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 Conference 2017: Tullie House, Carlisle

The SGRP 2017 conference will be held at Tullie House in Carlisle from Friday 14th July to Sunday 16th July. Over the weekend we hope to address several themes, including Roman pottery from North-West Britain and pottery from other larger projects. There will also be a visit to the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage site.

The Committee would like to invite 20 minute papers on recent or current pottery research. While we hope for a particular emphasis on material from the North of Britain, all contributions will be considered. Anyone wishing to give a paper is asked to provide a title and submit a short abstract of c 100-200 words to the Secretary by 31st January 2017.

Further details about the conference will be posted in due course.