Medieval Pottery Research Group

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Newsletter No. 49 - August 2004

Secretary's Notes

The group's AGM and Council meeting were held on 29th June during the three-day conference in Winchester. Reports on the MPRG's finances indicate they are currently in a healthy state, but that fund raising needs to continue in order to maintain them. Further good news came from the Editorial Committee. Volume 25 of Medieval Ceramics has been published and should have now been received by all subscribers. It was reported that funding for Volume 26 (covering the Dublin Conference papers from 2002) has been located, but not from the Heritage Council. Volume 27 is currently under editorial scrutiny and is just one paper short. The Editorial Committee reported changes for the compilation of the Bibliography. The cost of including this in Medieval Ceramics has proved prohibitive, and its appearance in volume 25 will be the last. However, close liaison with the online Bibliography (previously hosted by Liverpool University, now at the ADS as of 2010) will mean that the information will continue to be updated and available online. Council will be looking to appoint someone to compile and maintain this resource in the near future. The Meetings Secretary revealed details of forthcoming conferences. 2005 will see a one-day event at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum on the theme of 'Pottery in Public', and in 2006 a three-day conference is planned at Chester, with the provisional theme of investigating pottery connected with institutions.

The AGM also voted new Council members into position. Both the AGM and Council extended many thanks to Lorraine Mepham, Victoria Bryant, Jacqueline Pearce, Jennie Stopford and Liz Pieksma who have come to the end of their time on the Council; and also to Duncan Brown for having organised the hugely successful Winchester conference. The newly elected council members are Mark Redknap (Vice President), Stanley Cauvain (Co editor), Chris Jarret (Assistant Editor), Julie Edwards (Ordinary Member) and Anne Boyle (Secretary).

Other issues raised during the AGM included a request for members' input to the European Production Centres Database. The EAA are developing the idea and a round-table discussion is scheduled for September in Lyons. Lucy Whittingham invited further contributions to Medieval Ceramics honouring the work of John Hurst. Discussions on how John's memory can further be commemorated are to be discussed by the Council, and ideas such as updating the bibliography of his work were put forward during the AGM.

The next Council meeting is due to be held on Tuesday, 12th October at the Society of Antiquaries. Any comments or issues to be raised at that meeting should be directed to me before then for inclusion on the agenda.

Anne Boyle, Secretary


President's Notes

In the Spring, the President gave a research seminar to King Alfred's College, Winchester about MPRG and its considerable achievements over the past 10 years, areas that still need to be addressed and some new initiatives.

The achievements include the publication of A Guide to the Classification of Medieval Ceramic Forms (1998); the Minimum Standards for the Processing, Recording, Analysis and Publication on Post-Roman Ceramics (2001); the Scientific Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics (2001); the digitisation of the National Bibliography and finally the National Database of Medieval Pottery Production in England: a new gazetteer, available on CD ROM (2003), has attracted considerable interest in other parts of the United Kingdom, Ireland and on the Continent.

The Group's submission to APPAG (the All Parliamentary Group) in 2001, focussed on the state of ceramic studies of all periods. It was perceived that there was:

  1. A need for increased resources for synthesis
  2. Increased support for archive and reference collections
  3. An increase in teaching of ceramics in universities

In 2004 these issues still need to be addressed, but King Alfred's, now University College, Winchester were stimulated to consider these issues. University College are now considering introducing a placement in year 2, leading to a dissertation in year 3. Is this something other academic institutions might explore?

For the past two years there has been an initiative at European level, led by Guus Lange of ROB in Holland, for a cyberspace European Reference Collection for all archaeological material culture. Professor Clive Orton (past President) gave a keynote address and Maureen Mellor, as President, was asked to give a paper on 'Building quality in working collections' at a workshop in Amerfoort. In order to test these concepts and make the best use of technology, the President carried out a straw-poll, over three days, amongst the curators of the ceramic reference collections in the United Kingdom. A fifty percent response was achieved and a further five responses were received after the workshop. The results of the survey were presented at the conference (see below), in order to stimulate discussion on a joined-up bottom up approach.

