2020 Conference: Pottery and Religion, Durham

2020 MPRG Annual conference and AGM

Due to the current restrictions MPRG has postponed the 3-day conference, planned to take place at Durham University in June 2020, until 2021.

Our Constitution requires us to hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) before the 31st December of each year, MPRG Council is considering holding a one-day conference and the AGM towards the end of this year and further information will be circulated in due course.

No. 50 – December 2004

Secretary’s Notes

The Group’s Council meeting was held on the 12th October at the Society of Antiquaries in London. A good attendance was increased further by two co-opted members: Jenny Vaughan and David Dawson, in order to increase the number of regions represented by the current council.

A decision on a fitting memorial to John Hurst was made during the meeting. It was decided that a travel fund, to assist scholars in visiting ceramic collections, should be set up in his memory. It is hoped that MPRG members will want to contribute to the fund, both now and in the future and build on a small ‘nest egg’ that MPRG already holds. A letter with more details about the fund is enclosed with this newsletter.

The Society for Historical Archaeology will be held outside North America for the first time (January 5–10, 2005) at York. This will be an opportunity for those interested in Historical Archaeology (from the 15th century to the present day) to meet. MPRG has agreed to take a stand to promote the Group’s activities and publications.

Positive news from the EAA session was relayed by the President: the MPRG has been asked to become an associate member of ARTeFACT (the reference collections project). The concept of the creation of a European database and online resource of medieval and post-medieval pottery production centres received much support in Lyons. Council decided to collaborate with an academic institute and nominate a small steering group to drive the project forward. Potential candidates for the steering group are currently being approached.

The issue of a joint minimum standards document with Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group (PCRG) and Study Group for Roman Pottery (SGRP) was also raised. Initial inroads into creating a joint document had previously stalled; it was decided the project still had merit, but that the scope and extent of any resulting publication may involve more parties than originally thought. Consultations with those who may be interested in the project are currently taking place, with the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) finds group being used to canvass opinion on the matter.

The Editorial Committee has secured a significant proportion of the funding required for the next Medieval Ceramics. A subsequent volume has been set aside for papers from the Winchester Conference. It was also suggested that (as aired during this year’s conference), an updated bibliography of John Hurst’s publications would be a fitting addition to the next volume of Medieval Ceramics. Equally important is the continuity of the online bibliography. The Editorial Committee and Nigel Jeffries are to examine the extent of the task ahead, as a full appreciation of just what is involved was felt to be necessary.

The meetings secretary reported that the venue for the 2005 conference has changed, and will now be held at the Museum on London. The date for the conference is June 18th 2005. The Membership Secretary and Treasurer reported that the letters sent out with the last newsletter, to members still paying the old rate and to those whose membership has lapsed, had met with some success. However, there are still some members who have not responded.

The next council meeting is to be held in the Maiolica Room at the British Museum on Thursday, 27th January 2005. 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


Database of European Production Centres

Report on first round table of the working party on the creation of a database of medieval and post-medieval pottery production centres in Europe EAA Lyons 11/9/04

Following the inaugural meeting of this group at the EAA conference in St Petersburg in September 2003 the first round table was held on the afternoon of 11th September 2004. This meeting was chaired by Maureen Mellor, President of the Medieval Pottery Research Group, and attended by delegates from 10 European countries. Following three short presentations on the evidence for production centres in Northern France, Hungary and the UK given by Phillipe Husi, Zsolt Vagner and Derek Hall discussion focused on the aims of the project and the proposed structure of the database. It is initially intended that the English Heritage funded National Database of Medieval Pottery Production Centres in England is used as a model for the form and construction of a European one with necessary additions and subtractions depending on the level of evidence available in each country. It was also agreed that it would be very important to produce a web-based version of the database that would allow the dissemination of the evidence across Europe to anyone who was interested.

