Assessment: Post Roman PotteryPosted under: about >> Reports Assessment Tags: ceramics, finds, medieval, post-ex, post-medieval, pottery
This report contains an assessment of the Post Roman pottery from the excavation. The report was written by Lyn Blackmore of the Museum of London Archaeology, but has been edited for web by Chaz Morse and Guy Hunt. For a full index of the assessment reports, please see the assessment report index.
Site archive: Quantification and description
|Stratified Late Saxon and Medieval pottery||290 sherds (168 ENV). Total 8.058kg|
|Stratified Post Medieval pottery||2731 sherds (1547 ENV), Total 87.370kg|
Summary/Introduction – Medieval pottery (c. 400–1500)
Compared to post Medieval pottery, Medieval wares, although found in 56 contexts, are not well-represented on this site, and although average sherd weight is reasonably high (c 28g), only two vessels are represented by more than 10 sherds. Most sherds are of late Medieval date, possibly dating to the last quarter of the 15th century. In c.40 contexts the Medieval wares are, or may be residual.
Most of the pottery was examined macroscopically and using a binocular microscope (x 20) where appropriate, and recorded on paper and on an excel spreadsheet using standard Museum of London codes for fabrics, forms and decoration. The numerical data comprises sherd count, estimated number of vessels and weight. The distribution of the pottery was considered in the light of the broad phasing supplied by the excavator.
The pottery falls into seven different fabric categories based on ware type and decoration, and these in turn fall into 20 broad classes defined by either source area or general tradition, with a few further subdivisions based on form.
The London-type ware (Pearce et al 1985) is the most common category by both sherd count and weight, but the bulk of these are of late London ware (LLON) and the slipped equivalent (LLSL), which date to after 1400 (95 sherds, 45 ENV, 3.490kg). Most of the remaining sherds, mainly of London-type ware (LOND) but also including coarse London-type ware and its variants (LCOAR) and calcareous London-type ware (LCALC) are residual, while one is intrusive in a Roman context .
Imports are the second most common category by sherd count and weight but derive from only 20 vessels. Thus coarse Surrey-Hampshire border wares (Pearce and Vince 1988, 52–68) are technically more abundant (50 ENV). Cheam wares and Tudor Green wares (ibid 68-81) are in fourth place by vessel count. The other ware types, comprising Kingston-type ware (ibid 19-52), Mill Green ware (Pearce et al 1982), late Medieval Hertfordshire glazed ware (Jenner and Vince 1983), south Herts-type grey ware and shelly-sandy ware (Blackmore and Pearce in prep) are all represented by less than ten sherds.
The imported wares are mainly from the Rhineland area of Germany (Siegburg, Langerwehe/Raeren) with one vessel from the Low Countries and one possibly from the Saintonge (found in two contexts). In addition there is a substantial part of a Saintonge ware pégau from context (2001) , a backfill of quarry pit .
All the pottery (168 ENV) is domestic in origin, with a range of kitchen and tablewares. On the whole the numbers of sherds per vessel are small, and usually well under ten; the highest numbers are 10 and 24 sherds. Jugs are the most common category, with sherds from 54 examples, mainly in London and late London-type wares (LOND; LLON; 19 ENV) and in coarse Surrey-Hampshire border wares (CBW; 13 ENV). The most important find is a substantially complete decorated anthropomorphic jug with two ribbed handles, a frilled cordon around the neck, and originally green-glazed (now very abraded). This is of unknown origin, but possibly from the Saintonge area in south-west France. Forms associated with drinking – drinking jugs, cups and a mug amount to a further 26 vessels. Forms used for the cooking of food are also common, with fragments of 30 cooking pots (mainly CBW), and a further 13 cauldrons/pipkins (mainly LLON; one example in Dutch redware), four pipkins/tripod pipkins (mainly LLON) and two dripping dishes (LLON). Of note is an unusual collared cauldron-type rim in a coarse variant of shelly-sandy ware. Other forms comprise three bowls, two dishes and part of a distillation base.
Distribution and dating
No early Medieval pottery was present on the site, and although some finds date to the later 12th, 13th and earlier 14th centuries, the prevailing character of the collection is late Medieval. In terms of context numbers, only eight have spot-dates up to c 1350. Three date to between c 1270–1400, while the other 44 contexts, have date ranges extending up to c 1500; 35 of these date to after c 1350.
