Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Dales ware and Dales-type ware

Jars in coarse shell-tempered wares produced in the Lincolnshire and widely distributed across northern Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

The distinctive Dales ware jar form is found in two fabrics – the ‘classic’ shell-tempered ware and a range of grey sandy wares:

Dales ware: coarse grey, black or brown fabric; tempered with abundant (fossil) shell (sometimes leached out leaving a pitted surface). Irregular finger indentations around the lower body, but generally smoothed towards shoulder and over rim and lip. Hand-formed. In addition to the classic jar form, some larger diameter ‘storage jars’, dishes, flanged-bowls and lids have been recorded in this ware (Rigby in Stead 1976, 189).

Dales-type ware: several grey sandy fabrics. Wheel-thrown.


Jars with very characteristic rim form, which springs from the shoulder towards a thickened upper lip with inward-sloping top and small sharp internal ridge Gillam 157.


The classic form probably emerged by the later 2nd cent.; the period of major export to the north, as form Gillam 157, is c. AD 250-340. The form has blended with other moulded-rim jar forms by later 4th cent.


Firman (1991) suggests that the source of Dales ware lies in the seleniferous clays of Lincolnshire and South Humberside. Dales-type grey ware jars were produced at several sites in Lincolnshire, Humberside and Yorkshire, alongside a wide range of other coarse ware types.


Abundant in Lincolnshire, Humberside and south Yorkshire (up to 40% of all jars at Doncaster: Loughlin 1977, 129, n. 35); otherwise a thin but wide spread across northern England as far as the Wall. A scatter down the east coast, ending at Richborough (Bushe-Fox 1928, no. 147; Pollard 1988, 24).


Caister-on-sea fabric SHDW-151. JRPS bibliography fabric dal. Leicester fabric CG1C. Kent coarse fabric 7.


Original study in Gillam 1951; major reassessment (definition of Dales-type) and distributional studies by Loughlin 1977; on dating in the northBidwell 1985, 177; for petrology of Dales ware: Firman 1991. For kilns producing Dales-type jars see RCHM gazetteer F443-5, F451-2, F465, F678-80


Bidwell 1985. Bidwell, P. T., The Roman Fort of Vindolanda at Chesterholm, Northumberland, Archaeological Report, 1, Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, London, (1985).

Bushe-Fox 1928. Bushe-Fox, J. P., Second Report on the Excavation of the Roman Fort at Richborough, Kent, Reports of the Research Committee of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 7, Oxford, (1928).

Firman 1991. Firman, R. J., ‘The significance of anhydrite in pottery as exemplified by Romano-British Dales ware’, JRPS, 4, (1991), pp. 45-50.

Gillam 1951. Gillam, J. P., ‘Dales wares: a distinctive Romano-British cooking pot’, AntJ, 31, (1951), pp. 154-64.

Loughlin 1977. Loughlin, N., ‘Dales ware: a contribution to the study of Roman coarse pottery’ in Pottery and early commerce. Characterization and trade in Roman and later ceramics, ed. D. P. S. Peacock, Academic Press, London, (1977), pp. 85-146.

Pollard 1988. Pollard, R. J., The Roman pottery of Kent, Monograph series of the Kent Archaeological Society, 5, Kent Archaeological Society, Maidstone, (1988).

Stead 1976. Stead, I. M., Excavations at Winterton Roman Villa and other sites in North Lincolnshire 1958-1967, Department of the Environment Archaeological Reports, 9, HMSO, London, (1976).

Distribution of Dales ware and Dales-type ware in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: DALES (p.190)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: DAL SH (Dales Shelly ware, p.157).
Thumbnail images
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Elsham (Lincs)
  • Fenton (Lincs)
  • Knaith (Lincs)
  • Lincoln (Lincs)
  • Scunthorpe (Lincs)
  • Wildsworth (Lincs)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Dales ware and Dales-type ware
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/DALES • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.