No. 40 – August 2001

Secretary’s Notes

Council met at the Museum of London on 21st June, with a full agenda of editorial and conference matters amongst others. The editorial committee remain as busy as ever, despite the successful appearance of the Minimum Standards document (for details of how to obtain this publication, see elsewhere in this Newsletter). Work will now proceed on the joint Minimum Standards document (in conjunction with the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group and the Roman Pottery Group). Volume 24 of Medieval Ceramics is well advanced, with all but one paper received and reviewed. This volume should, all being well, be published towards the end of this year.

The Edinburgh conference proved most successful, making a profit of about £500; a short report on the proceedings, and the AGM, appears below. Arrangements for our 2002 conference in Dublin are progressing well, many thanks to Clare McCutcheon who has set up the venue (Trinity College) and a tempting array of exhibitions, viewings and social events. The dates will be 2nd-4th September, so get it in your diary now. And for those members who may perhaps feel that two ‘long-distance’ conferences in a row are not practicable, plans are afoot to organise a one-day meeting in London in the spring next year, with a provisional theme of ‘Redwares and Slipwares’. More details will be available nearer the date. It has yet to be decided where next year’s AGM will be held.

The response from higher education institutions to Alejandra Gutierrez’s questionnaire on ceramics teaching/ research has been very positive, and a high proportion of the 40 selected institutions (those dealing with medieval pottery, or which have MPRG members on the staff, or which have a ceramic background) have replied. Most university archaeology departments have at least some modules where medieval pottery could fit in, but it is currently only taught if there is an appropriate specialist on the staff. This is where the second part of the survey comes in – the survey of expertise amongst MPRG members – but response to this has been poor, only about 25 replies out of about 200 circulated (UK) members. The aim is to provide information to universities on who might be useful specialists to contact, and to collect data on who is doing research, and where (there are currently only two recorded PhDs in medieval pottery). So if you haven’t yet filled in your questionnaire, please spare a little time to do so if you can.

Finally, we are happy to announce that our vacant Council posts have been filled: Victoria Bryant (formerly Buteux) has accepted the post of Vice-President and, subsequent to the Council meeting, Liz Pieksma has agreed to stand as an Ordinary Member. As neither were elected at the Edinburgh AGM, these posts will be co-opted until they can be confirmed at the next AGM.

The next Council meeting will be held on Thursday 18th October; if you have any comments or wish to raise any issues please contact me before then.

Lorraine Mepham, Secretary

AGM Report

The 2001 AGM was held at the Edinburgh conference, and was (just) quorate. Despite our best intentions, yet again we found ourselves squeezed into an inadequate time-slot, and this has to hold the record for the quickest AGM on record – I clocked it at 20 minutes.

There was, needless to say, little time for discussion, and the reports from the various officers were very briefly presented. Most of this information had already been discussed at Council meetings and has therefore already been summarised in the past year’s Newsletters, apart from the Treasurer’s report. Bob Will reported a healthy bank balance, but an income which was not currently keeping pace with expenditure. One answer to this is to raise subscriptions, and it was agreed at the meeting that this should be done; Council will be discussing the new rates before proposing them at the next AGM.

The publication of Occasional Paper No. 2 (the Minimum Standards document) was announced – a preliminary box had arrived hotfoot from the publishers in time to make it onto the conference bookstall. Otherwise the only other item of any note came from our President, Clive Orton, who announced that he had just been promoted to Professor, along with two of his colleagues. The meeting offered well-deserved congratulations and a bottle of champagne.

Lorraine Mepham, Secretary

Annual Conference 2001 – Edinburgh

This year’s conference was held over a weekend in May at the City Arts Centre in Edinburgh, an unimaginably distant location for those of us miserable southerners who feel unsafe north of Watford. For those of us who braved the crossing of Hadrian’s Wall, however, the event was well worth the effort. This was billed as an ‘old-style’ conference, with an emphasis on pottery viewing and plenty of time for discussion. And this we certainly got on the Sunday, with the whole day devoted to the examination and discussion of a large display of pottery from Edinburgh and other sites in Scotland, in which the local redwares and white gritty wares appeared alongside a wide range of imported wares. The day’s main objective was to identify as many of the imports as possible, and to discuss the best means of publishing them.

This is to jump the gun, however – the conference began on the Friday evening with a reception and a lecture by George Haggarty on the development of the Scottish ceramic industry in the Edinburgh region. This was a fascinating introduction to the subject but, by his own admission, merely scratched the surface of an industry which is still imperfectly understood – there is clearly the potential here for much future research, both archaeological and documentary.

Saturday was filled with papers, most of which concerned the recent research into the two major Scottish medieval ceramic industries: Redwares and White Gritty Wares. Each type was evidently made at many different locations, and sourcing thus depends largely on scientific analysis. Two pilot studies, on the two respective industries, have so far been undertaken in conjunction with the British Geological Survey, and funded by Historic Scotland. George Haggarty, Derek Hall and Bob Will gave the background to these pilot studies, and Dr Simon Chenery of the BGS gave two presentations on the results, which have proved the potential of scientific analysis to aid the definition of source areas within each industry. Overall this was an excellent example of how well thought-out strategies to answer specific problems in ceramic research have led to targeted analysis and successful results – a lesson for others contemplating similar problems. It was also extremely encouraging to hear the comments made by Olwyn Owen (Historic Scotland), which were very supportive of the current research taking place in Scottish ceramic studies.

