Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Colchester terra sigillata

Terra sigillata manufactured at Colchester (Essex/GB) during mid-late 2nd century AD, with limited distribution in eastern England. Some of the potters working at Colchester had earlier operated at East Gaulish factories such as Sinzig and Trier (DE).


M. R. Hull, in his final report on the Colchester samian kilns, recognised the difficulties in distinguishing the local products from imported material in the vicinity of the kilns. Subsequent analyses of the material have confirmed these problems and the precise extent of the samian production at Colchester remains unclear.

Fabric and technology

At its best, Colchester sigillata fabric is indistinguishable from East Gaulish products; generally red-brown core with a good brown or yellow-brown slip; fine-textured matrix with occasional larger white (chalk?) inclusions.

Decorated wares

Hull distinguished three decorative styles in fragments and moulds from the area of the kiln, referred to as Potters A, B and C. A and B are represented by both moulds and decorated fragments and are undoubtedly Colchester products. Potter C is represented by decorated sherds only (no moulds), and is unlikely to be a Colchester product; the bowls are of rather poor quality, but are most probably from the workshops at Sinzig (Storey et al 1989). A further rare style, tentatively identified by Hull as Potter D, is also likely to be from an East Gaulish workshop, perhaps Trier (Simpson 1982).


Allowing for the difficulties in identification, the production at Colchester seems to cover the full range of contemporary East Gaulish sigillata shapes. Decorated forms: Drag. 30, 37 (common), and Hull illustrates a mould fragment of a beaker or jar cf. Dech. 67 (Hull 1963, Fig.35, 4).

Stamped plain ware forms listed in the NOTS catalogues: Drag. 18/31 and 18/31R, 27, 31 and 31R (common), 32, 33 (common), 38 (and 38 or 44); Walters 79 and 79R, 80; Lud. Tg, Tx.

Hull (1963, 80-5) lists further plain forms from the vicinity of the kilns or elsewhere in Colchester described as wasters or ‘local’ products. In the case of under- or over-fired, distorted or mis-fired pieces the assignment should be reasonably confident – perhaps somewhat less so where described as ‘brilliantly good .. would pass as Lezoux’, or ‘very good ware .. continental appearance’. There is also some overlap between the ‘under-fired’ sigillata and the local colour-coated production. Additional forms include: Drag. 35 and 36, 44, 45; Dech. 72; Curle 15, 21; Walters 81; Lud. Ty; rouletted hemispherical bowls (cf. Drag. 37R/Lud. SSa); rouletted conical beakers; barrel-shaped beakers (cf. Lezoux form 103).


Hull’s original long list of probable/possible Colchester potters has been whittled down (using kiln site evidence, chemical analysis and the distribution of stamps) to a more restricted workforce.

The following notes on Colchester potters have been supplied by Joanna Bird.

Acceptus iii
Only kiln record is at Colchester. He may be the same potter as Acceptus ii of Trier, but Frey dates Acceptus ii to the first half of the 3rd century which would be too late for subsequent work at Colchester. Acceptus iii also stamped hunt-cups in Colchester colour-coated ware and mortaria.
c. AD 160-200. NOTS 1:48
Only kiln record is at Colchester.
Mid- to late Antonine. NOTS 1:168
Only kiln record is at Colchester. Also stamped Colchester mortaria, and possibly slipped wares; a stamp from Kettering may be, on fabric, Colchester samian or good quality colour coat. Distribution in East Anglia.
c. AD 160-200. NOTS 3:221
Gabrus ii
Colchester only. Distribution in East Anglia.
c. AD 160-200. NOTS 4:129
Latinus iv
Sinzig, possibly moved to Colchester (several finds at Colchester are probably East Gaulish on fabric).
c. AD 140-200. NOTS 5:25
The sequence is probably La Madeleine to Sinzig to Colchester. Continental distribution matches an East Gaulish potter, otherwise East Anglia.
At Colchester c. AD 150-165. NOTS 5:83
T. Littera
Colchester only. Possibly same potter as Littera ii (Argonne and Trier) but he shows no sign of claiming tria nomina. Distribution East Anglia.
c. AD 160-185. NOTS 5:86
Litugenus iv
Colchester only. East Anglia distribution.
c. AD 160-185. NOTS 5:88
Trier? to Colchester. Apart from Colchester kiln finds, distribution typical of Trier.
Work at Colchester would date c. AD 150-165. NOTS 6:27
Miccio vii
Sinzig to Colchester. Distribution typical of Sinzig, and to East Anglia. Stamps from Newstead and Corbridge assigned to Sinzig, though there was trade in Colchester mortaria to the north at this period.
c. AD 150-180? NOTS 6:104
Minuso ii
Trier to Colchester. Distribution typical of Trier, and to East Anglia.
At Colchester c. AD 155-170. NOTS 6:112
Senilis iv
No continental background. Distribution to East Anglia.
Mid- to late Antonine. NOTS 8:215

