Pottery
 

Introduction

The pottery from this site is a typical York assemblage. The assemblage analysed spans the period from just before the Norman Conquest (Phase 1) until the 16th century (Phase 9). Material from the later period (Phases 10–12) was not included in the research design and has not been studied beyond the assessment stage, but shows the site in continued use through the 17th–19th centuries.

The assemblage is essentially domestic in character, supporting the interpretation that the buildings on the site were dwellings as well as workshops. For the most part the provenance of the material is local and regional. The Walmgate area in general, and the site in particular, is industrial rather than high-status in character and not many imports should be expected. The few imported fragments which do occur are typical for York: French imports in the 13th and 14th centuries, and German stonewares and Low Countries cooking pots from the 14th century through to the 16th century.

How much of the assemblage derives from activities on the site, however, and how much from adjacent properties is a recurring problem in the study of urban pottery assemblages. There are certainly periods when the site was levelled, between episodes of building construction and modification, when material from beyond the property might have been incorporated into dumps or levelling material. There is a very high residual element to the pottery from all deposits, making it difficult to be precise about the chronology of the successive phases. This is exacerbated by the long currency of many of the principal wares and the small size of the fragments, making diagnostic forms difficult to recognise.

Methodology

It was clear at the assessment stage that this assemblage was dominated by residual material and that activities on site had resulted in very mixed assemblages with small sherd sizes and few cross-joins. As types were generally well known and published, the assemblage offered little potential for furthering the study of pottery in York. The aim of the pottery analysis, therefore, was limited to providing a chronological structure for the sequence of activities on site and to reviewing what the assemblage could reveal about the character of the occupation on site. The problems associated with achieving the former have been referred to above; nonetheless, a broad chronological framework has been achieved and the domestic character of the assemblage has been established. (For descriptions of the wares referred to see AY 16/03, AY 16/06 and AY 16/09 forthcoming.)

Roman wares

Roman levels were not reached during excavation and only a small amount of Roman pottery occurs residually in later layers on the site. These shed little new light on the character of Roman occupation in this part of the city.

Anglo-Scandinavian wares (10th and 11th century)

Excavation did not penetrate below the top of the Anglo-Scandinavian levels. The typical range of 10th and 11th century Torksey ware (illus 1–5) and Stamford ware cooking pots, pitchers and, unusually, a lid (illus 6–8), was recovered from Phases 1 and 2, associated with domestic occupation and possible early ironworking. Recent work has demonstrated that Anglo-Scandinavian occupation in this area was established in the later 9th or early 10th century, and intensified during the 10th and 11th centuries (see AY 08/04 forthcoming).

The persistence of Anglo-Scandinavian pottery throughout later deposits, well into Phase 9 (late 14th–16th century) and beyond, indicates that there must have been significant Anglo-Scandinavian occupation in the area to have produced such quantities. Strikingly absent throughout, however, is any occurrence of the different forms of Stamford ware crucibles which indicated the presence of non-ferrous metalworking at 16–22 Coppergate and glass-working at 16–22 Coppergate and 22 Piccadilly (AY 17/06 and AY 17/07).

Anglo-Norman (late 11th and 12th century)

Phase 3 dumps include residual sherds but also gritty ware cooking pots (illus 9–17) and splashed ware pitchers and occasional cooking pots (illus 18–22), typical Anglo-Norman domestic forms. These presumably derive from occupation of Building F and elsewhere on the site. Building H, constructed in Phase 4, and associated contemporary features, produced little pottery and the contemporary wares continue to be dominated by gritty and splashed wares.

Medieval

Early York glazed, York glazed wares and other contemporary wares (late 12th and 13th century)

The appearance of York glazed ware and its slightly earlier variant, Early York glazed ware, is conventionally dated to the second half of the 12th century. Their presence in features ascribed to Phase 5 suggests that the intensification of activity on site dates to this period. Gritty wares continue to supply the cooking pots and splashed ware jugs continue in use.

York glazed ware jugs belong to the category of 'highly decorated' types (illus 25) of the late 12th and early 13th century; the small fragments found are presumably part of such jugs. Substantial parts of one jug (illus 26) were recovered from levels in Phase 6 onwards. Unusual forms included a lid (illus 23) and part of a lamp (illus 24).

The most elaborately decorated jugs from the site are not, however, York glazed ware but other fabrics. The upper part of a fine sandy ware jug which depicts two arms and hands gripping the side of a neck and spout was recovered (illus 27); it shows marked similarity to a vessel recovered from 45–54 Fishergate (AY 16/06, 2589, fig.258). A jug with a buff sandy fabric is elaborately decorated with scrolls and berries (illus 28).

