Right: This green lead glazed vessel from Staines can be identified as Roman because the shape imitates the samian DR. 30 form. Published by courtesy of K. R. Crouch.
Photo: P. Dorrell
WARE by Paul Arthur (Institute of Archaeology, London)
E VER since Prof. E. M. Jope wrote his article on 'Roman Lead Glazed Pottery in Britain' in Archaeological News Letter, Vol. II (1950), finds of such ware have been turning up regularly from many sites in this country. It is now becoming increasingly apparent that much of this pottery was being made in Britain during the late first and early second centuries A.D.
From the conquest, mass produced glazed flagons, bowls, beakers and cups were being imported into Britain from Central Gaul, perhaps via Colchester, London and the South Coast. These wares enjoyed a vogue, particularly with the army, but by about A.D. 70 the supply, along with that of the Lyons fine wares, was cut off. This may well have been the end of a chain of events started by the troubles following Nero's death in A.D. 68. At about the same time, and perhaps because of the cessation of exports from Central Gaul to Britain, local Romano-British potters began to experiment with the lead glazing technique. Understandably, these products were designed to imitate the popular imports, and so while forms were mainly confined to globular beakers or copied the samian Dr. 30 and 37, the decoration usually consisted of barbotine dots, circles and 'hairpins' in underglaze cream slip; quite obvious copying of Central
Gaulish work. The elegant moulded flagon forms were not produced, although simple pear-shaped flagons occur in south-east England. The clays used were much the same as those of the other British coarse wares and never reached the purity of the Central Gaulish kaolins. Likewise, the glazes were often coarse and ill-fitting. The variety of fabric and decoration among these pieces would seem to indicate a serious attempt by many potters to produce this ware.
Three kiln sites are already known and others have been suggested. At Holt in Denbighshire, the XXth. legion's works depot started manufacturing green glazed cups and bowls sometime after A.D. 87 and continued probably into the second century. Similar, but not identical, pottery has been found at various early military sites, among which are Caerleon, Usk, and Brecon in Wales. At little Chester in Derbyshire a large variety of mainly green glazed forms were associated with Trajanic kilns which also produced the so-called Derbyshire ware. Finally, excavations at Savernake in Wiltshire, at a kiln site again with military connections, have produced what appears to be local green glazed pottery. Furthermore, groups found at Chichester and at St. Albans hint strongly at manufacturing sites nearby.
Individual finds from sites rang
ing from British farmsteads to civitas capitals and coloniae not only indicate its widespread use, but also seem to display distinct regional variations. The writer is setting up a programme of analysis in the hope of solving some of these problems. Quite remarkable vessels at present include an internally glazed mortarium from Caister by Yarmouth (a late Roman import?) and a glazed flanged bowl, of a type typical of the late third and fourth centuries, from a first century deposit at Charlton Earthworks in Kent. Almost always the pottery is associated with material dating from Flavian to early Hadrianic times, and at present there is no reason for suggesting any production after about A.D. 125, the imitation Dech. 64s from Chichester and London being about the latest type forms. On the continent however, glazed pottery continues to be produced well into the fourth century, if not later, and recent excavations at Carlino in northern Italy have revealed a quite substantial late kiln site.
Clearly the study is still in its infancy, although much constructive work has been done on material from sites in the eastern provinces, at Labraunda, Tarsus. Antioch and Dura, as well as on some material in the west. The writer would be glad to know of any recently excavated material from Britain or abroad.