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Brief history of stoneware
Nottingham/Derbyshire stoneware
The Bingham finds
German c1590-1670
German c1690-1900
Nottingham c 1690-1790
Derbyshire and similar stoneware c1780-1950

The salt-glazed stoneware has been identified, catalogued and described by Adrian Henstock. It is considered separately from other ware groups because of its long time range from 15th century to modern.

Brief History of Stoneware

Stoneware differs from earthenware in that it is fired in the kiln at a high temperature (up to c.1200 degrees), at which point it vitrifies into a ‘stone’ body which does not require glazing with lead, etc., to make it impervious to liquids. However it is almost invariably glazed with salt to improve its appearance and feel. Colours can vary from ‘dark chocolate’ to ‘milk chocolate’ through to a variety of honey and buff tones, often a result of being dipped in a liquid clay slip before firing.

Brown stoneware has been manufactured in Europe, particularly in the German states, since Mediaeval times, and was widely imported into England from the Cologne region of the Rhineland during the Tudor period and known generically in England as ‘Cologne Ware’ (Gaimster, 1997). Typical products were large tankards and bulbous wine and spirit bottles, the latter sometimes decorated with a mask of a bearded man (‘bartmann’) and commonly known as ‘bellarmines’ after a hated cardinal whose image the mask was thought to represent. Grey and cobalt blue stoneware from the Westerwald region near Coblenz was also made for the English market during the reigns of Queen Anne, George I and II, occasionally bearing the initials of the respective sovereigns, e.g. ‘GR’ for ‘George Rex’.

The technical process of stoneware manufacture was unknown in England until sometime in the mid/late 17th century when potteries opened near London at Fulham and Lambeth, etc. Despite attempts to maintain a monopoly the knowledge soon spread to Staffordshire and Nottinghamshire. A ‘pothouse’ was opened in Nottingham between 1688 and 1693 by James Morley, formerly a brickmaker, situated at the end of Barker Gate (on the site of the Ice Stadium). By 1698 at least, James’ brother Thomas Morley had opened a similar pottery at Crich near Matlock in Derbyshire, and the early products of both factories are indistinguishable from each other, both probably using the same clay from Crich. The Barker Gate pottery was relocated by the Morley family to Beck Street in c.1715, and a rival stoneware pottery was opened by the Wyer family in Glasshouse St. in c.1725. Both had closed by 1790 (Henstock, 2010).

Other spin-off potteries from Nottingham and Crich were established in the early 18th century at Eastwood, Notts., and at South Wingfield, Derbyshire, but by c.1800 production was concentrated in Derbyshire at Belper, Denby, and Chesterfield/Brampton closer to the sources of both clay and coal and to the canal network. However brown stoneware from these potteries was frequently known generically as ‘Nottingham Ware’.

The most notable Derbyshire firms were Bourne & Sons, originally of Belper and then of Denby, and those of Briddon and Knowles at Brampton. During the 19th century production expanded enormously for both home and abroad consumption. By 1883, for example, Knowles’ factory at Brampton was exporting to ‘the Australian, Russian, African, and Jamaica markets’ (Jewitt, 1883, p. 350).

Nottingham/Derbyshire Stoneware products and their identification

The quality of the earlier brown wares from c.1690 to c.1760 is high, with vessels thrown to a very thin section and turned on a lathe. Many display a lustrous silvery sheen usually imparted by dipping in an iron-bearing clay slip. The products included commemorative pieces such as ‘loving cups’ bearing crudely incised inscriptions (dates, verses, and names of recipients or place of manufacture). The earliest surviving named and dated piece of Nottingham ware is from 1700, and of Crich ware 1701. They were aimed at the growing ‘middling sort’, i.e. well-off tradesmen, farmers, innkeepers, etc, (as demonstrated by James Morley’s illustrated advertisement card of c.1700). Utilitarian wares were however produced as well, especially drinking mugs, and the early stoneware potters often described themselves as ‘mug-makers’ (Oswald et al. (1982); Oswald & Hughes (1974); Parker (1933)).

