Jars and Jugs from the 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).

This entry was posted in Archaeology, Architectural Ceramics, Folk and Country Pottery, Kilns and Kiln-building, Medieval pottery, Tiles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Jars and Jugs from the Newport Medieval Kiln Excavations

  1. Pingback: Newport Medieval Kiln Open to the Public | Clay and Fire

  2. Pingback: Who Needs CSI Forensics? Though You may need your Glasses ~ A Welsh Potter’s Thumbprint circa 1530 – Tish Farrell

    • Oliver Kent says:

      Hi Tish. Thanks for the links. The site is amazing and it is great that Newport have been able to make it so accessible to the public. Incidentally ‘odyn’ is kiln in Welsh – the sign is in English on the left and Welsh on the right.
      Is there a chance I could use your photos of the sherd and the kiln? I am very concerned by the mildew and weeds. The kiln is meant to be in a protected environment and the roots will do a lot of damage. I would like to raise it with the conservation team.


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