It is intended to seek funding for a 2 or 3 year project that will begin with discussions and workshops about the format of the proposed database, interest in being involved in the first stage have been tabled by delegates from France, Hungary, Belgium, Ireland and the UK (Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland). A group e-mail has been set up by Derek Hall and this will remain the main point of contact and discussion for the working party. It is intended to hold a second round table at EAA 2005 in Cork, Ireland.

Derek Hall, Secretary

Working Party on the creation of a database of medieval and post-medieval pottery production centres in Europe

See the Current Newsletter for project updates (PDF)


Internet Update

John Hudson has been dragged screaming and shouting into the 21st Century. He now has a website. Hope to see you there sometime.

Dr Chris Cumberpatch, English Heritage and the ADS/AHDS Archaeology are pleased to announce the launch of the South Yorkshire/North Derbyshire Medieval Ceramics Reference Collection.

The project as a whole consists of a number of elements: an on-line database; a physical reference collection curated by Weston Park Museum; and a series of articles describing specific potteries and their products, published in print or on-line. The on-line database, available at the url above, consists of descriptive information, including photographs covering medieval and post-medieval pottery from the county of South Yorkshire and the northern part of Derbyshire from a line drawn approximately between Stone, Uttoxeter and Derby, northward.

The collection is one of the results of the review of medieval pottery studies in England undertaken by Maureen Mellor on behalf of the Medieval Pottery Research Group and English Heritage in the early 1990s (Mellor 1994). The project was funded by English Heritage, managed by Archaeological Services (WYAS) and undertaken by Dr Chris Cumberpatch, with assistance from Dr D Williams, Dr N Walsh and Dr M Hughes. Assistance was given by museum and archaeological curators across the region, by the Derbyshire Archaeological Society and the Rotherham Archaeological Society and by a number of archaeological units and contractors working in the region.


Regional Group Reports

Scottish Group

Imported pottery layout at Perth Museum
Imported pottery layout at Perth Museum

Perth High Street Excavation

All the imported wares from this excavation were laid out in Perth Museum in late October for viewing by Alan Vince, Duncan Brown, Paul Blinkhorn, Sarah Jennings, Jane Youngs and Alejandra Guttierez. A valuable round table discussion followed with some controversial views being aired about the Englishness of this Scottish assemblage! D Hall and G Haggarty intend laying out the whole assemblage in order to get a better feel for the stratigraphy and sequence of this important group. The question of the recent carbon dating of the shelly wares from this excavation to the 11th century was also addressed and it is being suggested that a group of samples from London ought to be dated in the same way.

Monastic Industrial Sites

A Historic Scotland funded gazetteer of potential monastic industrial sites across Scotland is on the verge of completion by SUAT Ltd. This has concentrated on locating saltpans, tileworks, quarries, coalmines and lead, silver and gold mines. It is hoped that such a study may aid the future location of pottery production sites particularly as there would seem to be a strong chance that Scottish pottery manufacture started with the introduction of the major monastic orders in the 12th century.

Scottish contact e-mail dhall@suat.demon.co.uk

No. 51 – April 2005

Secretary’s Notes

The group met at the British Museum on 27th January 2005. News was relayed that the JG Hurst travel fund has got off to a good start, with several donations coming in since January. It was suggested other organisations with which John Hurst was associated might like to promote the JG Hurst travel fund so their members could contribute. It is hoped details about the fund will be included in the newsletters of other societies.

It had been decided previously that a bibliography of JG Hurst’s work on ceramics should be included in Medieval Ceramics. The brief for compiling the bibliography has now been completed. This will build on the bibliography in D Gaimster and M Redknap’s Everyday and exotic pottery from Europe c650-1900: studies in honour of JG Hurst. The bibliography will follow the same format as that employed in Medieval Ceramics and will include an acknowledgement of contributors at the end. A preamble will be added to the bibliography to put it into context.

