by David Rudling
AROUND 100 AD a tileworks was established near Hartfield, in Sussex. It was probably not in use for very long—perhaps only for a season or so—but during this time it made a wide variety of tiles including roofing tiles, 'flat' tiles/bricks, and the box tiles used for making the flues in heating systems. Some of these box- flue tiles bear a very distinctive stamped pattern, which was made by passing a cylindrical die (shaped like a roller) over the tiles when wet. Such roller-stamped tiles were studied in 1948 by A. W. G. Lowther, who divided them up into various groups and types. The Hartfield roller- stamped pattern is of Lowther's Group 1, Die 5A: a type hitherto unknown from Sussex. Hartfield is the first excavated tilery which manufactured roller-stamped tiles.
The tilery was discovered during fieldwalking by Giles Swift, of the Wealden Iron Research Group. It lies on Great Cansiron Farm, Hartfield, and there is an extensive Roman iron-working site to the west, and possible large Roman iron ore quarries to the north east. In advance of further plough damage, the site was excavated in the summers of 1982-83 by the Field Archaeology Unit of the Institute of Archaeology, London, funded by the Department of the Environment, East Sussex County Council, and Keymer Handmade Clay Tiles, of Burgess Hill, Sussex.
The kiln consisted of three main parts: a large Stokehole from which
The Roman tilery at Hartfield. The excavations of the tilery are in trench 1, while to the north east there are the remains of a Roman bloomery furnace.
the fire could be fuelled; a Fire Tunnel or Flue; and a Combustion Chamber. The stokehole was a rectangular pit dug into the natural clay. Resting on the floor of the stokehole and against the entrance to the flue was a stack of eight complete tegulae tiles. Could these tiles perhaps have been intended for temporarily blocking off the entrance of the flue once firing was completed? There were no archaeological features in the vicinity of the stokehole which might have indicated the provision of shelter for the stoker.
The entrance to the fire tunnel was constructed of tiles, the lower courses being 'flat' tiles (lydion) and the remains of the archway of tegulae tiles. One of these tegulae was found to bear some interesting graffiti (see below). The two entrance tile walls were two tiles wide and beyond that, the sides and roof of the fire tunnel were of clay. As was also the case with the stokehole, most of the fire tunnel was filled by large quantities of broken tile, thus suggesting that these areas had been deliberately backfilled.
The combustion chamber utilised the clay into which it was dug. There were five Cross Walls which were carried across the Main Central Flue (a continuation of the fire tunnel) by clay arches. In between the cross walls were Cross Flues which were at a higher level than the central flue and had sloping floors. The purpose of the cross flues was to allow the gases to circulate throughout the combustion chamber: the gases were forced into the Oven above through holes or Vents left in the oven floor. The combustion chamber was filled with large quantities of burnt clay and tile, which are possibly the remains of the kiln superstructure.
Resting on one of the cross walls were parts of two flat tiles and a piece of clay kiln furniture. This is all that