This post as previously stated in my other posts about pottery, is intended for the beginner interested in Medieval pottery. It is a basic outline to pottery forms and fabrics and distribution around Britain during these times.
The raw materials necessary for the production of pottery are clay, water, fuel and filler (inclusions) to strengthen the vessel when firing. The properties of the clay. derive from the parent rock. There are two types of clay: primary clay comes directly from the parent rock and is found in the place of origin; secondary clay is decomposed rock which is weathered and deposited elsewhere.
Earthenware clays are secondary clays, and are many and various. This is the most common clay type used in the pottery recovered from archaeological excavations from the Neolithic to the late Medieval period.
The potter would choose the best clays and adapt it for his work . Some vessels would need to be fireproof, others non-porous. Inclusions are added to “open” the clay or to improve the firing of a vessel.The manufacturing processes where vessels were thrown on a wheel have the potential to be more symmetrical than if hand made. Handles and spouts sometimes were a personal technique of an individual potter.
Early Medieval Pots
At the end of the Roman period the potters wheel was reintroduced from the 8h century onwards, enabling the potters to cope with the needs of the growing urban communities. Glazes in the Medieval period were mainly lead-based forming a yellowish – green vitreous surface. Mottled green and bright green color was achieved by adding copper to the glaze.The potters of the Brill / Boarstall production center , marketing leaders in the 13th century, showed great freedom in their artistic work.
During this time incomes were rapidly rising and demand for packaged foods such as butter was being observed. On seeing the consumer demand certain pottery workshops succeeded in meeting these demands.One such production center was Brill/ Boarstall who dominated the ceramic market for many years.
Below is a guide to some of the main Medieval Green Glazed Wares.
(Medieval mid 12th-13th centuries AD) Production center was based in Sible Hedingham Essex. This ware is relatively common in other parts of East Anglia and often found in Bury St Edmunds occasionally in Norwich. Fabric is fine, often soft , orange to buff and micaceous. The kilns also produced grey and brown medium and fine sandy coursewares which occur frequently in South Suffolk and Essex. The glazed wares consisted largely of jugs with green lead glaze. Some have applied decoration such as the picture below.
Hedingham Ware Shards.
A selection of Medieval pot shards
GRIMSTON WARE ( Late 12th – 14th centuries AD )
Grimston Ware glazed Face jug found at Cambridge. Early 14th century.
Grimston ware is a dark blue-grey, medium sandy fabric, occasionally oxidized on one or both surfaces, with occasional course ferrous inclusions. Most of the products which travelled some distance from the source, in north-west Norfolk,were green- glazed but unglazed wares were also produced for local consumption. Grimston is well known for its face jugs a very popular form in Medieval Britain. These jugs were decorated with applied pellets and strips on the body, also applied bearded faces and arms on the neck and rim.Most are dated from the 13th and 14th centuries.
HOLLESLEY Type WARE ( Late 13th – 14th centuries AD
Hollesley produced large quantities of glazed and unglazed wares.The main products consisted of jugs bowls and jars. Jugs were decorated with painted white slip lines and green glaze also applied pellets, pads and other motifs were also used. similar to Ipswich glazed wares which was being produced at the same time.
BRILL / BOARSTALL WARE Buckinghamshire. 13th Century.Pale orange throughout external glaze with moderate copper green blotches Well sorted quartz occasionally iron rich inclusions.
Brill / Boarstall produced Baluster jugs, jars , bottles, lamps, storage vessels and the famous face jug .Most were green glazed.
Drinking Jugs Green glazed. 1340-1450 AD
Medieval Small earthenware Jar 13th century AD
Baluster Jug mid 13th century AD For Wine or Ale
Found at Oxford with other vessels.
Later Green Glazed Wares..
LATER MEDIEVAL WARES 14th and 15th Centuries.
MEDIEVAL MIDLANDS PURPLE WARE
This ware known as Midlands Purple was made locally at Chilvers Coton and Ticknall in Derbyshire.Plain utilitarian pots were produced ranging in color from purple to dark red or greyish black with a metallic glaze. New vessel forms reflecting changes in cooking and eating habits also became more common. These include lids and cups, pipkins -cooking pots with the addition of a handle and a pouring lip ,dripping dishes-shallow vessels placed under a spit in order to catch the juices from the meats being cooked. Cisterns- large handles jugs with a bung hole near the base used for the brewing and storage of ale or beer.
Photo courtesy of The University of Leicester Midlands Purple Ware.
LATE MEDIEVAL CISTERCIAN & early POST MEDIEVAL BLACKWARE
Cistercian ware first discovered on monastic sites inhabited by Cistercian monks before the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. These brown glazed pots were made at centers throughout England ,including Chilver Coton and Ticknall, The origins of these fine wheel thrown dark brown glazed pots often decorated with applied motifs in white clay, is a mystery. The pottery seems well advanced and occurs in a range of table ware forms such as cups , other vessels included posset pots and chafing dishes; chafing dishes were used for holding hot embers of charcoal to heat the posset or rich spiced potage or curdled milk which was placed in the posset pot.
Cistercian wares Courtesy of the British Museum
I couldn’t resist the Green glazed 14th century pot below in the form of a Ram. It is called an Aquamanile used in medieval times for the washing of the hands .It is not certain where these were made. Some were made on the East coast of Scarborough
And below is my replica “ Aquamanile “ I bought at Cosmeston Medieval Village
There are several other Medieval Potters for you to explore but I have chosen ones that are mostly well known. If you are a beginner which is what my posts on “ Pottery in Archaeology “ are all about, you may wish to join an Archaeological or Historical Society who organize field walks searching for pottery. There are many books to refer to, and of course the Internet is a valuable source. However field walking is great fun especially when you find your first pottery shard and begin your Investigations. Good Luck.