Work on reviewing the procedures required by the online bibliography has also been completed. Guidelines on how the bibliography is maintained have been produced, as has a search list of journals (compiled by region); an electronic form for submitting the information is currently being devised. Contact has been made with those individuals who previously contributed to the bibliography in the hope they will be willing to continue in this role.

It was reported that a steering group had been put together to oversee the European Production Centres initiative: This comprises of Clive Orton (Director), Derek Hall (Secretary to the European Working Party), Phil Marter, Helena Hamerow and Maureen Mellor. A workshop for all those connected with the working party is being organised by the steering group on 28–29th April 2005 in Oxford. The meeting is open to all and details are available on the MPRG website on the News page.

Nominations for the upcoming vacancies on the council this summer (president, editor and ordinary member) have been received and nominees are being approached. This year’s conference (at the Museum of London, 18th June 2005) has seen a number of early bookings and a final programme is soon to be confirmed.

The next council meeting is to be held in the Maiolica Room at the British Museum on Thursday, 7th July 2005. 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


A new MA in Medieval Archaeology

University of Reading

The MA in Medieval Archaeology is for students who wish to develop their knowledge of the Middle Ages (AD 400-1500) through the advanced study of medieval archaeology. The programme is distinctive in emphasising social archaeology. The value of interdisciplinary approaches is central, and particular importance is placed on the dissertation. The focus of study is Britain in the context of Northern Europe, and it is possible to choose both thematic and chronological modules. The University of Reading has one of the largest concentrations of medievalists in the UK, and this flexible modular MA gives an opportunity, through the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies, to follow an option in medieval Latin and palaeography, or history, or literature. Students choose three options and one technical module. All students take two core modules – Research resources and skills, and Issues and debates in medieval archaeology – and complete a dissertation of 20,000 words.

Programme structure

Students take three specialist options offered in the department or GCMS, such as The Archaeology of Early Anglo-Saxon England; Environment and Landscape in the Historic Periods; Archaeology and the Twelfth Century; Burial Archaeology; Gender Archaeology: sex, sexuality and gender in the study of the past; The Archaeology of Later Medieval Religion and Belief; Medieval Latin and Palaeography; An Introduction to Byzantine Archaeology; The Late Medieval Crisis: an archaeological review. They also take three modules on research skills, including Research resources and skills, Issues and debates in medieval archaeology and one Technical research skills module, such as Archaeological graphics, Archaeological theory, and Soils and geoarchaeology. The Dissertation represents 50% of the total mark. The MA is taught by lectures, linked seminars and workshops and is assessed entirely by coursework.

Entrance to the MA degree programme

This MA is designed for students with a good honours degree in archaeology or a related discipline.

Bursaries

Overseas students are invited to apply for bursaries of £1000.

The Department of Archaeology, University of Reading

The Department of Archaeology has an international reputation for its teaching and research and was awarded the highest possible mark, 5*, in the last Research Assessment Exercise. It was also graded as ‘excellent’ in the Quality Assurance Agency Review of Masters and Undergraduate teaching.

Reading medieval archaeologists specialise in interdisciplinary research:

  • Professor Grenville Astill: urban & rural landscapes, technology and monasticism
  • Professor Roberta Gilchrist: religious communities, buildings archaeology, gender and spatial theory
  • Dr Heinrich Härke: migrations, ethnogenesis, burial, Anglo-Saxons, Sarmatians and Alans
  • Gundula Müldner: isotope analysis & the reconstruction of medieval diet
  • Dr Mary Lewis: palaeopathology, particularly children, historic-period diet & migratory patterns

Further information, including a prospectus, from the Departmental website and from Grenville Astill, Department off Archaeology, The University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6AB. The MA can be taken as either a full-time (1 year), or part-time (2 years) degree.


Medieval Ceramics Volume 26/27

The Editorial Committee would like members to know that the next volume of Medieval Ceramics will be printed in September 2005.


