Nene Valley Pottery Assemblages
The early examples of Nene Valley Roman pottery discovered by Artis in the 19th century were beautifully illustrated but leave many gaps in our knowledge. The vessels are lost, their precise origin is often undefined, and they were not comprehensively documented. During the last 60 years archaeologists have been able to record more systematically a considerable volume of pottery found in the area.
This web page includes notes from three of the more significant assemblages and provides links to the full reports which will hopefully enable others to expand this body of knowledge over time.
1. The Collection of Mr Richard Landy of Stilton
All coming from within Stilton parish, this important collection consists largely of Roman pottery, including several complete vessels and others which are near complete. The collection also includes some Roman glass, beads, and coins and a small collection of quern stones. Although outside the traditional focus of Nene Valley pottery production a kiln site was revealed by a 2006 Wessex Archaeology – Time Team excavation. The collection has been documented by Dr Stephen Upex.
The following extracts refer to just 8 of some 100 items in the collection. For abbreviations, colour codes, and references please refer to the original report.
4. Lower Nene Valley Grey Ware. CR21/18/21. A wide mouthed jar with burnished wavy line decoration on the upper shoulder below the rim and with a grooved neck (Fig. 3). Jars of this form were made from the late first to the late third centuries in grey ware forms and also made in vast quantities at the kiln sites at places like Water Newton, Sibson and Stibbington (Howe et al. 1982, Fig. 1, 3-4; Hartley 1960 Fig 3, 4). However, Perrin (1999, Fig 56, nos 19-20) argues that vessels with a wavy line decoration are probably best dated to the second half of the second century.
Figure 3. Jars nos. 4 & 5
5. LNVGW. CR 21/18/21. A larger version of 4 above but without the decoration - probably of a similar date or third century with the same fabric and exterior finishes (Fig. 3). These wide mouthed jars were copied in LNVCCW when production of LNVGW ceased (see Perrin 1999, Fig 57, no 41).
6. LNVGW. CR20/18/20. A very wide mouthed and rather squat jar in a fabric which contains amounts of sand and probably produced outside of the main Nene valley production centre (Fig. 4). Thus it is likely to be a local ‘fen edge’ product from the kilns around Stilton. Jars of this form are not common, but the numbers of jars which survive where the full profiles can be described are comparatively few, so this may be more common than the published accounts would suggest. The rim form is not easily recognisable and where it is seen is almost always on RSGW bowls or jars and of third and fourth century date (see Perrin 1999, Fig 72. no 474). However, the fabric and finish of the vessel would suggest a date in the second or early third century and approaches the style of the third century vessel shown in Howe et al. (1982, Fig. 1, no 8).
Figure 4. Jar no. 6.
9. Lower Nene Valley Self Coloured/Oxidised Ware. CR8/8/10+14. A small jar (Fig. 5) and in a form that is typical of products made during the 2nd and 3rd centuries (see Perrin 1999. Fig 57. Nos 50-56 & Fig 66, nos. 322-325). However, most of these products are in LNVGW or LNVCW fabrics and finishes but this vessel was self-coloured in a slightly oxidising atmosphere. The fabric is hard and well fired. Such finishes on local vessels are not common and are only poorly understood at present and it may be that this vessel from Stilton represents not only a local product but some form of transition from grey ware manufacture to the true colour coated industry.
Figure 5. jar no 9
17. LNVGW. CR 22/18/22. An undecorated dish with a triangular rim. The development of dishes in grey ware is poorly understood at present but it looks as if those vessels with triangular rims are earlier than those with more rounded rims, the change-over coming during the middle of the second half of the second century. Thus this vessel is probably dated to somewhere between c. AD. 100 –175.
Figure 7. Dish no. 18
41. Lower Nene Valley Colour Coated Ware. CR11,13,10/18/11,13,10 patches. Complete vessel (Fig 10 & 11). A medium sized folded or indented beaker with six folded indentations around the wall of the vessel with a curved rim and lacking decoration. The vessel is slightly squashed towards one side of its rim as if it has been stacked in the kiln when the clay has been pliable – thus it may be that it was treated as a ‘second’ after firing. Such vessels form one of the earliest ranges of products in local colour coated wares and were produced from the late second and into the early fourth century when they appear to decline. This example, of medium size, probably falls into the period of the mid to late third century. The vessel is curious as it has two circular impressions made by some form of ‘stamp’ (Fig 10) which is not dissimilar to the sorts of stamps that one would expect to find on London Ware or some of the London-Essex Stamped Wares (Rodwell 1978). What these marks indicate is uncertain but the potter has clearly made the impressions very deliberately.