Brandsby-type wares, Walmgate-type wares and other contemporary wares (later 13th and 14th century)

Two of the principal later medieval wares in York, Brandsby-type ware and Walmgate-type ware, make an appearance on the Walmgate street frontage in Phase 5, and subsequently in Phase 6.1 where they are associated with early Humber wares and Yorkshire red wares. These sherds might be intrusive but more probably reflect the difficulties in associating deposits along the street frontage with features further back; the latter produced nothing later than splashed, gritty and York glazed wares during Phases 5 and 6.1–6.2. Alternatively all the pottery from these features, which includes a few sherds of Scarborough ware, may be residual.

Brandsby-type and Walmgate-type wares occur more persistently from Phase 6.3 onwards. Once again the forms represented, Brandsby-type jugs (illus 29) and cooking pots (illus 30–32), and Walmgate-type ware drinking jugs (illus 35), are well known from other York sites. Their presence suggests an early 14th century date for the industrial activity and continued building work in Phase 6.3 and Phase 7.

Sherds from sandy red ware jugs with rod handles (illus 33) and early Humber wares become a regular, if small, part of the assemblage from Phase 7 onwards, confirmation of a 14th century date for the ongoing construction and occupation activities.

Brandsby-type wares dominate the contemporary assemblage from Phase 8 onwards, accompanied by smaller quantities of local and regional types, for example, Humber wares, South Yorkshire wares, lightly gritted ware (illus 34), Yorkshire red wares and possible Winksley products (illus 36, 37). Occasional sherds of imported German stonewares and Low Countries cooking vessels were recovered.

Hambleton-type wares, Humber wares and other contemporary wares (later14th and 15th century)

Humber wares, both jugs and cooking pots (illus 38, 39), dominate the scene at this time. Hambleton-type wares, probably a later development at potteries producing Brandsby-type wares, make an initial appearance in Phase 8.1 which, by comparison with other sites, gives a later 14th century date. The pottery from Phase 9.1 was mostly residual, the latest wares being Brandsby-types. This high proportion of residual wares continued throughout Phase 9, although the proportions of Humber and other contemporary wares steadily increased. From Phase 9.2 onwards Humber ware forms include fragments of large cisterns and jugs indicative of a 15th century date, a chronology supported by the appearance of a few sherds of purple glazed ware (illus 40).

Cistercian ware, purple glazed ware and other contemporary wares (later 15th and 16th century)

Cistercian ware, which appears for the first time as a single, possibly intrusive, sherd in a levelling deposit in Phase 9.2, is almost certainly contemporary by Phases 9.5 and 9.6. These sherds indicate a late 15th or early 16th century date for the continuing industrial activities and building modifications. No pottery was found in Phase 9.7 but by Phases 9.8 and 9.9 late Humber wares, Hambleton wares, Cistercian wares and purple glazed wares were the common contemporary elements in what must be a 16th century assemblage, still dominated by redeposited earlier wares.

Summary

The assemblage from the site is essentially domestic in character, with the main pottery types drawn from production sites in the region rather than further afield. The interpretation of the site as a series of workshops primarily involved with metalworking implies occupation by artisans rather than wealthier citizens. The overall scarcity of imported pottery (illus 41–43, illus 44) is also consistent with the interpretation of the Walmgate area as an industrial zone with little high-status occupation.

No wasters of the pottery type which gave Walmgate-type ware its name were found. A dump of these wasters was recovered in 1978 at 118–126 Walmgate from the bases of two foundation trenches where they had been used as bedding. Although no traces of a kiln were found, it is possible that there was a production site in the vicinity, adding another industry to those known to have operated in this part of the city. Research on potters operating in York is in progress and will be incorporated into the forthcoming volume on medieval pottery (AY 16/09).

The assemblage as a whole broadly confirmed the currency of the known major types of pottery circulating in York and provided a chronological structure for interpreting the sequence of buildings and the activity which took place within them.



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York glazed ware jug

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Torksey-type cooking pots (1, 3–5) and pitcher
fragment (2)


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Stamford wares (6–8)

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Gritty ware cooking vessels (9–17)
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Splashed ware pitchers and cooking vessels (18–22)

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York glazed ware forms
(23–26)

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Lightly gritted ware jug (27)
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Highly decorated jug (28)

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Brandsby-type ware forms (29–32)
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Sandy red ware jug (33), lightly gritted ware cooking vessel (34), Walmgate ware drinking jug (35)
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Possible Winksley-type cooking vessels (36, 37)

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Humber ware cooking vessels (38, 39) and purple glazed ware vessel (40)

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Imported pottery from the Low Countries (41) and Germany (42, 43)
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Possible imitation of imported Low Countries pipkin (44)
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003