Ceramic resource disc for Reid’s Pottery, Newbigging, Musselburgh

George Haggarty has just completed the catalogue of the products of this 19th century pottery. This project which was funded by the National Museum of Scotland and Historic Scotland has produced a visually illustrated catalogue of the assemblage from this site and should be seen as the way forward as regards the archiving of industrial ceramics. The disc is available from haggartyg@aol.com at the price of postage.


Regional Group Reports

Scottish Redware figure jug
Scottish Redware figure jug from production centre at Stenhousemuir, Falkirk

Scottish Group

Sourcing Scottish Redwares

The project team of Dr Simon Chenery, Derek Hall, George Haggarty, Lis Thoms, Charlie Murray and Alison Cameron have just submitted the results of the first year’s ICPS analysis and a draft vessel typology to Historic Scotland. Amongst the 268 samples submitted this year are groups of floor tiles from Melrose Abbey, Inchcolm Abbey, Newbattle Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Glenluce Abbey and Linlithgow Palace.

Possible production centre at Ceres, Fife

Recent metal detecting of a field near Ceres in Fife located a moderate assemblage of Scottish White Gritty Ware which included at least one waster. Thanks to Fife Council and the National Museum of Scotland a geophysical survey and thin sectioning of some of the sherds has been carried out. Further pottery retrieved from the same field by Dr Colin Martin includes a kiln prop and it is possible that some fieldwork may take place on this potential production centre later this year.


Wharram Percy – Life in a Medieval Village

Special Exhibition 2005

From July 16th a new exhibition at Malton Museum will allow visitors to find out about one of the most important excavations of the 20th century. Discover what is revealed about medieval life. Learn about the people who lived at Wharram Percy, see the objects they used and get an insight into their lives. See the village come to life through a new digital reconstruction and have fun discovering archaeology through hands-on activities. Guided tours around Malton Museum and Wharram Percy will be on offer on certain Sunday afternoons during the summer – please ring the museum for details. Contact Malton Museum, Old Town Hall, Market Place, Malton, North Yorkshire, YO17 7LP, tel 01653 695136.

Open Easter Saturday – 31st October 05 Mon – Sat: 10am to 4pm
Admission Prices: Adults £1.50, Children and over 60s £1.00, Family (2+2) £4.00

No. 52 – August 2005

Secretary’s Notes

The group’s AGM was held on the 18th June during the one-day conference held at the Museum of London. Reports on the MPRG’s finances indicate they are currently in a healthy state and that the group has seen an increased turnover this year. The vast majority of low or non-paying members have been chased up and the number of members the group has currently stands at 305. Of concern are the increasing costs of producing the newsletter; it was suggested that these could be limited by emailing it to members. Equally, the increasing costs of publishing Medieval Ceramics is something Council must consider. The Editorial Committee reported that they had met twice in the last year and thanks were offered to the British Museum for the use of the Maiolica Room on the 27th January. It was reported that feedback received on the style of Volume 25 of Medieval Ceramics was positive and the volume had been well received. A double release of Medieval Ceramics (Volumes 26 and 27) is planned for this autumn.

Details of the 2006 conference were aired. This will be a three-day conference held at Trafford Hall, Chester between 12th and 14th June. The theme will be ‘Pottery From Medieval Institutions’.

The AGM also voted new Council members into position. Both the AGM and Council extended many thanks to all those Council members who have ‘retired’, namely: Maureen Mellor, Barbara Hurman and Lucy Whittingham (who is remaining on the Editorial Committee until Medieval Ceramics is published in the autumn). Victoria Bryant was elected President. Derek Hall has moved roles to become Editor, with Andrew Sage taking over the Assistant Secretary position. Jenny Vaughan and David Dawson were also elected as Ordinary Members.

The London conference on ‘Pottery in Public’ was a huge success with over 35 participants. Many thanks to Duncan Brown for organising the 2005 conference and thanks also to the Museum of London and Beverley Swain for free use of the facilities.