In four cases the Medieval pottery is from contexts assigned (provisional) Roman period 1, these being (708), (709), (720), ; while in eight it is from (provisional) Roman period 2, and these are (649), (664), (852), (980), (2003), (2001), (2011), (2152); these finds will be reviewed during final analysis to assess whether they are intrusive or more likely the provision dating will be revised. None of the pottery is from contexts have been phased as Medieval. However, this does not mean that the remaining sherds are residual, as many of the later ware (notably coarse Surrey-Hampshire border ware and late London ware) were in the 19 contexts phased as early post Medieval could easily be contemporary with the early post-medieval wares in the same contexts, for example in context (642), which has sherds from 12 late London ware vessels. The finds in the 24 contexts that have been phased as late post Medieval should be residual.
Summary/Introduction – Post Medieval pottery (c. 1500-1900)
Post Medieval pottery is well-represented on this site, being present in 128 contexts; average sherd weight is c 32g, and several vessels are represented by more than 10 sherds. Most sherds are of transitional date and possibly broadly contemporary with some of the late Medieval wares; it would seem, therefore, that the main period of deposition was between c 1480 and 1550. There are, however, some later groups, notably in the 18th century.
The pottery falls into nine broad classes defined by either source area or general tradition, with a total of 82 different fabric codes based on ware type and decoration.
London-area redwares are by far the most common by all measures of quantification; most are probably from Woolwich (Pryor and Blockley 1975). The bulk of these date to before c 1600, with 1319 sherds of early post Medieval redware (PMRE, 37,163kg), 92 of slipped post Medieval redware (mainly PMSR, but some PMSL) and 80 of bichrome glazed redware (PMBR). In addition there are 28 sherds of calcareous redware (PMREC), although this may be from a source in Essex. By contrast only 190 sherds are of post-medieval redware (PMR), which dates to after 1580. Finewares from Essex are very much in the minority, with only 23 sherds, 18 of which are in fine post-medieval redware (PMFR); the others comprise black-glazed ware (PMBL) and Metropolitan slipware (METS); all date to after 1580 and mainly to the 17th century.
Unusually for London as a whole, but typically for this part of the capital, imports are the second most common category, although significantly less frequent than the redwares; they are considered below together with the forms. In third place by sherd count and ENV are Surrey-Hampshire border wares (Pearce 1992; 2007), although these are slightly less common by weight than the industrial, finewares. These follow the same pattern as the London area redwares, with most sherds being whitewares and in the earlier part of the general date range, with 133 sherds of early Surrey-Hampshire border ware (EBORD, dating c 1480–1550); a further 101 sherds are in the later whiteware (BORD/G/O/Y, dating c 1550–1700), but only 38 sherds are in the redware fabric (RBOR).
Tin-glazed wares and factory made/industrial finewares are equally represented by sherd count, but the former are more common by ENV, while the latter are more slightly common by weight. The tin-glazed wares are mainly of the 17th-century plain white (TGW C) and decorated (TGW D) wares, but a few earlier (TGW A) and later types (TGW H, TGW M) are present. The industrial finewares are the most varied group, with a wide range of decorative categories, the most common of which comprises transfer-printed wares of the late 18th- and 19th- centuries (62 sherds, 1.938kg). Creamwares and pearlwares are both represented by 31 sherds, but the latter are more common by weight (1.323kg compared to 1.081kg). Non-local wares include one sherd of Cistercian ware but the remainder comprise 18th- to 19th-century fabrics, with no particular bias among the types present. The same applies to the stonewares, which include two sherds of Midlands purple ware but are otherwise of 18th-century or later date.
All the pottery (1506 ENV) is domestic in origin, with a range of kitchen and tablewares for the earlier period, and tablewares with other household forms for the later period. On the whole the numbers of sherds per vessel are small, and usually well under ten; the highest numbers are 50 sherds from a flower pot (1686). The following summarises the main trends and highlights some of the more interesting finds.
London area redwares (all fabrics) mainly comprise household wares that span the 16th to 19th centuries; several substantially complete items were found in the 19th-century context (525). The most common forms are jars (over 345 ENV, notably numerous sherds from a single example in (813)) and cooking vessels, with sherds from c 275 cauldrons, pipkins, tripod pipkins, cooking pots and a near complete skillet with corrugated profile, form context (1009); of note are part of a PMBR cauldron with part of a kiln shelf attached to the underside of the base which must have been a waster or second, from context (580), and a base with applied thumbed and pinched foot, also from (1009). Jugs are the third most common category, with c 168 ENV (five with bungholes). Of note is an example in PMREC, with a row of neat thumb impressions down the back of the long oval handle, from context (931) and another in PMRE from (813) with white slip decoration and very small finger impressions on rim above handle attachment. An unusual sherd from (1009) is from a jug with carinated profile, clear glaze covering the upper body, and over vertical and diagonal stripes of white slip on lower body. As the fabric is more like PMR than PMRE, this is a problem piece that needs more work.
