Fun and fabrics at the Roman pottery conference

In July, members of the Study Group for Roman pottery, students, researchers and others interested in Roman Britain and its ceramics came together for the study group’s annual conference, which this year was held at the Red Lion Hotel in Atherstone in Warwickshire. The location was a special one, as the neighbouring village of Mancetter was the site of a major pottery industry, whose products were distributed widely in the Roman province.

The three-day conference began with scene-setting talks about the archaeology of Mancetter and the wider region. Delegates then heard about pottery assemblages from recently excavated sites in Warwickshire and Leicestershire. These were followed by a pottery-viewing session, which gave attendees an opportunity to examine pottery from Mancetter, the Lunt cemetery and elsewhere.

Roman pottery laid out for viewing

The day ended with a wine reception. In the convivial surroundings of the Red Lion Hotel, Rob Perrin, President of the Study Group, welcomed the guest of honour to the conference, Mayor of Atherstone Carl Gurney, who in turn welcomed delegates to the town.

Mayor of Atherstone, Carl Gurney, speaking to conference attendees

On the second day, delegates learnt more about the Mancetter pottery industry. Renowned mortarium expert Kay Hartley spoke in detail about the Mancetter industry, its products and potters. This was a masterclass and everyone was busy taking notes! Attendees also heard about glass production at Mancetter, as well as a project to update the significant archive relating to past excavations in and around village and make it more accessible. The talks were followed by papers on the pottery of Roman Leicester, scientific analysis of mortaria from Castleford, and excavations at Roman Wall, the last being a useful introduction to the site ahead of the afternoon’s tour.

The conference location is in an area full of Roman archaeology, and consquently delegates had a packed afternoon seeing the sights. After a very welcome and enjoyable lunch at the Heritage Cafe in Mancetter church, we began inevitably with a visit to the site of the Mancetter kilns. Today there is nothing to see on the ground, but our guide, Mike Hodder, brought the past brilliantly to life. We then reboarded the coach and headed to Wall for a tour of the Roman town, parts of which are still standing. The small museum in the village was well worth a visit, too, and we were also treated to a cream tea in the village hall, as well as a talk on lids and ceramic plates.

A tour of Roman Wall, led by Mike Hodder

On the third and final day of the conference, delegates had an update on a project to digitise and catalogue thousands of mortarium stamps. They also heard about pottery production in the City of London and in the London Borough of Havering. There was also a paper about organic residue analysis of pottery from Lincolnshire (it turns out that so-called cheese-presses may not have been cheese-presses after all), and the conference closed with a personal view about current and future samian studies, which gave everyone pause for thought.

This was a fantastic, well-organised conference, with hugely interesting papers, a really enjoyable tour and a wonderful location and venue. Next year – Leicester. See you there!

SGRP annual conference 2019: programme and booking details

Roman pottery kiln Hartshill
A kiln at Hartshill under excavation (photo: Paul Booth)

This year’s SGRP conference will take place at Atherstone, Warwickshire, on the weekend of 5th-7th July, starting on Friday afternoon and finishing at lunchtime on Sunday.

Atherstone is situated on Watling Street, near to the pottery kiln sites at Mancetter and Hartshill. This pottery industry forms the main focus of the weekend, but other papers will look at the wider regional context and pottery production elsewhere.

The conference venue, accommodation and meals will all be at the Red Lion Hotel, an independently owned coaching inn dating back to the early 1500s.

Click the link below for more details about the conference programme and how to book.

SGRP Annual Conference 2019

Grey ware jars from the Mancetter kilns

This year’s SGRP conference will take place on the weekend of July 5th-7th, from Friday lunchtime to Sunday lunchtime. It is being held at the Red Lion Inn in Atherstone in Warwickshire, near to Mancetter and Hartshill, on Watling Street.

The conference will draw a number of themes together: there will be a focus on Mancetter-Hartshill (the excavations, archive, pottery and glass production) and other production sites; other sites along Watling street (in particular Wall) and other regional assemblages. The Saturday afternoon trip will start at the site of the Mancetter kilns and then move up Watling Street to Wall.

Offers of papers are welcomed, and need not be tied to the conference theme. Please send them to the SGRP Secretary. Details about booking and prices will be posted here in due course.

Pottery specialists assemble for SGRP’s annual conference

Roman pottery specialists gathered at the King’s Centre in Oxford in June for the annual conference of the Study Group for Roman pottery.

The theme of the meeting was late Roman pottery, though talks were not confined to that topic. Paul Booth from Oxford Archaeology began proceedings with an introduction to late Roman Oxfordshire. Edward Biddulph, also of Oxford Archaeology, was next with a talk on the later Roman pottery from the roadside settlement at Berryfields in Aylesbury. Malcolm Lyne rounded the morning session off with a talk on a late Roman kiln from Canterbury. After coffee break, delegates heard about pottery from Southwark, courtesy of PCA’s Enikő Hudák, and Jane Timby then talked about pottery from rural Gloucestershire. Isobel Thompson followed with a talk on aspects of regionality in the types and distribution of grog-tempered ware in south-eastern Britain.

After lunch, there was an opportunity to view pottery assemblages brought by some of the group’s members. Attendees were treated to groups of colour-coated wares and white ware mortaria from Oxford-region kiln sites (the original excavator and Oxford industry expert Christopher Young was on hand to answer questions), as well as pottery from west Oxfordshire, the New Forest and elsewhere.

The group’s annual general meeting, held as part of the conference, was a chance to present Christopher Young, the group’s outgoing president, with a replica face-pot in gratitude for his hard work in the post.

The day closed with a talk by Christopher on how to put the Oxford industry back on the map and make it relevant to schools and the local community. The following day, Christopher led a smaller group of Study Group members on a tour of North Leigh Roman villa and the pottery collections at the county museum in Woodstock.

All in all, a successful weekend. We would like to thank the King’s Centre for hosting the Study Group and providing a superb lunch, and Archaeopress and BAR Publishing for their book stalls.

Oxford pottery industry luminaries Christopher Young (front) and Paul Booth (middle) at North Leigh villa (Photo: Jane Timby)

The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: A Handbook is relaunched on the SGRP website

The online version of the National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: A Handbook, is now live on the Study Group for Roman Pottery website.

The handbook, which was originally published in 1998, is an essential resource for researchers and anyone interested in Roman pottery wishing to identify and describe major regional and traded wares, including amphorae, samian and Romano-British finewares. The online resource contains detailed fabric descriptions, enhanced digital images of the original fresh-break photos, and a photomicrograph for each fabric.

Roberta Tomber, who along with John Dore wrote the original handbook, said:

“It is a great pleasure to announce that the National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: A Handbook is now live on the SGRP website. Hopefully it will be a valuable resource for a wide range of users. Numerous organisations and individuals were instrumental in finalising the resource and are thanked in the introduction to the site. Here I would like to mention the Roman Research Trust, who funded this resource, and Museum of London Archaeology, Historic England and the British Museum, all of whom have had a longstanding input into the NRFRC. Above all, I am grateful to Paul Tyers, whose tireless efforts are responsible for the completion of this project.”

Click here to visit the resource pages or click on the link in the side menu.