Pottery Gallery - Medieval coarsewares

Melton Ware

Melton Ware

Site: Melton, near Woodbridge, Suffolk.
Period: Early Medieval (11th-13th centuries AD).
Excavator: Suffolk C.C. Archaeological Service.
Published: Anderson and Newman (1999).

Brief description: Melton ware is a fine sandy ware tempered with moderate fine shell, much of which has been leached out in the acidic local soils. The most common forms are simple handmade baggy jars, often with wheel-turned rims luted to the body after it had been formed. Some bowls and spouted pitchers were also produced.

The production site was identified on the basis of large quantities of waste products dumped in pits in the small area which was excavated. No kiln or other evidence of firing was identified. The coloration of vessels suggests that a clamp or bonfire kiln was probably used.

This ware belongs to a group of pottery with the generic name 'early medieval ware'. The type is generally handmade and varies throughout East Anglia. Fabrics and vessels found in Norfolk and North Suffolk are often fine sandy, thin-walled, baggy jars with simple everted rims, although sparse shelly wares are also known. In South Suffolk and Essex, early medieval ware consists of relatively coarse, thick-walled sandy or shelly handmade vessels. Whilst this ware was largely replaced by wheelmade wares during the 12th century in urban settlements and high-status sites (e.g. Bury Ware), there is some evidence to suggest that rural production of handmade wares continued into the 13th century.

Further reading

Anderson, S. and Newman, J., 1999, 'An early medieval pottery production site at Melton, Suffolk', Medieval Ceramics 22-23, 148-52.

Bury Ware BMCW

Bury Medieval Coarseware

Site: Various, Bury St. Edmunds.
Period: Medieval (mid 12th-14th centuries AD).
Excavator: Suffolk C.C. Archaeological Service.
Published: internal report.

Brief description: These are three examples of medieval coarsewares from Bury St. Edmunds. The most common vessel forms are tall and squat jars with 'developed' rims, jugs with wide strap handles and applied vertical strips, and large bowls.

Several fabrics are common to the town, although no production sites have yet been identified. The most common type, 'Bury Ware' (top picture), is a medium sandy fabric with few other inclusions, often fired dark grey with reddish brown margins. Also common is a fabric with coarse rounded white quartz grains, often blue-grey firing (middle picture). Other fabrics are known, most notably a type which is similar to 'Bury Ware' but has shell dusting on the outer surface, usually on the upper half of the body.

A buff fabric with very coarse grains of white and red quartz, occasional coarse chalk and flint is the third most common fabric (bottom picture). This 'Bury Coarse Sandy Ware' has recently been identified in Cambridgeshire (Longstanton) and at Mildenhall, and it seems likely that it was made somewhere around Newmarket.

Further reading

Nothing is published on these wares at present.

Bury Ware BSW
Bury Ware BCSW
Mildenhall-type ware

Mildenhall-type Ware

Site: Mildenhall area (Fenland Survey).
Period: Medieval (mid 12th-14th centuries AD?).
Excavator: Suffolk C.C. Archaeological Service.
Published: Sites and Monuments Record entry.

Brief description: This ware is similar to pottery produced in Ely during the medieval period. It is tempered with medium quartz sand and sparse calcareous inclusions (probably chalk). It has a black core and orange margins and surfaces. On glazed sherds, the glaze is sparsely applied and usually green or yellow. Very little of this pottery is currently available for study. A production site was suspected in the area and wasters have been noted in the SMR. However, recent work on a medieval site in Mildenhall showed that this ware was not common and it seems unlikely that it was made in the vicinity. It is, though, a typical Fenland ware of the period.

Further reading

Nothing published.