Figure 11. Beaker no. 41
46. LNVGW. CR22/21/22. A plain rimmed beaker with a globular body and a pedestal style foot (Fig 13). The shoulder of the vessel has a double ridged set of grooves whilst the rounded body of the vessel has an appliqué vine leaf scroll decoration with trailing barbotine lines which form the stems of the vine. The foot ring has scored ridges. The fabric of the vessel is similar to some products from Stanground which were analysed by Cooper (1989) and Storey (1988) who showed that the finer clays were used for the specific potting of finer wares. None of the Stanground vessels which have been published (Dannell et al. 1993) are exact parallels for the Stilton beaker but the turned foot ring is echoed in a stamped ‘beaker like’ vessel from the site (Dannell at al. 1993, no. 146) and the vessel may be one of the items produced in the repertoire of the potter ‘INDIXIVIXVS’ (Dannell 1973) who was producing imitation samian forms in the period AD. 210-40. If there is a link here between a local Stanground potter and the production of ‘imitation’ vessels which have instead of stamped decoration, a vine scroll decoration on them, then this may further cement the links between the kilns in the Nene valley, those at Colchester, and a tradition which comes from the Rhineland (Dannell 1973, 140-1).
Figure 13. Beaker no. 46
55. Lower Nene Valley Cream/White Ware. CR26/26/26. A complete flagon with a pinched neck standing 30cm high (Figs. 17 & 18). The vessel shows some signs of sooting or burning which have left dark blue/grey staining on the body of the vessel. Flagons do not appear in the local range of products much before the late second century, although the mid second century kiln at Sulehay did contain a single vessel – although this may have been from a later disturbed context (Hadman and Upex 1975). Vessels with pinched necks and wide spouts are common in colour coated fabrics and cream wares (Perrin 1999, Fig. 62 nos 192-4) and normally date from the early to the mid third century (see also Dannell et al. 1993. Fig14. nos 1-2).
Figure 18. Detail of flagon no. 55
62. LNVCWW. CR6/18/6. Part of a cheese press (Fig. 20) with two ridges and a central rounded topped area – but with no sign of any holes through the plate.
Figure 20. Cheese presses nos. 60-62
Cheese presses are a common feature of pottery assemblages from the Lower Nene valley. They first appear during the military period of occupation at Longthorpe (Dannell and Wild 1987, Fig. 41, nos. 65-67) although appear absent at these periods at Lynch Farm 2 (Upex, forthcoming). However, the Lynch Farm 2 assemblage does show that their rise to popularity reached a height on domestic sites within the area during the late third century and continued until the end of Roman occupation (Upex forthcoming. Table10).
2. A Roman farmstead at North Lodge, Barnwell
The farmstead at Barnwell near Oundle was excavated between 1973 and 1988. The report was published in Northamptonshire Archaeology, 38, 2015. The extracts below are taken from the Catalogue of Pottery by Dr Stephen Upex.
The following extracts detail just 4 of some 116 items in the pottery catalogue. Forms are shown for selected product types. For abbreviations, colour codes, and references please refer to the original report.
Four complete colour coated vessels from stone-lined cist:
45 CR9/26/9, complete vessel with two handles and a wide mouth; decorated with two zones of rouletting and over-painted in white with a running scroll. This form of vessel is similar to ones from the Stibbington well which have both two and three handles (Perrin 2008, figs 28-29, 183-6) and are dated to the late 4th/early 5th century.
46 CR8/26/8, complete vessel, flask with an indented double band of decoration on the shoulder and a wide base. Similar vessels are identified from Stibbington, with and without decoration or over- painting (Perrin 2008, fig 22, 93-98) and a vessel of similar form is in the Museum collection at Peterborough (Howe et al 1980, fig 6, 69) - all of these vessels are dated to the later part of the 4th century.
47 CR13/26/13, complete vessel, two-handled flask or bottle similar to a vessel from Stibbington (Perrin 2008, 22, 89) and one in the Peterborough Museum collection (Howe et al 1980, fig 6, 67) both dated to the 4th century.
48 CR12/26/12, complete vessel, flanged bowl, similar vessels come from Kiln W at Stibbington (Perrin 2008, fig 19, 42-49; see also Perrin 1999, fig 64, 257-260), late 4th century.
Fig 2.5: Four complete colour coated vessels from stone-lined cist (F66)
Grey Ware Jars:
Grey Ware Dishes and Beakers:
Colour Coated Jars:
Colour Coated Dishes and Bowls:
Castor Boxes and Cheese Presses:
3. Lynch Farm 2, Peterborough
The second of three rescue excavations undertaken at Lynch Farm in the 1970s. The site features both Iron Age and Roman settlements. It lies in a meander of the River Nene west of Peterborough, between Longthorpe and Castor.
The report was published in 2018 - East Anglian Archaeology Report 163. The publishers have kindly agreed to make the pottery section freely available.
The pottery spans a wide date range and is sufficiently extensive to represent a useful sample of the wares produced and/or used in the lower Nene Valley. The following extracts focus only on a selection of forms of non-samian pottery over 3 of 8 site periods identified.
The indicative dates for the periods are:
1 – Late Iron Age
2 – 44 to Mid 60s
3 – Mid 60s to Mid First Century
4 – Mid First to Late Second
5 – Early Third
6 – Mid Third to Early Fourth
7 – Mid Fourth
8 – Late Fourth to Early Fifth
Nene Valley Grey Ware assumes significance from Period 3. There is limited Colour Coated Ware from Period 4 & 5; however, it represents over 50% of the fabrics during the last three periods.