The potters Lipuca, Matuacus, Miccio vii and Minuso ii – and perhaps others – had operated in the workshops at Sinzig, Trier and elsewhere, before their move to Colchester. However, the chemical analyses reported by Storey et al (1989) suggest that some sherds from Colchester bearing stamps by Latinus iv, Lipuca and Miccio vii should be classed as imported Sinzig products rather than Colchester.

Acceptus iii, Amandinus, Cunopectus, Gabrus ii, T.Littera, Litugenus iv and Senilis iv seem to have operated at Colchester only, with no previous continental career, and their stamps are confined to East Anglia. Of these, Acceptus iii and Cunopectus also stamped local mortaria and colour-coated wares.

The potter Cintugnatus, who appears in earlier lists of Colchester potters, is not now considered to have operated there. Chemical analysis has shown that a Cintugnatus stamp from Colchester originated at Haute-Yutz (Huld-Zetsche 2012).


The careers of the potters who moved to Colchester and the range of forms produced there suggest the founding of the workshop in c. AD 150, continuing into the late-Antonine period. c. AD 150-200.


Colchester (kiln 21).


Rare at Colchester; otherwise almost entirely restricted to East Anglia, though there is a bowl of Potter A from Canterbury, Kent (Bird 1995, 793, Fig.343A, no.701). Rarely more than a few sherds on a site, even at Colchester itself; there are only five decorated sherds and twelve stamps reported from the very large group of samian – 1279 decorated pieces and 1158 stamps – from the 1971-86 excavations at Colchester (Symonds and Wade 1999, 13-136).

The stamps of Miccio vii at Newstead and Corbridge are from a die (1a) apparently used at both Sinzig and Colchester and NOTS assigns these to the continental workshop, while noting that Colchester mortaria circulate in the north at that period.

Some earlier identifications of Colchester sigillata may need reassessment in the light of further analysis.


Colchester fabric CO. JRPS bibliography fabric cls.


Hull 1963, 43-90. For the kiln structure and its affinities: RCHM gazetteer 92-4, F280. On Potter C and the Sinzig connection: Simpson 1982; Storey et al 1989; Fischer 1969. Rodwell (1982) suggested that the Potter C bowls may be products of Colchester, but made in moulds imported from Sinzig, rather than imports themselves, though this now seems unlikely in the light of the subsequent chemical analyses. Sinzig decorated ware is particularly common at Colchester but otherwise quite rare in Britain (Bird in Symonds and Wade 1999, 76, 94).

Data on distribution: Rodwell 1982; NOTS for stamps; Willis 2005, appendix 6.4.

On the wanderings of the plain-ware potters: Hartley 1977. The inter-connections and dating of the East Gaulish workshops where some Colchester potters originated are summarised by Huld-Zetsche (in Bémont and Jacob 1986). For a summary of Sinzig production, distribution in northern Gaul etc: Vilvorder in CRGN 198-201. For recent material from Colchester: Bird in Symonds and Wade 1999, 76, 119, 136, 494.

