handled labouring and transport. Although most of the sales are of ‘brown ware’ specific forms mentioned include pans, basins, garden potts, sugar-potts, bread pans, milk pans, a salting pan and a large garden pott. Pans range in price from 1d to 12d and can come in ‘nests’. Clay came from Robert Fricker of Bedminster (an interesting surname associated with the Sugar House Pottery in Westbury-on-Trym). 

The customer list provides an idea of the distribution range of the pottery. Five main traders buy regular stock, all of then operating in the centre of Bristol. Of more than 40 customers the vast majority are in Bristol but the rest are almost entirely in north and central Somerset. Of the rest two are in Gloucestershire and remaining three on the Severn coast in Somerset and South Wales. 

In Matthew’s directory of Bristol for 1824, the pottery in Boot Lane is one of seven redware potteries listed (including Barton Hill and the descendent of the Sugar House Pottery). Making sugar pots, glazed redwares, chimney pots and horticultural wares they served a distinct market within the city and its hinterland. These are urban potteries not country potteries and the model recurs in other cities and as an adjunct to brick and tile industries. The few wasters here are similar to others from the Severnside and Bristol area and contribute to the idea of a regional style which connects with Bristol stonewAre forms. 

Adrian Parry’s full unpublished report for BaRAS  is now available online through Know Your Place.

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