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. 

This entry was posted in Archaeology, Folk and Country Pottery, Kilns and Kiln-building, Post-Medieval Archaeology, Slipware and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Two New 17th-century Potteries in Dorset

  1. We found pottery like this at Corfe Castle will check pot report (unpublished)


  2. Richard Hemery says:

    This is very interesting, thanks for posting. There are rouletted shards in the Surrey Hampshire Borderware industry, also 17th C, although they are normally on white clay items.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s