The MPRG Council was due to meet at the British Museum on the 7th July 2005. However, the tragic events of that day prevented the meeting from taking place. The meeting has now been rescheduled for the 29th September.

Anne Boyle, Secretary


Courses

University of Hull, Cottingham Road, Hull, HU6 7RX

Part-Time Study to Certificate, Diploma, and/or Degree level, in the Department of History

Each study level takes 2 years, one evening a week (during term), based on the University campus.

No previous qualifications needed.

You may qualify for free or reduced fees.

  1. Archaeology
  2. Regional and Local History
  3. British Maritime History (based at Blaydes House)

Contact: Dr John Walker, tel 01482 465490.

Courses start in early September 2005


Can You Help?

The following photos attempt to illustrate an unusual fragment of pottery from excavations in Newcastle upon Tyne. The fabric is fairly coarse and the date could be anything from 13th to15th century, the broken edge is shown by the broken line. Anybody out there have a clue what this could be? And yes, Steve Moorhouse has seen it!

If anyone has any ideas can they contact Jenny Vaughan (Northern Counties Archaeological Services).

broken rim with pattern
External view of broken rim

broken rim with ?spur
Section of broken rim


Firing Experiments Sought

Cathy Batt and Assunta Trapanese at the Department of Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford are conducting an evaluation of a variety of sampling and orientation methods for archaeomagnetism as part of an EU project on archaeomagnetic dating.

Ideally they want to try these methods out on burnt clay features of recent known date, so they can see whether they give the expected results.

They would be very grateful to hear of any experimental firing of hearths, ovens, furnaces and other structures over the next few months or that have recently taken place. They are happy to travel anywhere in the UK to take samples. The sampling is fairly destructive so it needs to be a feature that is no longer needed. If you can help please get in touch with Cathy Batt.


Burning Issues

If you have any news, problems or information that you feel would be of interest to any other members please do not be afraid to think about getting it included in the next edition of the newsletter. To do so just write to or email Andy Sage.


Regional Group Reports

South-West Group

There will be a Joint Meeting of the Medieval Pottery Research Group (South West) and the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society by Courtesy of the Trustees and Managers of Wells Museum and Wells Archaeological and Natural History Society

POTTERY SYMPOSIUM – to explore recent developments in medieval and later pottery studies in the south-west, examine the assemblages from Wells and discuss regional priorities. Please bring any pottery for discussion or identification.

Anticipated break for lunch 12.45–2pm, close by 4pm. Small charge for coffee/tea

All welcome – enquiries to David Dawson.

Mike Ponsford, SW Group Secretary

No. 53 – December 2005

Secretary’s Notes

July’s rescheduled Council meeting took place at the British Museum on the 29th September 2005. It was reported that in terms of finances and membership, the group is doing well. The group’s membership currently stands at 335 members. This includes 180 home and 44 overseas members, with an additional 43 home institutions 25 overseas institutions. There are funds available to cover the next volume of Medieval Ceramics and the JG Hurst Travel Fund is currently healthy. It is hoped other groups John was associated with may be interested in donating to the travel fund, thus helping to keep it buoyant. Currently being considered are ideas on how the Travel Fund will be administered and the criteria for awarding grants.

Changes to the Newsletter

April’s newsletter will be a first for the MPRG. As previously reported, around £1000 a year is spent on producing and mailing out the newsletter. The Council all feel that the only way to reduce this cost is to email the newsletter to as many members as possible. Previous requests for members to make their feelings known about receiving the newsletter by email have been met with a limited, but favourable, response. It is hoped that an emailed newsletter, in full colour, with clearer photos and graphics will be an improvement on the mailed black and white version. Therefore, the next issue of the newsletter will be emailed out (as a PDF) to those whose email addresses are held on the membership database. A test email will be sent out to check which accounts are active and everyone with a defunct email account (or only a postal address) will receive the newsletter in the usual way. Anyone who still wishes to receive a paper copy or wants to register a new email address is asked to contact the secretary. The Council hopes this change will benefit members and, at the same time, save the group from spending a large amount of money each year.

