Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Derbyshire ware

Moulded-rim jars in hard grey wares produced in Derbyshire and distributed across central and northern Britain during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

Extremely hard, gritty fabric with pimply surface (‘like goose-flesh petrified’); varies from buff, through brick-red to dark blue-grey or purple; abundant sand tempering. Surfaces generally unsmoothed, with prominent whorl-marks on base. Wheel-thrown.


Typical form is jar with deep ‘bell-mouthed’ rim (Kay 1962, type A) or rolled rim (Kay type B). Earlier specimens tend to have more lightly moulded rims, but this develops to deeply dished form by mid-3rd cent., Gillam 152. Bowls and dishes also known in same ware.


Production commences by mid-2nd cent., but ‘pre-Derbyshire’ prototypes at Derby Racecourse kilns from early 2nd cent. Largely 3rd cent. in the north.


Several kilns sites in the Holbrook/Hazelwood region, with distinctive tall kiln structures (Swan 1984, 124-6), perhaps for high firing temperatures.


Abundant on sites in Derbyshire (up to 40% by sherd count at Little Chester), with a scatter in northern frontier zone, including Carpow, and occasional specimens from Wales (Webster 1970). Bowls and dishes have more local distribution.


JRPS bibliography fabric drb. Towcester fabric .


Description and sources: Gillam 1939; Kay 1962; Jones and Webster 1969; for kilns: RCHM gazetteer F246, F252-5


Gillam 1939. Gillam, J. P., ‘Roman-British Derbyshire ware’, AntJ, 19, (1939), pp. 429-37.

Jones and Webster 1969. Jones, G. D. B. and Webster, P. V., ‘Derbyshire ware - a reappraisal’, DerbyAJ, 89, (1969), pp. 19-24.

Kay 1962. Kay, S. O., ‘The Romano-British pottery kilns at Hazelwood and Holbrook, Derbyshire’, DerbyAJ, 82, (1962), pp. 21-42.

Swan 1984. Swan, V. G. in The pottery kilns of Roman Britain, RCHM Supplementary Series, 5, RCHM, (1984).

Webster 1970. Webster, P. V., ‘A sherd of Derbyshire Ware from South Wales’, DerbyAJ, 90, (1970), p. 31.

Distribution of Derbyshire ware in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: DERBY (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: DER CO (Derbyshire Coarse ware, p.125).
Thumbnail images
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Ashleyhay (Derby)
  • Hazelwood (Derby)
  • Holbrook (Derby)
  • Milford (Derby)
  • Shottle And Postern (Derby)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Derbyshire ware
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/DERBY • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.