Reference collections and type series are vital for research and must be kept up-to-date. Such collections enable us to build quality into our data and the collection of quality data is essential. These resources should be part of the discussion, within the English Heritage led initiative to produce regional research guidelines. Spin-offs include a common terminology which is all the more pressing as we begin to put material on the web. The Group's online listing on the MPRG website is an extremely useful resource, please look at it and make sure the details of your local and regional type series and reference collections are up-to-date.

Surveys, such as that carried out by Alexandra Gutierrez, of Higher Education research/teaching do much to keep us in touch with the current state of ceramic studies in the United Kingdom and enable Council to try to find remedies, where necessary.

Another new initiative linked to Europe-wide integration is the Group's promotion of the database and online resource of European Production Centres. This will be discussed and taken further at the forthcoming EAA conference in Lyons (8th–11th September) which will be attended by the President and Assistant Secretary.

Maureen Mellor, President


National Gazetteer of Medieval Pottery Production Centres

Have you got your copy of the CD yet? For the next 18 months, until March 2006, the database will be maintained by Phil Marter and anyone wanting to update or make corrections to particular entries will be able to do so by passing new information directly to him. In March 2006, the responsibility for the upkeep of the database will pass to the Medieval Pottery Research Group. So if you have not yet got a copy, contact Phil Marter


News from the Ashmolean

Dr Susan Walker, took up her post as Keeper of the Department of Antiquities at the Ashmolean in April this year. The Ashmolean has recently heard news of the award of £15m lottery funding to start the rebuilding project. Dr Walker writes: we expect building work to start on site in 2006, for completion in 2008 and reinstallation of the displays and reserve collections in 2009. We expect to begin packing and decanting the collections in the coming winter (2004/5). At the time of writing, the post-Roman ceramics collections have a high profile both in cross-cultural displays on the top floor of the new buildings, and in culturally specific displays on the making of the modern world on the first floor.

Ceramic Events in the Ashmolean Museum

An exhibition of 1000 years of Jingdezhen: 22 September – 8 January

Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province, has had porcelain kilns, burning since the early 11th century. During this remarkably long history of porcelain making, it became the site of the imperial porcelain kilns from the mid-14th century until the foundation of the Republic in the early 20th century. All the pieces on display are from the Museum's own extensive collection.

Introductory Study Day: 'Pottery or Porcelain'?: Saturday 25th September 2004, 10.00–4.00. Cost £25GBP (£9GBP full time students)

Day of Special Interest: 'Collectors and Collecting': Saturday 27th November 2004, 10.00–4.00. Cost £40GBP (£20GBP full time students). Includes lunch and glass of wine.

For more information or to make a booking please contact the Ashmolean Education team on 01865 278015


New websites

Announcing TileWeb, a new website at the Ashmolean and collaborative venture between Worcester City Museums and Art Gallery and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, enabled in part by the Millennium Commission.

Announcing the new website of the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group.


Regional Group Reports

Scottish Group

Skinnergate excavations
Skinnergate, Perth (© SUAT Ltd)

Skinnergate, Perth

Recent developer funded excavations on the Skinnergate in Perth located up to 14 separate floor levels overlying each other to formation level. The pottery assemblage recovered from these deposits implies that there may be as little as 150 years between the highest and lowest floors, this has interesting implications for the level of renewal of timber buildings in the medieval burgh. This site has also produced yet another fragment of North German stove tile dating to the 15th or 16th centuries.

Redware Sourcing

Historic Scotland have now commissioned this follow on to the redware pilot study of 1997 and the project members are in the process of collecting brick, tile, pottery and clay samples.

Perth High Street Excavation

SUAT Ltd have been commissioned by Historic Scotland to manage the post-excavation programme on the late Nicholas Bogdan's excavations to completion. As part of this all the imported pottery will be laid out for a specialist seminar in September or October of this year.

Scottish contact


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