Potsherd: Atlas of Roman Pottery

Verulamium-region white ware

Flagons, bowls and jars in a pale granular wares produced at Brockley Hill (Middx/GB) and the St Albans (Verulamium, Herts/GB) region and distributed in south-east England during the the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

Introduction

In addition to mortaria, the Verulamium-region potteries produced a range of other vessel types, some of which were widely distributed.

Fabric and technology

Hard, granular fabric with slightly laminar texture; typically white or off-white (2.5YR 9/0-5/0 to 10YR 9/1) through pink to orange (2.5YR 6/8) ; abundant well-sorted multi-coloured quartz with sparse red iron in a clean matrix. Wheel-thrown. Surfaces usually unsmoothed, but trimmed near bases.

Forms

Principal forms covered by Southwark type-series:

Class Description
IA Collared flagon
IB Ring-necked flagon
IC Pinch-mouthed flagon
ID Disc-mouthed flagon
IE Two-handled flagon
IH ‘Concave’ neck with rolled out rim
IJ Large two-handled flagon
IIG Necked jar
IIH ‘Biconical’ urn
IIJ ‘Unguent jar’
IIK Two-handled ‘honey-pot’
IVA Reeded-rim bowls

Table 1.  Classification of Verulamium-region forms (after Marsh and Tyers)

Additional minor forms known at the kilns or on local sites include dishes, tazze/ face pots (Braithwaite 1984, 108) lamps, crucibles and beakers.

Cylindrical amphoras of the Dressel 2-4 form stamped by the potter Dares were certainly produced at Brockley Hill (Castle 1978) and the resin on their inner surfaces suggests they were intended to carry local wines (Williams 1985, 128-30).

The larger specimens of the two-handled flagons, Southwark form IJ, have long been referred to as ‘amphora-types’ (Corder 1941, 291; Richardson 1948, 14) and we can now point to some broad typological similarity with the flat-based Gauloise series (see GAUL). A complete specimen with a stamp across the shoulder reading SENECIONIS has been reported (Symonds 1993) although it has not been demonstrated that the VRW vessels were stoppered, sealed and transported with contents.

Chronology

Presence of VRW in pre-Boudiccan groups at both London and St Albans, suggests inception in AD 50s; common through to mid-2nd cent. perhaps with some production through to end of 2nd cent. AD. Most common in London during Flavian-Trajanic period, which coincides with production period of the most prolific Verulamium-region mortarium potters.

Source

Watling Street, between London and Verulamium. Major workshops at Brockley Hill, Radlett, Little Munden and St Albans.

Distribution

Major supplier of flagons and bowls to London (over 20% of all pottery during Flavian-Trajanic period = 90% of all oxidized wares) and St Albans; up to 5% at Magiovinium (Bucks;Parminter in Neal 1987, 91) In Kent – where the data are relatively complete – Pollard demonstrates that the number of VRW forms declines with distance from the source (Pollard 1988, 26-7). Elsewhere recording is irregular, and usually confined to vessels noted for their similarity with the more widely recognized mortarium fabric (VRMO). Flagons seem to be the most widely distributed form, but there are even differences between the VRW assemblage from London and St Albans (see discussion of Marsh and Tyers 1978, form IIH).

Aliases

Carlisle fabric 179. Chelmsford fabric 26. Chesterfield fabric 25. Colchester fabric FJ. Gloucester fabrics TF9T and TF209. Great Chesterford fabric 25. JRPS bibliography fabric vrr. King Harry Lane fabric VRP. Leicester fabric WW5. Lullingstone fabric 30. Kent coarse fabric 5.

Bibliography

Summaries of VRW industry: Marsh and Tyers 1978; Swan 1984 97-8; Seeley and Thorogood 1994. For kilns: RCHM gazetteer F354-5, F359-62, F475-80.

References

Braithwaite 1984. Braithwaite, G., ‘Romano-British Face Pots and Head Pots’, Britannia, 15, (1984), pp. 99-131.

Castle 1978. Castle, S. A., ‘Amphorae from Brockley Hill, 1975’, Britannia, 9, (1978), pp. 383-92.

Corder 1941. Corder, P., ‘A Roman pottery of the Hadrianic-Antonine period at Verulamium’, AntJ, 21, (1941), pp. 271-98.

Marsh and Tyers 1978. Marsh, G. D. and Tyers, P. A., ‘The Roman Pottery from Southwark’ in Southwark Excavations 1972-74, ed. J. Bird, A. H. Graham, H. L. Sheldon and P. Townend, Joint Publication (London and Middlesex Archaeological Society and Surrey Archaeological Society), 1, London, (1978), pp. 530-607.

Neal 1987. Neal, D. S., ‘Excavations at Magiovinium, Buckinghamshire, 1978-80’, RecBucks, 29, (1987), pp. 1-124.

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

Richardson 1948. Richardson, K. M., ‘Report on the excavations at Brockley Hill, Middlesex, August and September 1947’, TLAMAS, 10, 1, (1948), pp. 1-23.

Seeley and Thorogood 1994. Seeley, F. and Thorogood, C., ‘Back to Brockley Hill’, LA, 7, 9, (1994), pp. 223-8.

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

Symonds 1993. Symonds, R. P., ‘Amphores Romano-Britanniques’ in Actes du Congrès de Versailles, 20-23 mai 1993. Société Française d’tude de la Céramique Antique en Gaul, ed. L. Rivet, SFECAG, Marseille, (1993), pp. 281-91.

Williams 1985. Williams, D. F., ‘Petrological examination of amphorae from Colchester Sheepen’ in Amphoras from the 1970 excavations at Colchester Sheepen, ed. P. R. Sealey, 142, BRA, (1985), pp. 153-166.

Distribution of Verulamium-region white ware in Britain
Roman Pottery in Britain (Tyers 1996)
  • Fabric code: VRW (p.199)
Thumbnail images (click for higher resolution):
National Roman Fabric Reference Collection
(Dore & Tomber 1998, Museum of London Archaeology Service Monograph 2)
  • Fabric code: VER WH (Verulamium Region White ware, p.154).
Thumbnail 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:
  • Aldenham (Herts)
  • St. Albans (Herts)
  • St. Stephens (Herts)
  • Harrow (Middx)
  • Hendon (Middx)
Further details of these sites are available through the link above, and are summarized and mapped here.
Verulamium-region white ware
URL: http://potsherd.net/atlas/Ware/VRW • © Text 1996, 2014: Layout 2012, 2014. Some images may be linked to other web sites.