To view these PDF files, you will need Adobe Reader software or similar: Click here to download free Adobe Reader software Click here to download free Foxit Reader softwareClick here to download free eXpert Reader software

Next Council Meeting

The next council meeting will be held at the British Museum on the 12th January 2006. Details of any matters to be discussed at that meeting should be sent to the secretary by the 10th January.

Anne Boyle, Secretary


English Production Centres Database

Just a short reminder that Phil Marter’s tenure in charge of maintaining the database ends in March 2006. If anyone has anyone has any information regarding production sites that has not been incorporated yet could they please contact Phil (P.Marter@wkac.ac.uk) in good time beforehand so that the opportunity is not missed for it to be included.


SEMPER: Outcomes from the autumn meeting

A select group attended the meeting held at Aylesbury Museum. The subjects under investigation included symbolism and markings on pottery, and the day began by discussing post-firing modifications. Post-firing holes in pottery were easy to make, as they could be drilled from both sides and smoothed by filing. Such uses include spindle whorls, repair holes, and modifying vessels for use as strainers or plant pots. Holes in the necks of vessels could be used for securing a lid. Other modifications include reshaping broken pottery; one intriguing example of this was encountered at a production site, where sherds showing three straight sides and one curved side were found, the speaker suggesting these were tools, the curved side used for forming vessels.

The significance of makers’ marks and merchants’ marks were also discussed. One type of marking that occurs on vessels from Kirkstall Abbey is a key motif, this could have religious meaning as keys are the symbol of St Peter, a good theory, were it not for the fact that Kirkstall was dedicated to St Mary. The speaker suggested the key might actually signify ‘K’ for Kirkstall. A jug from Beeleigh Abbey in Essex showed a post-firing incised mark consisting of intersecting circles forming a six-petalled flower. This motif is sometimes found on buildings, including churches, and is thought to ward off evil.

Looking for meaning on Metropolitan slipware motifs produced conflicting results; a study of earlier Dutch slipwares considered that the designs were picture-writing, with symbols for fertility, protection, and good health. However, it is equally possible that the Metropolitan slipware potters borrowed their designs from pattern books that were widely available during the 17th century, showing that the motifs were purely decorative. It does appear however, that there was an association between Metropolitan slipware and Protestantism. No such ambiguity was found on Chinese porcelain where a large number of picture-symbols were employed, for example, butterflies symbolising longevity and vases signifying perpetual harmony. These symbols were also copied by European and Middle Eastern potters.

Medieval pottery with slip-trailed motifs was produced at Toynton All Saints in Lincolnshire. A number of individual motifs that could be decorative or could have symbolic meaning were used. These include buckles, horse shoes, divided circles, ladders, and ‘roof’ motifs of varying complexity. Some of the simpler motifs such as spirals and wavy and/or straight lines in groups of three also occur on Metropolitan slipware. This type of pottery has been found at a monastic site.

A number of vessels, mainly jugs, brought in by members showed single motifs that do appear to be symbols rather decoration. These included a lamb-and-flag motif, a buckle or brooch motif (as found at Toynton All Saints), the fleur-de-lys, and further examples the key motif. Many of these occur at religious sites and can be interpreted as Christian symbols. Written inscriptions on pottery include an example from Northamptonshire showing the Latin for ‘Love conquers all’ in bas-relief. While the runes found incised on a Hertfordshire greyware cooking pot were dismissed as an early 20th century fake.

To conclude, there is evidence for religious symbolism on pottery, but in most cases it is extremely difficult determine what is decorative and what is symbolic purely from the archaeological record, and one must be wary of the pit falls of over interpretation. Any major study of symbolism would require the services of a historian, an anthropologist and a student of folklore. Exploring post-firing modifications is a more fruitful subject for study.

