Review by Beverly A. Straube
Pots and Potters in Tudor Hampshire

Jacqueline Pearce, with contributions by Anthony Grey and Peter Tipton. Petrology report by Alan Vince. Pots and Potters in Tudor Hampshire. Guildford, Eng.: Guildford Museum, Guildford Borough Council, and Museum of London Archaeology Service, 2007. x + 234 pp.; 125 bw illus., 15 tables, 2 appendixes, bibliography, index. £19.95 (softcover).

As succinctly expressed by the author, “this book is the result of an excavation of an excavation, an exercise in archaeology times two” (p. 2). Jacqueline Pearce’s “excavation” resulted in a highly successful analysis of a pottery production site that was excavated almost forty years ago in Hampshire County, England. Executed in the best British tradition, with clear, understandable line drawings of every representative form and supplemented by informative photographs, this book is a thorough examination of four kiln sites, known as Farnborough Hill, that were excavated by Felix Holling between 1968 and 1972.  In association with the kilns, Holling found more than 1,300 pounds of wasters and a series of drainage ditches dating from the late fifteenth through the sixteenth centuries, making the site a unique resource for understanding the Surrey-Hampshire Border ware industry.

Holling published preliminary surveys of his work in the 1970s, but he was unable to accomplish his intended definitive study before retiring from the Guildford Museum in 1980. As the county museum for Surrey, the Guildford Museum curated the bulk of the collection, along with the associated documentation. Pearce, a ceramic finds specialist with the Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS), surveyed these data during preparation for her book on the Surrey-Hampshire Border wares excavated in London that was published in 1992, but the depth of analysis required by these important kiln groups was not possible at that time.[1]  The Border ware industry dominated London’s supply of ceramic wares for more than 150 years in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and although Pearce’s 1992 study was comprehensive, it was based on the analysis of London consumer sites. This present systematic study of Farnborough Hill—one of the few Border ware production sites with associated kilns and production waste—enabled Pearce to document the full range of forms produced and to refine the chronology of the wares.

Pearce successfully addresses several research aims in her study. First, the documentary sources were examined by collaborator Peter Tipton for information on the potters, their organization, and their origins. It was hoped that this study would explain the industry’s strong marketing connection with London. In addition, a new repertoire of forms appeared in the Border ware industry in the mid-sixteenth century that reflected contemporaneous forms in Germany and the Low Countries. Was this the result of English potters inspired by imported pottery, or was it brought about more directly by immigrant potters? Archival research successfully answered both questions. It identified a London potter from Lambeth, Richard Dee, who had clear connections with both the Inns of Court, one of the largest London institutional consumers of Border wares, and with the potters in the Farnborough area. Also discovered was a Farnborough potter described as an “allian” in 1585 who had a German name, Harmon Raignold, that gradually became anglicized to Herman Reynolds by his death in 1609. The appearance of Reynolds and his family of potters in Hampshire coincided with the introduction of Germanic forms that were unique to Border wares and that contributed to the industry’s dominance in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. One of these forms is the Schweinetopf, a small, four-legged roasting vessel found in Germany and the Netherlands but unique in England to the kilns at Farnborough Hill. A Schweinetopf recently identified in the excavations of James Fort in Jamestown, Virginia, almost certainly is a product of the Farnborough Hill kilns.[2]

Other aspects of the study characterized the Border ware fabrics and identified the clay sources through thin-sectioning and chemical analysis; examined the kiln structures and associated features in relation to other known kilns and for evidence of chronology; systematically recorded the manufacturing process and problems revealed by the wasters; compared the Farnborough Hill products with other centers of Border ware production to identify differences in fabric and typology; and identified distribution and marketing networks of the pottery. Especially impressive is Pearce’s detailed type-series based on vessel shapes and on principal diagnostic features. Thirteen basic forms are comprehensively examined—jugs, costrels, bottles, jars, cooking vessels, bowls and dishes, drinking vessels, lids, heating and lighting vessels, industrial vessels,  stove tiles, kiln furniture, and other forms. This analysis, plus Pearce’s insightful discussion of ceramic form and function in chapter 9, place the Farnborough Hill products in context with the social and economic changes taking place in late-sixteenth-century England.

Beautifully organized and written in a lucid and straightforward manner, Pots and Potters in Tudor Hampshire is an excellent example of what can be achieved when excavations are properly documented and the field records and collections are archived with contextual integrity. Excavation records and historical documentation are combined with thorough analysis of the pottery to provide a comprehensive picture of the growth and development of the Surrey-Hampshire Border ware industry. For all researchers working with pottery production sites, this book serves as a wonderful template for post-excavation analysis. It eloquently demonstrates the wealth of information that can be derived by applying modern analytical methods to a site, no matter how long ago the site was excavated. All who read this book will be motivated to revisit all those pottery production sites that are presently languishing in the archives.[3]

Beverly A. Straube, Jamestown Rediscovery and Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities

Ceramics in America 2008

  • [1]

    Jacqueline Pearce, Post-Medieval Pottery in London, 1500–1700, vol. 1: Border Wares (London: HMSO, 1992).

  • [2]

    Beverly A. Straube, “This Little Piggy Went to Virginia,” in Ceramics in America, edited by Robert Hunter (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, 2005), pp. 217–19.

  • [3]

    There are at least three seventeenth-century kiln sites in Virginia that are in this condition: the Morgan Jones Pottery kiln (ca. 1677), the Green Spring Pottery kiln (ca. 1660), and the Challis Pottery kiln (ca. 1690–1710).