The Nottingham potteries could not compete with the more sophisticated and colourful Staffordshire stone and earthenwares developed in the mid 18th century, and they had all closed by 1790. The Derbyshire factories continued to produce a few commemorative pieces but concentrated largely on tavern and kitchen wares, eventually spawning a vast variety of table, kitchen and decorative wares from c.1820 onwards. For example Bourne & Sons specialised in ginger beer, spirit, ink and blacking bottles, jars for preserves such as marmalade, jam, and pickles, and decorative ‘hunting jugs’ with ‘greyhound’ shaped handles. At Brampton firms such as Briddon and Knowles produced similar wares plus puzzle jugs, posset pots, spirit kegs and barrels, stew and sauce pots, bowls and colanders, tea & coffee pots, Punch jugs, bread baskets, toast racks, water filters, jelly moulds, candlesticks, etc. (Jewitt (1883), Oswald & Hughes (1974), Hildyard (1985), p.82).

Academic study of brown stoneware has been largely carried out by art historians focussing on surviving high quality complete commemorative pieces; this has to an extent obviously restricted archaeological analysis of their fabric as revealed by broken sherds. An especial problem is that these sherds are of very similar plain appearance and in addition rarely abrade in the ground. Consequently it is virtually impossible to assign small fragments to a particular period or even to identify the type of vessel.

The Bingham finds

For the reasons given above it has only been possible to classify the finds into six broad period typologies defined by the covering dates listed below. These periods are not mutually exclusive and inevitably overlap to a greater or lesser extent. This report has mainly concentrated on the four first categories, and no attempt has been made to classify the very large quantities of common ‘19th/20th C’ wares dating mainly from the period c1880 - c1950. The total quantity of finds was approximately 4,600, and the percentages for each group are in Table 2.6. Each group is described below. The numbers in brackets are the finds numbers.

Table 2.7 Classification of salt glaze stoneware in Bingham

Type Date range Date group Percentage
German, etc brown stoneware c1590-c1670 16/17th C 1%
German, etc grey & blue stoneware c1690-1900 18thC 1%
Nottingham/Crich c1690-c1790 18thC 14%
Nottingham/Derbyshire c1760-c1820 18/19thC 10%
Derbyshire, etc c1800-c1900 19thC 12%
Derbyshire, etc c1880-c1950 19/20thC 62%

German etc brown stoneware, c.1590-1670

Three sherds of jugs or bottles display the characteristic mottled ‘tiger ware’ finish common to German stoneware from the Cologne region

(5317) bears part of the ‘beard’ and the edge of the medallion enclosing a stylised coat of arms and from a masked ‘bellarmine’ of the type commonly imported into England in c.1570-1600 (Henstock (1975)). The decoration is very similar to a complete example dated 1594 found in Jamestown, Virginia, USA.

(11552) is part of the cordoned base of a globular jug, early 17th C.

(39622) is a part of a bottle-neck also probably German (but possibly an English copy), late 17th C.

German stoneware is not commonly found in Nottinghamshire, although a quantity of bellarmines and other high status sherds of c.1550-1600 were excavated in the yard of the Saracen’s Head inn at Newark ten miles north of Bingham (Fairclough & Alvey (1976), fig 9, nos 79-92).

It is not impossible that the bellarmine may have been used as a ‘witch bottle’. Such vessels were often filled with urine and pins, etc. and concealed within the structure of a house in an attempt to cause injury to a specific person. Two examples have been found in a cottage at Long Clawson some ten miles away in the Vale of Belvoir, and there was a celebrated witchcraft trial relating to the Earl of Rutland at Bottesford near Belvoir Castle in 1618. A contemporary pamphlet mentions eighteen people ‘at all levels of society in the Vale of Belvoir who were believed to have been killed or seriously injured by witchcraft’ between 1615 and 1618 (Sparham (2006)).

German etc. grey & blue stoneware, c.1690-1900

These sherds are typical of the coloured stonewares of the Westerwald region :

(42901) with a small ‘patera’ or medallion similar to a jug of c. 1690 in the Museum of London (illustrated on M of L website : ceramics acc. A9326); c.1690-1700

(39684) with reeding, probably from a tankard, c. 1714-1750

(36921, 31803) with blue petal decoration, similar to a ‘GR’ jug in the Museum of London (illustrated on M of L website: ceramics, acc. A1421), and to another excavated at Trinity House, High Pavement, Nottingham, in a cesspit in use from c.1650-1730 (Alvey (1973), fig 1, nos 6-7); c. 1714-1750

(42996, 43003, 43196) of white/grey stoneware with scratched ‘scraffitto’ floral patterns infilled with cobalt blue, either German or Staffordshire copying Chinese porcelain. One such sherd with different decoration was excavated at St Mark’s Lane, Newark (Fairclough & Alvey (1976), fig 7, no 177); 18th C

(39689, 39791) with floral decoration; 19th C?