SEMPER is hoping to visit the V&A for the Spring 2006 meeting. If anyone would like to be added to the SEMPER mailing list please contact Anna Slowikowski by sending their address, phone number and email address. Anna can be reached at Albion Archaeology, St Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Street, Bedford, MK42 0AS.

Helen Walker


‘Fired Up’ at York Art Gallery

‘Fired Up – Celebrating Ceramics from York’s Collection’ is an exhibition at York Art Gallery running until 15 January, 2006. There are lots of pots on display, from the Prehistoric to the 21st century. Plus tiles, and there’s even a bathroom sink on show. There is also a short film of three experts looking in depth at four pots – the Severus Roman head pot, a Medieval jug, a delftware charger and a modern piece. Admission is free.

Sandra Garside-Neville


Mysteries of Medieval London Unravelled

A new gallery at the Museum of London from November 2005 to June 2006

So what was it really like to live in London 600, 1000 or even 1500 years ago? Did ‘1066 and all that’ matter much to Londoners? Where on earth did London go for 200 years? And what has all this got to do with the city we live in today? The answers to these and other questions that have been exercising the minds of scholars for decades, can be found in the Museum of London’s new Medieval London gallery opening at the end of November. With over 1500 objects on display, the gallery will tell the story of London from the end of Roman rule in AD410 to the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558.

Smiling Nun

From a humble wicker fish trap and a child’s toy, to luxury goods made of ivory and coral, amber and glass, the objects combine to spark the imagination and re-create a city of richness and variety, enterprise and ideas. Savage weapons found in the Thames are a reminder of the Viking invasions and that, on two occasions, London only survived by the skin of its teeth. It may come as a surprise to learn that King Alfred, who re-founded the city in 886 is the man we should all thank for the fact that London is here at all. Spectacular archaeological finds of recent years will include a section of original riverfront timbers, a Saxon brooch from Covent Garden and a 14th century trumpet found in Billingsgate. Objects excavated from the remains of 13th century Jewish houses in Milk Street will be displayed for the first time. Some small keys from the lockers of patients in St Mary Spital hospital; a child’s vest and a set of loaded dice are just some of the objects that bring a sense of ordinary people so vividly to life that visitors may find their heads full of ghosts as they make their way home down Wood Street, Cheapside and the other medieval streets and alleys of today’s City. It is worth exploring, for this is the area of London where it all happened. A new audio-visual display on the Black Death will envelop visitors in the words of the people who experienced the horrors of the disease when it struck. The catastrophe wiped out half the city’s population and had a greater effect on Londoners than the Great Fire of 1666 (which only killed a handful of people) or the two World Wars.

Popular assumptions about castles and chivalry, disease and dirt are put under the spotlight, but, happily, pointy-toed shoes are not a myth. A wonderful collection of these ‘poulaines’ have been restored by the latest technology to some of their original ridiculous splendour. Next to them is a battered old shoe stretched out of shape by a large, and what must have been a very painful, medieval bunion.

Recent discoveries and new research have changed thinking on important events. Pieces of a priory window smashed up on the orders of Henry VIII at the Reformation have been given pride of place at the end of the gallery, mounted dramatically against a sheet of etched glass. For the people of England, Henry’s break with the Catholic Church was the medieval equivalent of the events of 9/11. Spiritually, intellectually and even physically, it changed people’s world for ever and propelled them into a new age.

By the middle of the 16th century, London had all the beginnings of the city we know today. It may have only taken half an hour to walk across London, a city with only one bridge, over a hundred churches and one alehouse for every 50 people, but it was already a capital city and commercial and financial centre, a thriving port, a shopping mecca and centre of fashion. It was a cosmopolitan city of around 120,000 people and there were problems with traffic, overcrowding, sanitation and crime. Sounds familiar?