Dishes are the fourth most common form, with over 115 ENV (notably numerous joining sherds from a single externally sooted example in PMRE from context (813)); bowls are in fifth place, but with only 21 ENV; the most complete, from (1686), is of handled form. Other forms include a near complete chamber pot from (525), eight chafing dishes, one with facetted base from (932), two lids, one perforated from (558), a colander, a costrel, a moneybox, and the upper body of a small rounded mug similar in size to those in Raeren stoneware but with a rod handle, from (619), PMSRY. The base of a vase or candlestick, currently recorded as PMREC, is of interest as the facetted edge is in the Dutch/German tradition, and this could be an import from the Low Countries, from, context (1009)). Sugar refining is indicated by fragments of 111 collecting jars and 10 sugar moulds, while distillation is represented by three cucurbits and five bases; four other finds were recorded as industrial vessels from contexts (615) and (986); there appears to be a cluster of these form types from context (615). Other activities are indicated by fragments of three flower pots, one substantially complete from context (1686).
The range of forms in the finer redwares from Essex is much more limited and none are of special interest. The Surrey-Hampshire border wares are dominated by drinking jugs (68 ENV) with 11 cups and five mugs; there are also eight porringers. Dishes are the second most common category with 20 examples, including a complete example in the whiteware fabric (BORDO) and the greater part of a redware example (RBOR) from the 19th-century context (525), and two condiment dishes with incised herringbone decoration on the basket handles from contexts (622) and (999) respectively. Cauldrons and pipkins amount to c 14 ENV. Other forms comprise a bedpan, a bowl, two jars, seven chamber pots, a costrel, three money boxes and three paint pots. All these are mainly represented by one or two sherds only, the most complete find being a paint pot in Surrey-Hampshire border redware (missing the handle) from context (1158).
The tin-glazed wares also comprise mainly tablewares, with only seven chamber pots and part of a stool pan. The main group is in the 18th-century deposit (525), which contains a number of fairly complete forms, notably a bowl and a dish with floral decoration in blue on a blue ground (TGW H), approximately 50% of each survives. The flowers in basket decoration is somewhat faint but of interest as it is possibly closer to the patterns used on wall tiles than on pottery, but this needs further research. The same group includes two plates and two bowls (one c 90 complete, the other 50% complete) in the plain white ware (TGW C). As a whole, dishes are the most common form type (28 ENV), followed by bowls and jars (12 ENV); other forms comprise a jug, five plates, a porringer, a saucer, and three vases.
The most interesting of the non-local wares are a small sherd of possible Cistercian ware with applied decoration, from context (571) and part of a lid in a Staffordshire slipware with complex applied decoration of ring-and-dot motifs inside squares made up of rouletted strips from (542). The various 18th- and 19th-century finewares mainly comprise forms associated with the drinking of tea and serving and consumption of food at the table. The main group is from (525), which mainly comprises early/mid 18th-century wares but includes some late 18th-century pieces, including a near complete oval lid with slot fora spoon in PEAR with BLSH (missing knop). The creamwares include a small oval dish-shaped vessel with a straight-sided inner component, the form and function of which is uncertain. Of note are a near complete plate from (791) with oriental design showing a man and elephant near water with a temple in the background, and three or four plates from a set with transfers on the back showing a column on its side with the word ‘Antique’ along it, from context (1414) (Coysh and Henrywood 1982, 24). In addition there are three chamber pots, notably a large example in transfer-printed pearlware from context (1414), with the same landscape design on the outer body and inside the base. The popular design, which shows the owner of a stately home (in the background) by lake with people in a boat and a large ?spaniel holding stick on the right, can very probably be sourced.