Nottingham stoneware, c. 1690-1790

This group of c 570 brown sherds of definite 18th C date (excluding those assigned to the 18/19 C date, many of which may also be of Nottingham origin) can be provisionally divided into the following broad types :

Mugs, etc 36%
Jars, etc 33%
Jugs, etc 12%
Bowls, etc 10%
Various (cups, dishes/plates, flask, colander, loving cups, teapots, etc.) 9%

Most are high quality wares with the typical ‘Nottingham’ features of a high ferruginous sheen, thin sections, and bands of reeding formed on a lathe. The colour varies from dark chocolate brown through light brown to orange/honey. The noteworthy characteristics are as follows:

The typical fabric colour is a nondescript dull grey, occasionally with a thin white line visible under the glaze, which is evidence of dipping in slip. However a large quantity of the sherds - approximately 25% of the total - have a dull orange fabric. Many of the latter also have an orange/honey brown body and are apparently undipped. The earliest dated example of a vessel with this orange body is a mayoral loving cup in Nottingham Castle Museum dated 1700, so it is reasonable to infer that sherds with this external colour and orange fabric are the products of James Morley’s Nottingham Barker Gate pottery or his brother’s Crich works (where the kiln site has revealed similar sherds), ie, between c.1690 and c 1715.

Body Decoration
Decoration is largely achieved by horizontal cordons or reeding achieved on a lathe, and patterns made by roulette wheels often filling in the bands between. There are no examples of incised flowers or inscriptions such as appears on finer quality wares.

(12132, 27487, 39674, 39696, 42860, 43087, 43204, 43276, 43346, 43375, 43388, 43411, 43447, 43627) The commonest type of pattern is fine rouletting resembling fine ‘knitting’ in a ‘sss’ pattern. This is not recorded by Oswald et al., (1982); c. 1720-1760 ?

(4409, 4423, 12065, 28102, 35982, 39625, 39645, 43039, 43050, 43417) Selection of various rouletted and incised patterns, c.1700-1770.

(4187, 39423, 43382, 43432, 43631) have incised vertical straight and zig-zag lines; one (43382) is combined with a fragment of ‘grog’ or ‘breadcrumb’ decoration used on ‘bear jugs’, etc., (See teapot, jug and mug in NCM (illustrated in Wood (1980), p. 19) and spouted bowl from V&A and the teapot from Fitwilliam Museum (illustrated in Hildyard (1985), nos 239-240); c.1750-1780

(26802) has a combed feather decoration

(43392) has a fine ‘snakeskin’ pattern

(11473) has a fine zig-zag/diamond pattern

(43004) has a wide geometric diamond pattern.

These comprise fragments of handles of jars, mugs, or loving cups, etc., as well as several examples of body fragments with attached broken handle spurs, some with decorative finials.

(16892, 16924, 39629, 43267, 43356, 43395) are handles, usually reeded with five raised reeds on one side.

(05329, 12433, 18379, 39497, 39741, 43152) illustrate simple handles smoothed into the body.

(01527, 02864, 05175, 26814) are thick handles with a simple turn-up; two of these (43415, 27780) are finished with the turn-up pressed flat into a elongated ‘barrel’ shape, and decorated with vertical band at either end and crosses between, eg. ‘IXXXI’.

(05982, 08786, 36060*, 43453, 43465, 43648*) are finished with a marked upturned delicately pinched thumb piece finials, dated by Oswald (Oswald et al., (1982), Fig. vii), to c. 1730-70, but probably more common in c.1730-50.

(39649, 43210, 43408) are examples of both plain rims & others with stringing just below the rim, one (05686) with a marked outward scrolled turn.

Several (11973, etc) are formed by rolling over the clay rim to leave a hollow interior not visible externally.

(12037, 12041, 39744, 39745) are flat plain rims with only the slightest curvature, possibly from plates or shallow dishes, evidence of the production of ordinary kitchen wares which have rarely survived as complete pieces.

Two ornamental rims, one (12050) scalloped, one (43493) shaped and decorated like the spurs of a crown, possibly from the ‘crowns’ of puzzle jugs?

