Medieval Pottery Research Group

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Newsletter No. 33 – April 1999

Council News

Council met on the 10th February at the British Museum. The Secretary reported that he was unable personally to take up the invitation to attend the Council meeting of the Society for Medieval Archaeology. He sent instead a report of the Group's activities together with assurances that we are willing to continue a closer association. The Secretary also reported that this meeting was his last, after a period of ten years as both an ordinary member and as Secretary. He thanked all those who had made his various tasks easier and acknowledged the enthusiasm and commitment of his colleagues over the years.

The Editorial Committee once more reported at length. Volume 21 of Medieval Ceramics should be published soon and may be enclosed with this Newsletter. Volume 22 is currently giving fewer problems and the Editors are aiming for publication in early summer. So far, two papers have been submitted which will go in volume 23, and a publication date coinciding with next year's conference is a possibility.

The Occasional papers series is also occupying the Editors' attention as we now need to approach English Heritage with costs for the publication of Paul Blinkhorn's analysis of Ipswich Ware and we are also expecting a first draft of the Trondheim Redwares publication. Comments upon the Minimum Standards have also been received and a publication draft should soon be with the external editor. This will hopefully be in print this year and distributed free to all members, perhaps with the autumn Newsletter.

The build-up to the 1999 conference at Sheffield is encouraging and we are all looking forward to meeting with the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group over what should be a very fruitful and thought-provoking two days. Council also turned its attention to next year's conference. This will coincide with the Group's 25th anniversary and we would like to put on a celebration of 25 years of pottery studies. Watch this space!

Further plans for our 25th anniversary were discussed including the suggestion of a conference T-shirt! We mainly concentrated on the suggestions from our 25th Anniversary Working Party who had gathered together costings for the production of a postcard. Council has decided to produce a single image to put onto a celebration postcard. The inspiration for this came from the superb cover photograph John Allan supplied for Everyday and Exotic Pottery. Our idea is to compose a similar shot of a 'ceramic super-group' composed of the greatest, most representative, most spectacular pots in the country (and abroad if that is possible). The Secretary will receive nominations and arrange for the collection of the vessels and their photographing. It was thought that it might still be possible to put together a touring exhibition as part of our celebrations but we need to find someone to organise this. Such an exhibition might consist of the same pots that appear on our postcard. Are there any volunteers? One further suggestion was that the Group needs a new, simpler logo for letter-heads and to go on the back of the postcard. See elsewhere in this Newsletter.

Finally, nominations for the new Council were discussed. The arrangement regarding the Editors' posts, as set out in the last Newsletter, are going ahead. Katherine Barclay and Mike Hughes will be co-opted onto Council for a period of six months each in order to stagger the terms of office served by both editors. Further details of nominations to Council are enclosed with the Newsletter.

The next Council meeting is set for the middle of June where Lorraine Mepham will be Secretary; if you have any comments or wish to raise any issues please write to her.

Duncan H Brown, Secretary


Regional Groups: Mellor Report

In the August 1998 newsletter it was noted that I, as regional groups officer, should undertake to review the recommendations of the Mellor Report which remained after the work of the implementation committee. To this end I wrote to the various regional groups suggesting that one of their roles might be to consider sections 8.3 and 8.4 of the report with a view to compiling regional surveys of ceramic potential and lists of key unpublished sites and assemblages. I received two replies, both noting the importance of the Mellor report proposals and the importance of the tasks. It seems, however, that the scale of the task is probably too great to be undertaken without adequate funding and support. In addition, issues of inter-regional compatibility in the type of data recorded and the format in which it should be presented, require some sort of national co-ordination. Both points seem entirely reasonable. If anyone has any comments or further suggestions about ways in which these issues might be addressed then I would be pleased to hear from them.

