Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Oxfordshire red/brown-slipped wares

A wide range of red-slipped tables wares, often decorated with rouletting, stamps or white slip, produced in the Oxfordshire potteries (Oxon/GB) and widely distributed across Britain during the 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

Hard, fine-textured fabric, sometimes with slightly laminar texture; colour varies from orange-buff to red or red-brown, often with grey core; moderate or abundant fine sub-angular red iron ore inclusions (occasionally coarser) and sparse large (up to 5mm) chalk lumps, set in micaceous matrix; smooth slip varies from orange-red to red to dark brown – latter more characteristic of closed forms. Wheel-thrown. Can be soft and powdery, with deteriorating slip, in poor soil conditions, but best examples have high gloss. Commonly decorated with wide variety of techniques, including moulded figures and face masks, bosses and indentations, barbotine, rouletting, stamps and painting.


Young (1977) describes the range of forms in this fabric:

Form Description
C1-C11 Bottles and flagons
C12-C15 Jugs and handled jugs
C16-C19 Jars
C20-C39 Beakers
C40-C96 Bowls
C97-C100 Mortaria
C101-C117 Miniature vessels
C118-C119 Miscellaneous types

Table 1.  Classification of Oxfordshire red/brown-slipped wares (after Young)

Many forms (including many of the commoner types) are derived from late East Gaulish sigillata prototypes, probably by imitation rather than migration of potters (Bird and Young 1981).


Name stamps are used on some samian-derived forms (particularly Drag. 31 and Drag. 36 copies). Most are illiterate combinations of lines and dots, but one reads PATERN (Young 1977, 176-81).


Production of red-slipped wares commences by c. AD 240 and continues until end of 4th cent. Many of the individual forms can be dated more accurately.


The Oxfordshire potteries.


Extensive across much of central England, from Severn valley to Thames Estuary, by late 3rd cent. Distribution expands and intensifies during 4th cent. Quantified distribution data interpreted by Hodder and Fulford as due to transport costs, but by Millett as result of civitas networks.


Bath fabric 6.1. Caister-on-sea fabric OXON-50. Chelmsford fabric 3. Colchester fabric MP. Dorchester fabric 18. Gestingthorpe fabric A3. Gloucester fabric TF12A. JRPS bibliography fabrics orc and oxr. Leicester fabric C13. Lullingstone fabric 11. Milton Keynes fabric 24. Kent fine fabric 16a. Sidbury fabric 29. Towcester fabric 13.


Young 1977; for kilns RCHM gazetteer 102-4, F561-73. For relationship with sigillata and derivative industries: Bird and Young 1981; on distribution: Fulford and Hodder 1974; Millett 1990, 171-4.


Bird and Young 1981. Bird, J. and Young, C. J., ‘Migrant potters - the Oxford connection’ in Roman Pottery research in Britain and North-West Europe. Papers presented to Graham Webster, ed. A. C. Anderson and A. S. Anderson, British archaeological reports. International series, 123, BAR, Oxford, (1981), pp. 295-312.

Fulford and Hodder 1974. Fulford, M. G. and Hodder, I., ‘A regression analysis of some later Romano-British pottery: a case study’, Oxoniensia, 39, (1974), pp. 26-33.

Millett 1990. Millett, M., The Romanization of Roman Britain, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, (1990).

Young 1977. Young, C. J., The Roman pottery industry of the Oxford region, British archaeological reports, 43, Oxford, (1977).

Distribution of Oxfordshire red/brown-slipped wares in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: OXRS (p.175)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: OXF RS (Oxford Red-slipped ware, p.176).
Thumbnail images
Worcestershire ceramics online database
(Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service)
  • Fabric no. 29 (Oxfordshire red and brown colour-coated ware)
  • Fabric no. 33.3 (Oxfordshire red mortarium with a red/brown slip)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
La céramique romaine en Gaule du Nord
(Brulet, Vilvorder and Delage 2010)
  • Oxfordshire Red/Brown-Slipped Ware (TS.BE-OXF) (p.264)
Images and text not available on-line. See also the listings of International Fabrics Reference Collection for Roman Ceramics at Louvain (text in French).
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Beckley And Stowood/Elsfield (Oxon)
  • Dorchester On Thames (Oxon)
  • Garsington (Oxon)
  • Horspath (Oxon)
  • Marsh Baldon (Oxon)
  • Oxford (Oxon)
  • Risinghirst And Sandhills (Oxon)
  • Sandford On Thames (Oxon)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Oxfordshire red/brown-slipped wares
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/OXRS • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.