Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Nene Valley colour-coated wares

Fine table wares in a pale fabric with darker colour coat, often decorated with barbotine or painted decoration, produced in the Nene valley (Hunts/GB) and widely distributed across Britain during the 2nd to 4th centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

Hard, smooth-textured fabric with finely irregular fracture; white to off-white (e.g. 7.5YR 7/6-8) orange-yellow (7.5YR 5/6) or darker grey or brown core with variable slip colour, dark brown to black, mottled lighter orange or orange-brown where thinner; abundant very fine quartz sand (visible at x20) and occasional larger quartz grains, red or orange and black flecks and occasional pale clay pellets (some streaking of these, and orange/black flecks, in the matrix); decoration includes barbotine (both under and over the slip), rouletting, grooving, folding and some use of moulds – roughcasting almost unknown.


Wide range of tablewares, including jugs, flagons and bottles, imitation samian forms, Castor boxes, cups and beakers. The latter are decorated in barbotine with hunting scenes (‘Hunt cups’) or human figures during 2nd and 3rd cent., barbotine scale work (3rd cent.) or white slip scroll and berry motifs (3rd-4th cent.). Some vessels (particularly in the earlier barbotine technique) are very ornate and depict religious scenes (Webster 1989). Limited production of stamp decorated samian-derived forms during early-mid 3rd cent. (Dannell 1973) and plainer vessels from later 3rd (e.g. Drag. 31, 36, 37, 45). During 4th cent. some coarse ware forms produced in colour coated fabrics (e.g. jars, dishes and flanged bowls).

Form Description
26-57 Beakers
63-68 Flagons or jugs
75-77 Wide-mouthed jars or bowls
79 Flanged bowl
80-84 Imitation samian
87 Dish
89 Castor box (with lid)

Table 1.  Classification of Nene Valley colour-coated ware (after Howe, Perrin and Mackreth


Production of colour-coated wares from mid-2nd cent., probably in the hands of immigrant (Lower Rhineland?) craftsmen. Some influence from East Gaulish sigillata industries during early 3rd cent. Production continues until end of 4th cent.


The Lower Nene Valley, centered on Water Newton.


Extent of mapped distribution incomplete due to confusion with other wares (e.g. Lower Rhineland imports and Colchester colour-coated wares) in older literature. Has been identified in Antonine groups from Verulamium and northern frontier. Probably most extensive during 3rd cent. prior to rise of Oxfordshire industry, but continues to hold large proportion of total market in eastern England into later 4th cent. partly due to production of ‘coarse ware’ forms.


Castor ware.


Bath fabric 6.3. Caister-on-sea fabrics NVCC-20 and NVCC. Carlisle fabric 175. Chelmsford fabric 2. Chesterfield fabric 29. Colchester fabric EA. Gestingthorpe fabrics B1-B3. Gloucester fabric TF12B. Great Chesterford fabric 29. JRPS bibliography fabric nvc. Lullingstone fabric 5. Milton Keynes fabric 6. Old Penrith fabric 12. Kent fine fabric 13a. Sidbury fabric 28. Towcester fabric 12.


Howe et al. 1980; Hartley 1960; Anderson 1980. For kilns: RCHM gazetteer 95-7, F366-86. Quantified data from Pomel 1984.


Anderson 1980. Anderson, A. C., A guide to Roman fine wares, Vorda Research Series, 1, Vorda, Highworth, (1980).

Dannell 1973. Dannell, G. B., ‘The potter Indixivixus’ in Current research in Romano-British coarse pottery: papers given at a C.B.A. Conference held at New College, Oxford, March 24 to 26, 1972, ed. A. Detsicas, Research reports/Council for British Archaeology, 10, Council for British Archaeology, London, (1973), pp. 139-42.

Hartley 1960. Hartley, B. R., Notes on the Roman pottery industry in the Nene Valley, Occasional papers - Peterborough Museum Society, 2, The Museum, Peterborough, (1960).

Howe et al. 1980. Howe, M. D., Perrin, J. R. and Mackreth, D. F., Roman pottery from the Nene Valley: a guide, Occasional paper, 2, Peterborough City Museum and Art Gallery, Peterborough, (1980).

Pomel 1984. Pomel, M. G., ‘A study of later Roman pottery groups in Southern Britain: fabrics, form and chronology’, M. Phil. thesis, Institute of Archaeology, University of London, (1984).

Webster 1989. Webster, G., ‘Deities and religious scenes on Romano-British pottery’, JRPS, 2, (1989), pp. 1-28.

Distribution of Nene Valley colour-coated wares in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: NVCC (p.173)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: LNV CC (Lower Nene Valley (White or Oxidised) Colour-coated ware, p.118).
Thumbnail images
Worcestershire ceramics online database
(Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service)
  • Fabric no. 28 (Nene Valley ware)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
Ceramics in Herefordshire
(Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, Herefordshire) Pages include some images.
Museum of London ceramics catalogue
(Museum of London) Catalogue includes some images, but may include vessels of other types.
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Ailsworth (Hunts)
  • Alwalton (Hunts)
  • Castor (Hunts)
  • Chesterton (Hunts)
  • Sibson Cum Stibbington (Hunts)
  • Stanground, North (Hunts)
  • Stanground, South (Hunts)
  • Sutton/Upton (Hunts)
  • Water Newton (Hunts)
  • Yaxley (Hunts)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Nene Valley colour-coated wares
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/NVCC • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.