Chris Cumberpatch


Ceramics and related courses

Materials and Technology

A week-long course (28th June–2nd July 1999) run by the Dept. of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford. The course can be taken as part of a postgraduate programme or Continuing Professional Development (CPD) if required (this assessed option costs £290, unassessed is £220). Places are limited to 20 participants. The course covers the technology of ceramics, glass, and metals. It will examine the practical and chemical processes involved in the conversion of raw materials to final product. For further details contact John McIlwaine, Co-ordinator for Continuing and Professional Education, Dept of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, Bradford BD7 1DP, tel 01274 235428, fax 01274 235190


Meetings and Conferences

Majolica and glass: from Italy to Antwerp and beyond

See previous newsletters for more detail. The conference will take place in Antwerp on 3rd–5th June 1999, and the fee will be approximately 1500 BEF. For further information contact Stad Antwerpen, Archeologie, Godefriduskaai 36, B-2000 Antwerpen, Belgium, tel/fax +32 3 232 9208.

Mineralogy of ceramics ancient and modern

There will be a meeting on this subject of the Applied Mineralogy Group at the Mineralogical Society, 41 Queen's Gate, London SW7 on Thursday 17th June 1999. For further details, contact Andrew Middleton, Dept of Scientific Research, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, tel 020 7323 8342

5th European Meeting on Ancient Ceramics (EMAC 99)

The main scope of the meeting, to be held in Athens on 18th–20th October 1999, is the presentation and discussion of recent developments in the field of ceramic studies, with special emphasis on integrated approaches of scientific and archaeological/typological methods. There are also five proposed topics: methodological considerations; chemical, physical and mineralogical characterisation for provenance and technology; study of kiln material and reconstruction of kiln function; data handling; developments on dating. Deadline for abstracts is 31st May 1999. Contact EMAC 99, c/o Laboratory of Archaeometry, Institute of Materials Science, NCSR Demokritos, Aghia Paraskevi, 15310 Attiki, Greece, tel +30 1 650 3392, fax +30 1 651 9430


Miscellaneous Items

Pots required to form a ceramic 'Supergroup'

As part of the Group's 25th anniversary celebrations, we want to produce a postcard portraying a Ceramic Supergroup. We are looking for the most spectacular, representative or extraordinary pots; about a dozen to twenty of them to be photographed together in a one-off gathering. Vessels will be brought together at a museum under a recognised loans system (which should assuage concerns over security and validity) and photographed by a professional. The resultant image will be sold as a postcard by the MPRG at our conferences and other gatherings. We would also like to display the pots together at our 25th Anniversary Conference in May of next year, when the postcard will first appear.

Anybody wishing to offer candidates for the Ceramic Supergroup, or who wish to make further enquiries, should write to Duncan Brown at Cultural Services, Southampton City Council, Solent House, Town Quay, Southampton, SO14 0EF. Enclose a photo or reference to a publication if you can. We are not looking for nominations, only offers from those who are in a position to loan the actual vessels.

The deadline for offers is the 30th June 1999.

Competition! – Design a Logo

The MPRG is looking for a new logo to appear as part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations. The logo will be used on letter-heads, appear on the back of our postcard, become the wallpaper for the Group's web-site and appear anywhere else we can put it. The competition winner will receive a bottle of Champagne, to be presented at our conference next year.

The winner will be decided by the Council of the Medieval Pottery Research Group and their decision is final. The winning design will become the property of the MPRG for copyright and all other purposes.

The deadline for competition entries is the 30th September 1999. Send your designs to Lorraine Mepham, Wessex Archaeology, Portway House, Old Sarum Park, Salisbury, Wiltshire, SP4 6EB.


Exhibition

Old Crocks and New Pots

Grosvenor Museum, Chester, 1st May–25th July.

Taking as its starting point surviving pottery from Chester's past, this exhibition looks at how modern potters have re-interpreted traditional techniques to produce new pottery for use today. Work by John Hudson, Andrew MacDonald, Steve Harrison and various other potters will be featured. There will be prehistoric to 17th century ceramics on display, and repro and contemporary pots for sale.

Julie Edwards

Lion Salt Works – salt glazing

The Lion Salt Works Trust in Northwich, Cheshire, have recently been involved in producing salt for pottery glazing by artist potter, Steve Harrison. A sponsor is being sought to underwrite the production costs for a complete kiln of salt glazed stoneware pots, including bellarmine copies. Further information is available in their free newsletter - contact them at Lion Salt Works Trust, Ollershaw Lane, Marston, Northwich CW9 6ES, tel/fax 01606 41823.