See also


Lezoux: Bet, P. and Delor, A. ‘La typologie de la sigillée lisse de Lezoux et de la Gaule centrale du Haut-Empire révision décennale’ in Rivet, L. (ed) Actes du Congrès de Libourne Marseille: SFECAG (2000), pp.461-484.

NOTS: Hartley, B. R. and Dickinson, B. M. Names on terra sigillata. An index of makers’ stamps and signatures on Gallo-Roman terra sigillata (Samian ware) Institute of Classical Studies, University of London. BICS Supplement 102 9 vols (2008-2012).

CRGN: Brulet, R., Vilvorder, F. and Delage, R. La céramique romaine en Gaule du Nord. Dictionnaire des céramiques. La vaisselle à large diffusion Turnhout: Brepols (2010).


Bémont and Jacob 1986. Bémont, C. and Jacob, J.-P., La Terre sigillée gallo-romaine. Lieux de production du Haut Empire: implantations, produits, relations Documents d’archéologie française, 6, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, Paris, (1986).

Bird 1995 Bird, J. ‘The samian and other imported red-slipped fine wares’, in K. Blockley et al. Excavations in the Marlowe Car Park and Surrounding Areas, Archaeology of Canterbury 5, Canterbury: Canterbury Archaeological Trust (1995) pp.772-97.

Fischer 1969. Fischer, C., Die Terra-sigillata-Manufactur von Sinzig am Rhein Dusseldorf: Rheinland-Verlag, Rheinische Ausgrabungen 5 (1969).

Green 1977. Green, C., Excavations in the Roman kiln field at Brampton EAA, 5, (1977).

Hartley 1977. Hartley, B. R., ‘Some wandering potters’ in Roman pottery studies in Britain and beyond Papers presented to J. P. Gillam, July 1977 ed. J. Dore and K. T. Greene, British archaeological reports. International series, 30, BAR, Oxford, (1977), pp. 251-62.

Huld-Zetsche 2012 I. Huld-Zetsche, with P. Eschbaumer and M. Thomas, ‘Der Wandertöpfer Cintugnatus’, in Bird, D. (ed) Dating and interpreting the past in the Western Roman Empire: essays in honour of Brenda Dickinson Oxford: Oxbow Books, (2012), pp.107-111.

Hull 1963. Hull, M. R., The Roman potters’ kilns of Colchester, Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 21, Society of Antiquaries and the Corporation of the Borough of Colchester, Oxford, (1963).

Rodwell 1982. Rodwell, W. J., ‘The production and distribution of pottery and tiles in the territory of the Trinovantes’, EssexAH, 14, (1982), pp. 15-76.

Simpson 1982. Simpson, G., ‘A revised dating for the Colchester samian kiln’, EssexAH, 14, (1982), pp. 149-53.

Storey et al. 1989. Storey, J. M. V., Symonds, R. P., Hart, F. A., Smith, D. M. and Walsh, J. N., ‘A chemical investigation of Colchester samian by means of inductively-coupled plasma emission spectrometry’, JRPS, 2, (1989), pp. 33-43.

Symonds and Wade 1999 Symonds, R. P. and Wade, S., Roman pottery from excavations in Colchester 1971-86 Colchester: Colchester Archaeological Trust, Archaeological Report, 10 (1999).

Willis 2005 Willis, S. ‘Samian Pottery, a Resource for the Study of Roman Britain and Beyond: the results of the English Heritage funded Samian Project. An e-monograph’ Internet Archaeology 17 (2005) url: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue17/willis_toc.html

Distribution of Colchester terra sigillata in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: COTS (p.114)
Terra sigillata forms and kiln sites
  • Database of the principal terra sigillata forms.
  • Map of the principal terra sigillata kiln sites
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: COL SA (Colchester samian, p.133).
Thumbnail images
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Colchester (Essex)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/COTS • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.