Ceramic Production Centres in Europe

After much hard work members of the CPCE working party have now submitted a bid to the econtentplus programme for the first part of this pan European project. The countries of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Poland have all registered as part of the first submission. Several other countries including Spain, Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands and Hungary are listed as potential future partners. As with most European funding programmes econtentplus operates on a 50/50 funding basis so the working party will now be working very hard to make up the matching funds that are required. If any members of MPRG would like to contribute to the matching fund package would they please contact either the secretary Derek Hall or the coordinator Clive Orton.

Derek Hall, Secretary, CPCE


Majolica Tiles from Antwerp

Frans Caignie recently gave a lecture on ‘The majolica tile of Ten Duinen’ at the International Colloquium on tiles held at the Abbey of the Dunes in Belgium. He would like to be able to plot the distribution of tiles produced in Antwerp from sites in England, if you think you might be able to help or would be interested in finding out more about his work please email him or by post at Akkerstraat 3, 2970 Schilde, Belgium.


Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology

Rivista di Archeologia Postmedievale International Conference, 25-27 May 2006

Italy and Britain between Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds: Leghorn – ‘an English port’:
Gran Bretagna e Italia tra Mediterraneo e Atlantico: Livorno – ‘un porto inglese’

As part of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology’s 40th anniversary celebrations, SPMA is organising – together with the Italian journal Archeologia Postmedievale and in association with the Medieval Pottery Research Group – an international conference at the Tuscan port of Livorno in Italy.

The conference will gather on Wednesday evening, 24 May, and after two days of papers and tours of Livorno’s housing and defences, will on Saturday morning visit the Ceramics museum at Montelupo. The conference will be held in the Magazzino dei Bottini dell’Olio, which was the state olive oil warehouse in the 18th century.

The conference will be held in the Magazzino dei Bottini dell’Olio, which was the state olive oil warehouse in the 18th century. MPRG has organised a session entitled Ceramic Connections in which the following papers will be given:

  1. Signposts of Historical Impact: Tuscan export olive oil jars in British, British colonial, and Royal Navy contexts of the 17th and 18th centuries. Ronald A Coleman (James Cook University, Australia)
  2. The provenance of Tuscan pottery found in Britain: archaeometrical research. Hugo Blake & Mike Hughes (Royal Holloway, University of London)
  3. New data on Italian ceramics in south-west England. John Allan (Exeter Archaeology)
  4. The current state of knowledge of Italian ceramics in London. Lyn Blackmore & Jacqui Pearce (Museum of London Specialist Services)
  5. A cargo of Grotesque Maiolica from North-West Scotland. Duncan H Brown (Southampton Museums)

To learn about Livorno (or Leghorn as the English called it) and its significance to Britain in the early modern period, visit the Events page on the SPMA website and read the link “Why Livorno?” Livorno is about 20 km south of Pisa, which is served by Ryanair (from Glasgow, Liverpool, London Stansted, Brussels, Eindhoven, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Girona and Alghero) and EasyJet (Bristol, Berlin and Paris Orly). Pisa Airport-Livorno train fare is about €2 (local trains) and takes about 30 minutes (depending on connections). The train journey from Livorno to Montelupo takes more or less than 75 minutes and costs about €5. We are negotiating a conference rate with the 4-star Hotel Gran Duca, located on the historic port front, whose 2005 tariff is €86 per night for a single and from €96 for a double room. So the conference in Livorno could well cost less than one in the UK.

More details, the programme and application form will be available on the MPRG website in the New Year.

Hugo Blake & Marco Milanese, Conference organisers


Subscription reminder

On February 1st 2006 we start another membership year. For those of you who do not pay by standing order could you please remember to send in your £20 payment promptly. Institutional members will receive invoices for payment.


Call for Nominations to Council

Two ‘Ordinary Member’ positions will become vacant on the MPRG Council in 2006. If you wish to nominate someone for either position, please send your name and the name and contact details of your nominee to Anne Boyle.

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