New CBM Group

Archaeological Ceramic Building Materials Group

This new study group was established at a recent meeting held at the Museum of London. It has been set up as a forum to organise research into archaeologically derived ceramic building materials (cbm), and related artefacts, obtained through excavation and survey. It covers material from the late Iron Age to the post-medieval period. The group intends to:

If you are interested in joining, or would like further information, please contact Sandra Garside-Neville, Archaeological Ceramic Building Materials Group, 63 Wilton Rise, York YO24 4BT, tel 01904 621339.


Staffordshire Ceramics - reports on a conference and a course

Pots, People and Processes, Stoke-on-Trent, 24th–26th April 1998

A joint conference of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology and the Northern Ceramics Society: The aim of the conference was to present a range of new workin post-medieval ceramic history and archaeology to a mixed audience of archaeologists, museum curators and collectors. As organiser, my primary aim – unstated – was to stress the importance of archaeology in the study of ceramics with a view to influencing approaches to 'ceramic history'. New work there certainly was, with 30 papers being presented in a packed two-and-a-half days. Most of the speakers came from an archaeological background, but the range of subjects included kilns and firing technology, the evidence from a variety of production sites including the pottery producing centres of Buckley and Ticknall, consumption and marketing, and a more theoretical approach to the analysis of ceramics.

There was a definite bias towards the refined wares of the 18th and 19th centuries, which simply reflected the nature of the work being undertaken and the expanding interests of the archaeological community. The archaeology of a major 19th century pottery factory – J & P Bell's Glasgow factory – provided a remarkable focal point for the second day, and was a clear statement of the potential of the archaeology of the recent past. Julie Edwards and Keith Matthews developed this theme in concluding with their discussion of the excavations at Hamilton Place, Chester, and the ceramic finds from 19th century dwellings which were demolished in 1939.

The conference brought together around 150 people from all walks of life, whose common interest was ceramics, all of whom left with the knowledge that their subjects could be approached from many different angles, all of which were valid. Indeed, the great achievement of the conference was the enthusiasm generated and the communication amongst the group. We might have allowed more time for questions, but this would have been at the expense of information.

Synopses of the papers are available from David Barker at the Potteries Museum, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, ST1 3DE (please include A4 or A5 SAE or international reply coupon), and it was important that everyone present had the best value for money.

David Barker

Staffordshire Ceramics, first session 15th–16th March 1999

An English Heritage-sponsored course at the Potteries Museum: A small group of Prehistoric, Roman and post-Roman pottery specialists with a wide range of ceramic experience attended the first of two courses run in the same week. We were all made to feel very welcome by David Barker and his team.

The course started at a relatively leisurely pace, covering early post-medieval yellow wares from the Staffordshire and Midlands areas, and making brief comparisons with material from the Surrey-Hampshire border. Other 'coarse' wares including slipwares and Midlands Purple Ware were also covered in depth, with samples being passed around and compared with similar material of later dates.

Mention Staffordshire ceramics, and I immediately think of the slip-decorated press-moulded flatwares and hollow wares of the late 17th and 18th centuries. We looked at both common and rare forms of these and compared them with samples of similar wares made in Bristol.

The first evening was rounded off with an excellent Chinese meal in a local restaurant (the second group sampled an Italian establishment), and a brief session in the bar of the motel where accommodation had been arranged for the course.

The second day was more intensive, covering material which many of us had less or no experience of, the refined wares (earthenware, stoneware and porcelain) of the 18th and 19th centuries. Common types were looked at, including the decorative techniques of transfer printing, under- and over-glaze painting, enamelling, and applied relief moulding.

Although there was a huge amount of information to cover, with several participants suggesting a three- rather than two-day course in future, the excellent handouts prepared by the tutors helped considerably and will be constantly referred to when working on assemblages of this fascinating period of ceramic history.

Further courses will be run if Sarah Jennings receives enough letters from those interested in attending. Write to her at CAS, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth, PO9 4LD, fax 01705 838060.

Sue Anderson


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