Mug Bases.
Base footrims of mugs are one of the commonest and most distinctive types of find. Of these there was sufficient curvature in 74 examples to estimate the approximate diameter of the base when measured against a series of templates at 2 cm intervals:

6cm 16 21%
8cm 30 41%
10cm 23 31%
12 cm 5 7%

(11970, 43151, 43341, 43374) are a selection of cylindrical shaped mugs, with bands of reeding at the base, dated by Oswald to pre- c.1725-30, (Oswald et al. (1982), p 112; fig V1, p 284); c.1700-30.

(08792, 39754, 43047, 43096, 43169, 43343, 43421, 43423, 43433, 43457, 43592) are a selection of mugs with flared cordoned footrings, usually with two strings, of a variety of profiles. This type replaced the cylindrical type after c.1730-40 (Oswald et al. (1982), fig V1); c.1740-80.

Dating & Distribution
Although no dated sherds have been found in Bingham the fact that Nottingham stoneware was not manufactured before c.1690 provides a useful terminus ante quem to relate them to other finds. As the postulated date of the enclosure of Bingham’s open fields is c.1680-90 then the distribution of some 99% of the total finds must relate to the post-enclosure field pattern. The presence of large quantities in the fields to the east of Chapel Lane, where they are found in conjunction with other earthenware, German stoneware, glass, and clay pipes, etc. of a comparable date, strongly suggests a parish dump of early 18th C date.

The 18th century products can be attributed to the Morleys’ and Wyers’ potteries in Nottingham, some ten miles away from Bingham. These would probably be distributed by pot carriers in crates carried on pack horses, although some could have been transported via the River Trent to wharfs at Radcliffe-on-Trent (4 miles from Bingham) or East Bridgford (2 ½ miles).

Among the commemorative pieces held by Nottingham Castle Museum are a mug and tea caddy bearing the names of the Biddle family of Stathern some nine miles distant in the Vale of Belvoir; these are (unusually) signed and dated 1771 by the maker Moses Colclough of Nottingham, proving that such vessels were distributed in the Bingham area (Oswald & Hughes (1974), p.184). The probate inventory of Edward White of Bingham, innkeeper and flax dresser, coincidentally also dated 1771, includes ‘12 Brown Muggs’, again probably of Nottingham origin. He almost certainly kept the Royal Oak, later known as the Chesterfield Arms (NAO, Archdeaconry of Nottingham probate records)

Derbyshire and similar stoneware, c.1780-1950

Large quantities of sherds of brown and buff kitchenware were found, datable to c. 1780 – 1950, roughly divided into 18th/19th, 19th and 19th/20th C. Most will be from Derbyshire potteries. They have a similar lustrous brown finish to the Nottingham products and are often undateable, although the introduction of olive green internal lead glazes (later replaced by clear ‘Bristol’ glazes) helps to date these to post-c.1825. There are also a few examples of the attractive honey pieces produced at Brampton and elsewhere from c.1820 onwards. The two-tone brown/buff dipped wares commonly found in the London factories but uncommon in this area, are not well represented. Some of a drab grey fabric may be from unidentified potteries outside the East Midlands. (Askey, 1998)

There are examples of ginger beer, spirit, ink and blacking bottles, jars for preserves such as marmalade and pickles, decorative ‘hunting’ jugs, stew and sauce pots, bowls and a colander, tea pots, and various ornamental pieces. Of these by far the most common are grey marmalade/jam jars with vertical fluted bodies.

The use of ‘sprigs’ – images produced by pressing clay into flat moulds and then sticking them onto bodies as decoration - became more common from c. 1830 onwards. The subjects usually depict ‘topers’ drinking next to barrels, mounted huntsmen with hounds, or rural/floral scenes.

(02248, 12261, 39559, 43240, 43506, 45278, 45469) are seven examples of sprigs from the honey coloured Brampton wares, two with drinking scenes, two hunting and two rural/floral; c. 1820-50

(07230) is the base of a jardinaire or similar ornament, with band of Greek Key decoration, c.1830

Most of these may have been distributed nationally partly by canal. The canals covering the southern part of the Notts/Derbyshire coalfield (where most of the stoneware potteries were situated) were linked to the Bingham area via the Grantham Canal by 1797, the nearest wharf being at Fosse Locks near Cropwell Bishop some 2 ½ miles from the town. Bingham was connected to the national railway network by train via Nottingham and Grantham in 1850.

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