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The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: a Handbook

Hand specimen picture panel
Thin section picture panel


Appendix 1: Keywords and Definitions
Appendix 2: Physical Layout of Sherds Housed in the NRFRC


Lower Nene Valley Fabrics

Products of the Lower Nene Valley represented in the collection all belong to a single fabric, with three different surface treatments defined here as White, Parchment and Colour-coated ware. While there is variety in clay colour, from white to iron-rich tones, they form an continuum and therefore have been combined. The mortaria included here all date to the 3rd and 4th centuries.

General appearance

Typically the fabric is hard with a smooth or irregular fracture and smooth surfaces; under adverse soil conditions abrasion creates a powdery surface. In colour the ware is generally white, pink-buff, pale yellow, but occasionally orange or grey may occur, as may oxidised cores or margins in the same range of colours. Beakers and mortaria, particularly reed-rim and hammerhead varieties, are the most widely exported products.

Hand specimen

This fabric is characterised by well-sorted silt- to fine sand-sized quartz, red iron-rich inclusions, and red and white pellets, with the white more readily identifiable in iron-rich fabrics. Although not visible in our samples, fine black inclusions may also be present (L Rollo, pers comm). The clay may contain fine sparse silver mica, but this is not a distinguishing feature. Quartz, the only common inclusion, is normally <0.1mm, although certain sherds, particularly the beakers amongst our samples, have sparse but regular larger grains to c 0.3mm. Colour-coated mortaria are usually in a finer textured fabric than the reed-rim ones (K Hartley, pers comm). Iron-rich inclusions and especially clay pellets, sometimes seen as streaks of poorly mixed clay, are known up to 2.0mm, although only the clay pellets/streaks tend to exceed 0.5mm. Trituration grits comprise abundant black slag, of varying average sizes, ranging between 1.5–3.5mm and 0.2–1.0mm on our two samples.

Thin section

Five samples were viewed in thin section and are united by having a groundmass of common well-sorted silt-sized inclusions, generally quartz but rarely feldspar, opaques or flint. Larger inclusions vary in frequency between samples, but generally measure up to c 0.5mm. In some samples fragments to 1.5mm of sandstones with ill-sorted constituents can be identified. The finer fraction of these sandstones are present in additional samples and some may correspond with inclusions defined as white clay pellets in the hand specimen. Additionally, matrix-coloured and iron-rich clay pellets, quartz-rich opaques and polycrystalline quartz are present. Only one section, with higher birefringence than the others, exhibits muscovite mica. Finally, slag trituration grits are visible.


Lower Nene Valley products are associated with a number of kilns found throughout the area at Warsford, Stibbington, Sibson-cum-Stibbington, Chesterton, Water Newton, Yaxley, Normangate Field (Castor) and Stanground.


Department of Prehistoric & Romano-British Antiquities, The British Museum; City Museum and Art Gallery, Peterborough


Department of Prehistoric & Romano-British Antiquities, The British Museum; City Museum and Art Gallery, Peterborough (holds a partial type series for Nene Valley mortaria, some examples missing, as well as drawn material from Stibbington and Orton Hall Farm kilns, Normangate Field)


Evans, J, 1991 Some notes on the Horningsea Roman pottery, J Roman Pottery Stud 4, 33–43

Hughes, T McKenny, 1902 On the potters field at Horningsea with a comparative notice of the kilns and furnaces found in the neighbourhood, Cambridgeshire Antiq Soc Proc 10, 174–94

Pullinger, J, & White P J, 1991 Romano-British sites at Hinton Fields, Teverhsam, 1978–1986, privately printed

Walker, F G, 1912 Roman pottery kilns at Horningsea, Cambridgeshire, Cambridgeshire Antiq Soc Proc 17, 14–69

Lower Nene Valley (White or Oxidised) Colour-coated ware (LNV CC)

Nine samples

General appearance

A wide range of vessel types belong to this group, including jars, bowls, platters, dishes and mortaria with a monochrome colour-coat, as well as beakers which in addition to their surface slip are decorated with barbotine (of white clay), white paint or rouletting. The clay fabric ranges from white to light oxidised colours, recorded as white (5YR 8/1, 10YR 8/1–8/2), buff (7.5YR 8/2) to pale orange (7.5YR 8/4–7/4; 5YR 7/6) or orange (2.5YR 6/8). Some sherds can have oxidised margins or a lightly reduced (5Y 7/1) core. Slip is in a wide range of colours – primarily darker tones, and includes: red-brown (10R 5/6, 10R 4/4, 5YR 4/3); orange to orange-brown (5YR 5/8, 2.5YR 5/8–4/8) and black, brown-black to dark brown (3/0–2.5/0, 2.5YR 4/1–3/1, 5YR 3/1, 10YR 4/1–3/1, 7.5YR 3/1–3/2, 7.5YR 2.5/1).


Anderson, A, Fulford, M G, Hatcher, H, & Pollard, A M, 1982 Chemical analysis of hunt cups and allied wares from Britain, Britannia 13, 229–38

Cooper, N, 1989 A study of Roman pottery from Lower Nene Valley kiln site at Park Farm, Stanground, near Peterborough, J Roman Pottery Stud 2, 59–65

Dannell, G B, Hartley, B R, Wild, J P, & Perrin, J R, 1993 Excavations on a Romano-British pottery production site at Park Farm, Stanground, Peterborough, 1965–1967, J Roman Pottery Stud 6, 51–93

Perrin, J R, 1981b The late Roman pottery of Great Casterton – thirty years on, in Roman pottery research in Britain and north-west Europe. Papers presented to Graham Webster (eds A C Anderson & A S Anderson), BAR Int Ser 123(ii), 447–63

Perrin, J R, & Webster, G, 1990 Roman pottery from excavations in Normangate Field, Castor, Peterborough, 1962–3, J Roman Pottery Stud 3, 35–62

Storey, J, 1988 Chemical study of clays and Roman pottery from the Lower Nene Valley, J Arch Science 15, 35–50

See the related record on the Atlas of Roman Pottery on the Potsherd website

Plate 91: Fresh sherd break of LNV CC (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 91: Fresh sherd break of LNV CC (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 91.1: Photomicrograph of LNV CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 91.1: Photomicrograph of LNV CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

Plate 91.2: Photomicrograph of LNV CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 91.2: Photomicrograph of LNV CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)