As might be expected, the imports are dominated by German stonewares, and of these Raeren mugs and drinking jugs are the most common form (63 ENV); there are also a few sherds of Langerwehe and Siegburg stoneware that fit with a late 15th-/early 16th-century date (Gaimster 1997). Of note is a Raeren jug with rouletted decoration on the shoulder from context (659). Frechen stoneware, which dates to after 1550, is suprisingly uncommon, Westerwald stone is very rare, and slipwares from the Weser and Werra valleys are absent altogether, which reinforces the impression that most sherds were deposited before c 1550. Most imports from the Low Countries are cooking vessels, with numerous cauldrons, pipkins and skillets (70 ENV) and dripping dishes (5 ENV) in Dutch redware (DUTR) and the slipped equivalent (DUTSL); also present, however, and two sherds from a jug and a vase in South Netherlands maiolica (SNTG). Other redware forms comprise a few bowls (notably a large rim sherd from (999)), serving dishes, jugs and a possible mug or drinking jug form context (923). The most important find, from context (659) is a slipware bowl with all-over slip inside and applied/stamped motifs around the neck (rosette, fleur-de-lis); the rim is missing but was probably collared (cf Hurst et al 1986, fig 83).
The most notable of the Spanish wares is a very large jar or amphora with lipped, collared rim and twisted rope handles in Spanish green-glazed ware (SPGR), several sherds of which were found in (573) and (642). Other coarsewares comprise sherds from three olive jars (OLIV), three costrels in Merida-type ware (SPAM) and three amphorae (SPOA). Of the finewares, the Andalusian and Valencian lustrewares and probably date to the late 15th or early 16th century, while the dish in Columbia plain ware (COLP) is of 16th-century date from context (923). In addition there are seven mercury jars (MERC) that may be from Spain or North Africa, four of which are from (813)(813). Those from (659) and (1009) are near complete, and both are of interest in that they have kiln scars and/or chips of clay stuck to the body.
Italian wares are less abundant than those from Spain but include some striking tin-glazed wares (ITGW) that are highly photogenic and merit illustration, notably several sherds from a large polychrome jug from context (558) that is similar to those found at Gateway House (Noël Hume 1977, 9, pl 3; Gaimster 1999). Sherds from four other jugs and nine vases were also recovered, with good examples in (575) and (813). Also of note is a tin-glazed jar with an unusual geometric design in blue green and manganese with both horizontal and oblique lines, from (575); the source of this vessel is uncertain and it may be from Portugal or the Low Countries. One sherd is a 16th-century Ligurian tin-glazed ware, while sherds from two bowls and a costrel in North Italian marbled slipware (NIMS) date to the 17th-century or later. The remaining imports include part of a Saintonge ware (SAIN) chafing dish with applied face mask of Hurst type C1 from (1122) (Hurst 1974) and four small sherds of Chinese porcelain (CHPO).
Distribution and dating
As noted above, most of the Medieval pottery dates to the late 15th century, while the bulk of the post Medieval assemblage was discarded before 1600, and most of this was probably used before 1500. This part of the collection totals to 1049 post Medieval sherds, 30.636kg (c 38% and c 35% of the total recorded so far). The main groups are from three or four quarry pit fills.
Taking both Medieval and later wares together, the lower fill of quarry pit fills (574) and (615) contained 141 sherds (3.483kg) dating to 1480–1550, while the upper fill (573) contained 109 sherds dating to 1550–1600. The lower fill of quarry pit , context (642), has the third highest amount of post-Roman pottery from the site by all measures of quantification, with 176 sherds (71 ENV, 6.351kg) dating to 1480–1550; while the upper fill (638), contained a further 74 sherds dated to 1500–1600. Context (575), the upper fill of quarry pit , has the second highest sherd count, highest ENV and fourth highest weight (237 sherds, 119 ENV, 6.342kg) and dates to 1480-1600.
Quarry (672) is slightly later in date; the lower fill (813), dated to 1550–1600, contained the highest number of sherds from a singe context, although it scores less highly for ENV and weight (239 sherds, 94 ENV, 5.896Kg). The upper fill of this feature, context (659), contained a further 61 sherds dating to 1600-1630.
For the 18th century the main group is from (542), the fill of an unused soakaway construction cut (54 sherds, 46 ENV, 1.316kg), while for the 19th century the largest amounts are from pit fill (525) (139 sherds, 37 ENV), and two soakaway fills (1686), (132 sherds, 7.693kg), and (1414) (92 sherds, 3.574kg).