A conference wouldn’t be a conference without the socialising, and a number of us enjoyed a splendid meal at the Marlin’s Wynd restaurant, in some impressively restored vaults close to the Royal Mile, while others elected to sample the Edinburgh nightlife.

So congratulations and many thanks to George Haggarty, Bob Will and Charlie Murray for organising such an enjoyable conference, and to all the others who helped behind the scenes; here’s to the next Edinburgh event!

Lorraine Mepham, Secretary

MPRG Conference 2002 – Dublin, 2nd-4th Sept.

All members are encouraged to attend the conference next year. The conference centre is Trinity College, right in the centre of Dublin and close by The National Museum of Ireland, The National Library, The National Gallery, The Natural History Museum, The Dail (Parliament), several outstanding book shops and plenty of shopping!

Accommodation has been pre-booked for c40 in Trinity itself at an approximate cost of câ50 euros B&B per night (approx £40 stg). Remember that as of 1 January 2002, Ireland’s currency will be the euro, and all payments must be in that currency. I would be very much obliged if members who are definitely coming could give me an indication so that I can adjust the accommodation if possible. There will be a limited number of double rooms for couples but the balance will be single rooms on their own or within apartments. There will also be suitable accommodation in hotels etc near Trinity.

As the conference lectures are firmed up I will let the members know what is happening but there will be a broad appeal in the lectures and much of interest to our members, and hopefully the wider archaeological community in Ireland in order to allow for some interaction beween us all. The third day will be dedicated specifically to pottery including lectures and viewing of some of the material housed in the National Museum of Ireland’s stores. As this is the central location for all artefacts in the Republic of Ireland there will be much to interest our members.

Clare McCutcheon

Regional Groups


6th October, Aylesbury

The SEMPER meeting to be held at West Stow has been postponed until next Spring, so the next SEMPER meeting will be at the somewhat more reliable venue of Aylesbury Museum. The theme is to be announced, but part of the day will probably involve a discussion of ceramic type series.

For further details, Anna Slowikowski, tel 01234 270009.


6th October, Liverpool

The next NWRMPRG meeting will be on Saturday 6th October 2001. The products of the Buckley potteries in Flintshire, Wales will be the topic for the day which will be hosted by Liverpool Museum at their store in Liverpool. For further information please contact Julie Edwards, c/o 27 Grosvenor Street, Chester CH1 2DD.

Meetings and Conferences

Finds Research Group AD700-1700

4th – 5th November, Dublin

The FRG Autumn meeting will be held in Dublin. This is a two-day conference. One day is devoted to the Viking to early medieval transition in Ireland focusing on Dublin, and the second day will concentrate on the medieval to post-medieval transition in England.

For further information contact: Quita Mould, Eastmoor Manor, Eastmoor, Kings Lynn, Norfolk. PE33 9PZ, tel 01366 328910.

Society for Medieval Archaeology: Town and Country 1100-1500

12th-14th April 2002, York

Organised by the Society for Medieval Archaeology, to be held at the University of York. Themes include: inhabiting the medieval town and countryside; producing and consuming in town and country; urban landscapes: landscape archaeology and towns; powers, beliefs and mentalities. Contact Kate Giles, Dept of Archaeology, University of York, King’s Manor, York YO1 7EP.

Medieval Europe 2002

10th-15th September, Basel, Switzerland

The theme of next year’s conference is ‘Centre – Region – Periphery’. There are eight themes, which are as follows:

  • Cultural regions, economic areas
  • Innovation, communication, interaction
  • Sovereignty and territory
  • Structure and topography of the ruling power: Identity and demarcation
  • Settlement in inhospitable regions
  • The Regio TriRhena
  • New studies of medieval and later archaeology in Europe (poster session)

The detailed programme and the (final) registration forms will be sent out in Autumn 2001 to all who have enrolled by 1st October 2001 via email, fax or post. Contact Medieval Europe Basel 2002, c/o Archaeologische Bodenforschung, Petersgraben 11, PO Box CH-4001 Basel, Switzerland. Fax +41-61-267 23 76, web

Teaching pottery

Alejandra Guttierez would still like to hear from members who are interested in teaching medieval pottery at their local university or other educational establishment. She intends to contact university archaeology departments with a list of potential tutors very soon. If interested, please contact her at Dept of Archaeology, University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE.

MPRG Standards

The MPRG Minimum Standards for the Processing, Recording, Analysis and Publication of Post-Roman Ceramics is now available, and a flyer whould be enclosed with this newsletter.

Price: £4.50 + £1.00 postage and packing.

Order copies from: MPRG, c/o Museum of London Specialist Services, Mortimer Wheeler House, 46 Eagle Wharf Road, London, N1 7ED.

Note: If you bought a copy at the conference, please print an addendum sheet from the MPRG website.

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