English Country Pottery – dripping pans, bacon and apple roasters

Dripping Trays and Bacon Roasters (or Apple Roasters)

In Paula Marcoux’s video Roast a Pork Loin on a Spit (see previous blog) she uses a ceramic tray to catch the dripping from the roasting meat. She made the tray during one of the firings we did at Plimoth Plantation in the 2000s. It was based on a huge one found by archaeologists in Lewin’s Mead in Bristol. It dates from the mid-17th century and was made in North Devon.

Dripping pan. Mid C17th. North Devon Gravel-tempered Ware. c. 60cm wide (24″)

The scorch-marks on the front are from contact with the fire. On the other long side two big lugs allow the cook to adjust its position or pull it away. It is handbuilt – a large slab of very gritty clay has been rolled out on sand and thick coil added to the edge and pinched up to make a wall. It has then been formed with wet fingers or a damp cloth to give it a smooth rim with a slight incurve – probably intended to limit spillage when lifting and pouring. The handles are stout pulled ones like those found on large pancheons and storage jars. The coarse clay would help with heat-shock resistance given the function. It is internally lead-glazed and big enough to handle a suckling pig I imagine. Shapes and sizes vary but many ceramic dripping pans have a pouring lip in one corner or mid-way along the short side and saucepan-style handles. The one below one is early/mid 16th century from a recently excavated pottery production site in Hemyock on the Devon/Somerset border. It would be unusual for it to be square so it probably had two handles like the one above which would make it at least 45cm wide (18″). It’s quite delicately made for the kind of work it has to do – could be why it broke in the kiln.

Dripping pan. Hemyock, East Devon. 1500-1550. 22cm wide (9″)

Less common are the more varied shapes usually called Apple Roasters or Bacon Roasters. This 16/17th century one comes from Wanstrow in East Somerset and has unusual stamped decoration which seems to turn up on pottery from that area right into the 19th century.

Half an ‘Apple Roaster.’ 16th/17th century. Wanstrow, Somerset. c. 14cm wide (6″).

Small sherds of a pot like this would appear to be from a small dripping pan but the open side is the key. At the back a projecting handle would make it look like shovel.The complete object would be about 30cm wide (12″) They are fairly common archaeologically in the South West. Food can be placed in it and pushed up to the coals to cook. Nothing fatty in this type – it would leak and catch fire! Below is a very similar one from the 16th century pottery production site at Hemyock.

Half and ‘apple roaster’ from Hemyock, East Devon. 1500-1550. c. 14 cm wide (6″).

These two eighteenth century roasters are a little smaller but upright. They stand on two short legs at the front and one at the back. The one marked 1761 has a pulled jug handle on the back. The undated one in particular is well blackened from use.

Small ‘bacon roasters’ in the Somerset County Museum, Taunton. South Somerset redware with trailed slip decoration. Mid 18th century. 22 – 25cm wide (9-10″). The one on the left was donated in 1886. 
This eccentric piece was collected in 1906 and is now in the Somerset Museum in Taunton. 
‘Apple Roaster.’ 17th/18th century. North Devon Gravel-tempered Ware.

The clay and glaze are the same as the North Devon dripping pan from Bristol – no later than mid 18th century. It is essentially the same form as the Wanstrow one above but with bells and whistles. The crimped ridges on the base would retain a certain amount of juice/fat. The central ridge in the bottom suggest that it could support a piece of food there as well as in the cups. Any ideas welcome.

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