SGRP home page

The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: a Handbook

Hand specimen picture panel
Thin section picture panel


Appendix 1: Keywords and Definitions
Appendix 2: Physical Layout of Sherds Housed in the NRFRC


North Gaulish White ware 4 (NOG WH 4)

Nine samples

The category incorporates closely related fabrics believed to have been produced in northern France. A number of distinctive form types, Bushe-Fox 22–30, Hartley Group I(iii), Hartley Group II (Gillam 238), Gillam 255 and some Gillam 272 were produced in these fabrics, which equate to Exeter FC2–5 (Hartley 1991) and Usk 1–4 and 10–12 (Hartley 1993). Although flagons (Davies et al 1994, 62–8) were also produced in similar fabrics, only the mortaria are represented here.

General appearance

This fabric is particularly susceptible to soil conditions and in some parts of Britain (eg Scotland, the Pennines and central Wales) it is rare to see a sherd with its original surface intact, resulting in a soft, powdery appearance. Typically it is cream (10YR 8/2–8/4) coloured, sometimes with a distinct greenish tinge, less often orange-brown (5YR 7/6), pale brown (7.5YR 7/6) or dull pink (10R 7/6).

Hand specimen

Although the inclusions in this fabric are generally quite fine and never abundant, their overall sorting varies and is not particularly diagnostic. However, three principal constituents occur universally, and these are quartz, red and black iron-rich grains and limestone. Quartz is usually well sorted, common and fine (<0.2mm); some samples have a scatter of iron-rich inclusions in this size range, but while still common they are more typically ill sorted and coarser, measuring up to 0.6mm. Limestone is generally sparser than the previous two and slightly finer than the iron-rich grains (0.2–0.5mm). Other less frequently occurring inclusions are feldspar, red-brown rock fragments (possibly sandstone), and fine silver mica in some samples.

Trituration grits are tiny and common on Gillam 238 (Plate 55b), Hartley I(iii) and Bushe-Fox 22–30, but they can be very sparse on Gillam 255 and 272. Their main constituents are quartz and angular grains of white or grey flint or chert, occurring in varying proportions, and normally measuring 0.2–0.4mm. For Hartley Groups I(iii) and II it is usual for the trituration grits to extend over the upper surface of the flange, and both internal and external gritting is combined with fine horizontal scoring. Bushe-Fox 22–30 has the scoring and grit on the inside only.

Despite the wide variety in this fabric, they, like North Gaulish White ware 2 can be characterised by ill-defined iron-rich inclusions which bleed into the matrix, and this together with the trituration grits, general appearance and suite of forms make it a readily identifiable fabric. The fracture, general appearance and flint or chert trituration grits are similar to Colchester White ware, Wiggonholt White ware and others produced in Norfolk.

Thin section

The single sample sectioned for this group has an isotropic clay matrix containing common well-sorted angular and subangular quartz, normally measuring 0.1–0.3mm, and fewer ill-sorted limestone, sometimes appearing as streaks. Rare flint or chert is also visible in a similar size range, as are common opaque inclusions and iron staining (to 1.0mm, but usually <0.5mm). No mica is visible, nor are trituration grits present in this section.


Although in the past a source in Pas-de-Calais has been suggested for these fabric variants, a north Gaulish one is now considered more appropriate. Production undoubtedly took place in many centres, including Noyon where kilns are known (Ben Redjeb 1992a; 1992b).


Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter; English Heritage (Hadrian’s Wall Museums)


Corbridge Roman Site Museum; Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter; City Museum and Art Gallery, Gloucester; Museum of London


Ben Redjeb, T, 1992a Une agglomération secondaire des Viromanduens: Noyon (Oise), Revue Archéologique de Picardie 1/2, 37–74

Ben Redjeb, T, 1992b La céramique gallo-romaine de l’îlot des ‘Deux-Bornes’ (fouilles 1985) à Noyon (Oise), Revue Archéologique de Picardie 1/2, 75–82

Hartley, K F, 1977 Two major potteries producing mortaria in the first century AD, in Roman pottery studies in Britain and beyond. Papers presented to John Gillam, July 1977 (eds J Dore & K Greene), BAR Suppl Ser 30, 5–17

Hartley, K F, 1985d Mortaria, in An Iron Age and Roman settlement outside Kenchester (Magnis), Herefordshire. Excavations 1977–1979 (T Wilmott & S P Q Rahtz), Trans Woolhope Natur Field Club 45, 142–5

Hartley, K F, 1991a Mortaria, in Roman finds from Exeter (N Holbrook & P T Bidwell), Exeter Archaeol Rep 4, 189–215

Hartley, K F, 1993a The mortaria, in Report on the excavations at Usk 1965–1976. The Roman pottery (ed W H Manning), 389–425

Hartley, K F, 1998 The incidence of stamped mortaria in the Roman Empire with special reference to imports to Britain, in Form and fabric: studies in Rome’s material past in honour of B R Hartley (ed J Bird), Oxbow Monogr 80, 199–217

Rush, P S, 1993 The economics of Roman mortaria: ceramic production and distribution in southern Roman Britain, Unpublished PhD, University of Bradford

Williams, D F, 1993 The petrology of mortarium fabrics 5, 6, 11 and 13, in Report on the excavations at Usk 1965–1976. The Roman pottery (ed W H Manning), 424–5

See the related record on the Atlas of Roman Pottery on the Potsherd website

Plate 55a: Fresh sherd break of NOG WH 4 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 55a: Fresh sherd break of NOG WH 4 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 55b: Trituration grits on NOG WH 4 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 55b: Trituration grits on NOG WH 4 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 55.1: Photomicrograph of NOG WH 4 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 55.1: Photomicrograph of NOG WH 4 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

<< North Gaulish Reduced ware  ::  North Gaulish (Amiens) White ware 5 >>