View all the report titles
View a summary of a chosen report
View the full report in PDF format of a chosen report
Search archive using keywords
Home Page

Colchester Archaeological Trust

CAT Report 1140: summary

(Click on report title to view full report in PDF format)

Pottery production in Mile End (Colchester) in the 12th to 16th centuries: excavations at ‘Colchester North’ (formerly NGAUE) Area A: January to March 2017
by Howard Brooks
(with contributions from Stephen Benfield, Laura Pooley, Adam Wightman, Alec Wade, Val Fryer, Emma Holloway, Sarah Carter )

Date report completed: December 2018
Location: ‘Colchester North’ (formerly NGAUE) Area A
Map reference(s): TL 9886 2850
File size: kb
Project type: Excavation
Significance of the results:

Summary. In 1973, an excavation on the line of the A134 in the northern part of the parish of Mile End (now bypassed), uncovered pits full of broken medieval pottery. The pottery included ‘wasters’ - misshapen and misfired pots - a clear indication that there was a medieval kiln somewhere close by.

In fact, previous discoveries of wasters and kiln material in Great Horkesley and Mile End show that pottery was produced here from the 13th until the 15th or 16th century. The vessels made there - jugs and bowls intended principally for the market in Colchester - are generally described as ‘early medieval sandy ware’ ‘medieval sandy grey ware’, and ‘Colchester-type’ ware.

When the Northern Growth Area Urban Extension (NGAUE - now ‘Colchester North’) came up for development, a very clear archaeological case could be made for trying to locate the missing kilns and other evidence of this pottery industry.

Thus, in 2011 and 2014, a very extensive evaluation by geophysical survey, fieldwalking and evaluation trenching was carried out (CAT Reports 627, 786). Petchey’s missing kilns, which he suspected were west of the Nayland Road, were not found, but the evaluation indicated that an area of approximately 1.4 hectares north of Chapman’s Farm on Nayland Road might fruitfully be examined for evidence of the pottery industry (the quantities of medieval pottery being greater than one would expect from a medieval domestic site). This report is on the 2017 excavation of that area (Area A).

The principal discoveries were over 530 kg of medieval pottery, and a tile-built rectangular kiln. The pottery included a significant number of wasters and misfired pots, some of which had been thrown into open pits which may have originally been clay quarries. Some phasing was possible. The earliest phase of potting produced early medieval sandy ware (fabric 13) in the 12th or 13th centuries. The second produced medieval sandy grey ware (fabric 20) in the 13th -14th centuries. The third produced Colchester-type ware (Fabric 21a) in the 15th and 16th centuries. Despite the usual convention that rectangular kilns produced tile or brick, it may be the case that this kiln had a dual purpose of firing Colchester-type ware pots, and also larger ceramic objects such as floor bricks, and peg-tiles. The range of pottery products was wide - apart from the usual pots, jugs and bowls, there were also pitchers, dripping pans, pipkins, sprinklers or bottles, and louvers.

No kilns have yet been found in which the Period 1 or 2 pots (Fabrics 13 and 20) were made. They must have been nearby, and have been removed by the action of ploughing (the site has been arable ever since the 17th century). Had not the tile-built kiln been set into a slight cavity, it would also probably have disappeared.