Points that need to be resolved in the analysis of the site and finds are the current indication that a lot of post Medieval pottery is intrusive in Roman levels, while the clearly 19th-century finds from (1702) are phased as early post Medieval. The intrusive finds comprise 93 sherds from 10 contexts assigned to Roman phase 1, and 77 sherds from 18 contexts assigned to Roman phase 2. Much early post Medieval pottery appears to be residual in late post Medieval contexts, and this also needs to be discussed and explained.
Analysis of potential
The earlier Medieval pottery has little potential for further study, but the late Medieval wares can be considered together with the post Medieval wares. Of particular importance is the extraordinary anthropomorphic jug from contexts (638) and (642), which is a unique find and needs both thin section and ICPS analysis to establish its origin and date. A rim sherd of 12th-century shell-tempered ware also merits illustration.
As described above, a general chronological sequence can be seen in the range of pottery from the site, although the main bias is towards the earlier and later ends of the spectrum. At present this does not always seem to agree with the current phasing of the site and there is potential to resolve some of these issues. Further study of specific groups will also help to refine their dating, as will a more detailed consideration of the stratigraphic sequence.
The general impression is that most of the late medieval and earlier post-medieval finds represent the dumping of rubbish in quarry pits dug in the 16th century, ie before the first buildings were constructed c 1678. Whether the pottery derives from the former Abbey of St Clare or from within the City is unknown. Although including items of intrinsic interest, these groups are arguably of are of lesser importance than those which can be associated with specific properties, eg finds from cesspits and wells. The presence of substantially complete vessels in some contexts suggests these may derive from such features. Analysis of the distribution of different wares may contribute to an understanding of the development of the area for housing, but although there are four contexts that could be contemporary with the very first buildings, they contain little pottery ( (562), (916), (537), (1586)); there would appear to be equally little evidence for the 18th century, suggesting that rubbish was not discarded on the site. For the 19th century, however, there are some larger groups that include 18th-century vessels, which may or may not reflect increasing density of occupation and a lowering of status. Sugar refining (Gutiérrez 2007: 74–5) appears to have been an important industry along the riverside (Killock and Meddens 2005: 3, 9) and fragments of sugar mould and collecting jar are present on most sites in the area, but very few were found on the present site.
Relatively little post Roman pottery has been published from this area, as the emphasis has been on the underlying Roman cemetery, and the present finds give the opportunity to redress this, if only in an abbreviated report. As a whole, the bulk of the assemblage is contemporary with the from the Tower Postern (Whipp 2005; Blackmore in prep, a), the Dissolution of St Mary Graces and subsequent buildings on the site, which included a Victualling yard for the Royal Navy (Blackmore in prep, b, c). At present 25 vessels have been identified as suitable for illustration, and possibly up to 30 might be identified in the analysis stage.
Trade is indicated by the high proportion of imported wares, which fit within a known pattern for this area just to the north east of the Legal Quays and dockyards which the developed downstream from the Tower of London in the later 16th and 17th centuries (Blackmore 1994; 1999; Tyler 2001; Killock and Meddens 2005; Meddens 2008). The German stonewares would have arrived as drinking vessels and accoutrements to the wine trade (Gaimster 1997), but drug jars, mercury jars, olive jars and amphorae would have reached London as containers (Gutiérrez 2007: 72–6). The range of Italian tin-glazed wares is of note, as the vessels are of high quality and may include at least one decorative style that is new to London. Some of these finds could derive from nearby merchant houses, while other displayable imports may have been brought back as gifts and souvenirs by merchants and sailors living in the area.
At least two vessels have the potential to extend the range of imported fabrics and forms known in London, and for this reason thin section and chemical analysis is recommended for the large green-glazed jar from (573) and (642) to determine whether it is, as suspected, of Spanish origin, and for the unusual, possibly Italian, jar from (575). Allowance should be made for another two possible samples to be selected after closer examination of the imported material. All the imports should be considered in relation to those from other relevant sites in the area, especially those noted above.
Significance of the data
The pottery is of local significance as it fits within a growing pattern of late Medieval/early post Medieval rubbish disposal on sites outside the City walls and the subsequent development of these areas. As noted in the consideration of potential, the assemblage also conforms well to the established pattern of widespread deposition of 16th- and 17th-century imported wares across the area to the east of the city and towards Limehouse. The present collection of imports is of regional and in some cases of national and international interest for the range of wares and sources represented, which although not as varied as on sites such as Narrow Street (Jarrett 2005) include a number of new form types. It is this element of the assemblage that should be emphasised in the final report.