Nene Valley Pottery
The lower Nene valley was an important centre for pottery manufacture in Roman Britain.
Nene valley pottery production was centred on the suburbs of the Roman town of Durobrivae close to the current- day villages of Water Newton, Sibson and Stibbington, as well as to the north of the Nene in Normangate Field (Castor and Ailsworth). However, similar production existed on dispersed sites as far as Stanground to the east, Oundle to the west, and Stilton to the south.
The potteries of the Lower Nene Valley started significant production in the late first-century AD making grey wares of all types from cooking vessels to large beakers and jars. Characteristic Nene Valley "colour-coated" wares emerged from around AD 150 with production continuing until end of the 4th century.
These more specialised forms of Nene valley pottery encompassed a wide range of table-wares, including beakers, jugs, flagons, and bowls. Typically, this pottery had a pale fabric with a darker colour coat, often with barbotine or painted decoration. It was distributed widely throughout the Fenlands making use of the waterways, and to south-east England reached by the arterial road of Ermine Street. Some was even exported to the northern frontier region (see article by Dr. Bidwell).
Mortaria, vessels for grinding and pulverising food, were another popular product of the Nene valley Roman potteries. They had an off-white fabric with light grey or pink core, often a brown or yellowish slip, and were gritted with dark grey or black iron silicate slag. They were occasionally stamped with the name of the maker.
Competition was intense. The potteries at Mancetter-Hartshill were much larger producers of mortaria and the growth of the Oxfordshire and Hadham kilns during the later third-century century cut into other markets. However, production in the fourth-century for the east of England remained strong, and the Nene valley potteries were clearly operating and exporting down to the end of the Roman period. Finds from local sites which appear to last into the 5th-century hint at a continued production of wheel-made pottery.
Nene Valley Pottery - More Information
This paper was published by the Peterborough Museum Society in 1972 and is reproduced with its kind permission. It provides a concise and valuable overview encompassing the history of the industry, the pottery and the kilns.
Paul Bidwell is a specialist on the archaeology of Roman Britain. From 1987 to 2013 he led a series of projects which involved the excavation and interpretation of the Roman fort-sites at South Shields (Arbeia) and Wallsend (Segedunum). This new article provides insights into the evolution and distribution of Nene Valley pottery.
NVAT Sites featuring potteries:
Perrin, Roman Pottery from Excavations at and near to the small Town of Durobrivae, Water Newton, Cambridgeshire, 1956-58. Journal of Roman Pottery Studies 8, 1989.
G.B. Dannell and J.P. Wild, Longthorpe II. The Military Works Depot; An episode in Landscape History. Britannia Monograph Series 8, 1987.