Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Severn Valley wares

A range of orange or red-brown wares produced along the middle Severn valley and distributed across western Britain (and sparsely in northern Britain) from 2nd to 4th centuries AD.

Fabric and technology

A range of hard, fine textured fabrics; typically brown (5YR 6/6) or reddish-orange (2.5YR 5/8) at the surface, sometimes with a grey core (particularly in the thicker parts), although fully reduced wares also occur; typical ware is slightly micaceous with little visible temper, but coarser ‘gritted’ (with sand, grog and clay pellets and a little iron ore) or vesicular (?burnt organic) variants known. Surfaces generally burnished, with linear or lattice decorated zones, with grooves and cordons. Usually wheel-thrown, although rare hand-formed variants occur.

Forms

The principal form classes are described by Webster.

Class Description
8-9 12 - A B storage jars bead-rim jars
10-11 13-16 - C D wide mouthed jars bowls & wide-mouthed jars
with beaded/everted rims
4-7 E tankards
17-18 21-22 F flanged bowls
with internal lip
19 G flanged bowls
with reeded/grooved rims
1-3 H carinated bowls
23-24 I samian derived forms
26 J segmental bowls
25 K dishes/platters
27 L lids

Table 1.  Classification of Severn Valley ware classes (after Webster)

The handled tankard (class E) is one of the more characteristic forms in SVW. These, with storage and wide-mouthed jars, are most widely distributed forms.

Chronology

Timby (1990) suggests SVW commences shortly before conquest, although others have preferred a Claudian conception under military influence (Webster 1976, 40-2). Flourishes during 2nd and early 3rd. and continues into 4th cent. AD.

Source

Several 2nd/3rd-cent. kiln sites producing Severn Valley wares are known, extending through Severn valley (Alkington, Ledbury, Malvern, Perry Barr) to Wroxeter. Earliest production centres not yet identified, but perhaps in Gloucester region.

Distribution

Mid-1st-cent. distribution largely confined to sites in Severn Valley near Gloucester region, with outliers on Claudio-Neronian military sites such as Usk (S. Wales). Present at Wroxeter and Chester by later 1st cent. AD. Abundant on sites in lower Severn basin through 2nd/3rd cent. (c. 70% of all pottery on rural sites in Gloucester region, and at Sidbury, Worcs.). Extension of small scale supply to north-west England, western sector of Hadrian’s Wall and Scotland from c. AD 120-200. Distribution contracts to Severn basin by 4th cent.

Aliases

Bath fabric 9.1. Carlisle fabric 124. Dorchester fabric 37R. Gloucester fabrics TF11B, TF11D, TF17 and TF220. JRPS bibliography fabric svv. Old Penrith fabric 22. Sidbury fabric 12.

Bibliography

For type-series, general development and distribution: Webster 1976; Rawes 1982; the range of SVW fabrics described in Darlington and Evans 1992, 37-8 and Hurst 1985, 81; for origins and early forms: Timby 1990; for northern distribution: Webster 1972; Webster 1977; Bidwell 1985, 171-4. For kilns: RCHM gazetteer F305, F352, F579, F635, F673-6.

References

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).

Darlington and Evans 1992. Darlington, J. and Evans, J., ‘Roman Sidbury, Worcester excavations 1959-1989’, TWorcsAS, 13, (1992), pp. 5-104.

Hurst 1985. Hurst, H. R., Kingsholm, Gloucester Archaeological Reports, 1, Gloucester Archaeological Publications, Gloucester, (1985).

Rawes 1982. Rawes, B., ‘Gloucester Severn Valley Ware’, TBGAS, 100, (1982), pp. 33-46.

Timby 1990. Timby, J. R., ‘Severn Valley wares. A reassessment’, Britannia, 21, (1990), pp. 243-51.

Webster 1972. Webster, P. V., ‘Severn Valley Ware on Hadrian’s Wall’, ArchAeliana4, 50, (1972), pp. 191-203.

Webster 1976. Webster, P. V., ‘Severn Valley Ware: a preliminary study’, TBGAS, 94, (1976), pp. 18-46.

Webster 1977. Webster, P. V., ‘Severn Valley ware on the Antonine frontier’ 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. 163-76.

Distribution of Severn Valley wares in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: SVW (p.197)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: SVW OX 1 ((Malvernian) Severn Valley Oxidised ware 1, p.148).
  • Fabric code: SVW OX 2 ((Unsourced) Severn Valley Oxidised ware 2, p.149).
Thumbnail images
Worcestershire ceramics online database
(Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service)
  • Fabric no. 12 (Oxidised Severn Valley ware)
  • Fabric no. 12.1 (Reduced Severn Valley ware)
  • Fabric no. 12.2 (Oxidised organically tempered Severn Valley ware)
  • Fabric no. 12.3 (Organically tempered reduced Severn Valley Ware)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
Ceramics in Herefordshire
(Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, Herefordshire) Pages include some images.
The pottery kilns of Roman Britain (Swan 1984)
Kilns producing this ware are located at:
  • Alkington (Glos)
  • Ledbury (Heref)
  • Wroxeter (Salop)
  • Bransford (Worcs)
  • Great Malvern (Worcs)
  • Malvern Link (Worcs)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Severn Valley wares
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/SVW • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.