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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


Wilderspool Fabrics

An extensive range of vessels was produced at Wilderspool in what is essentially a single clay with different surface treatments. Three divisions have been included here, defined as Oxidised, Red-slipped and White-slipped wares.

General appearance

The clay body is fairly uniform in colour, usually being orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8), sometimes with a slightly redder or browner (2.5YR 6/4) core. It can be well-fired and hard, but is often soft with an irregular fracture and rough feel regardless of surface treatment. Beakers – particularly roughcast ones, jars, flagons, tazza, triple vases and ‘Raetian’ and other mortaria were produced. Painted, rouletted and thumbed decoration are typical.

Hand specimen

Generally the inclusions are ill sorted and on the coarse side, typically measuring between 0.3–0.5mm and set in a clean clay matrix. The texture and consequently feel of the fabric depends on the amount of rounded and subrounded quartz present in the clay, which varies between essentially inclusionless to common, and sometimes measures 0.2–0.5mm. Other inclusions are sparse, but black and red-brown iron-rich grains, matrix-coloured clay pellets, quartz sandstone and fine silver mica are all present. Trituration grits are fine-grained rock fragments (both red-brown to grey) and quartz, similar in colour but not composition, to those produced at Wroxeter, as can best be seen by comparison with some of our Wroxeter Red-slipped and White-slipped samples.

Thin section

These samples are united by a micaceous clay matrix with common muscovite mica and sparse silt-sized quartz. Larger inclusions are mixed and ill sorted, measuring between c 0.1–1.5mm, usually to 0.5mm. Monocrystalline quartz predominates, but siltstone (frequently micaceous), quartzite, polycrystalline quartz, flint and feldspar are all present, in decreasing order. In addition, all the samples contain varying quantities of clay pellets, frequently quartz free, and opaque inclusions. The small sample of trituration grits intersected by the thin section include quartz, tuff, feldspar and sandstone, up to at least 5.0mm.


Kilns are known at Stockton Heath, Wilderspool (Thompson 1965)


Warrington Museum


Warrington Museum


Hartley, K F, 1981 Painted fine wares made in the Raetian workshops near Wilderspool, Cheshire, 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), 171–9

Hartley, K F, 1997 ‘Raetian’ mortaria in Britain, Acta Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum 35, 239–44 (an extended version will appear in J Roman Pottery Stud 15)

Hartley, K F, & Webster, P V, 1973 The Romano-British pottery kilns near Wilderspool, Archaeol J 130, 77–103

Thompson, F H, 1965 Roman Cheshire, History of Chester 2, 67–88

Hinchliffe, J, & Williams, J H, 1992 Roman Warrington. Excavations at Wilderspool 1966–9 and 1976

Wilderspool Oxidised ware (WIL OX)

Three samples

General appearance

This variant is essentially those vessels without red or white slip, which often have well burnished or, possibly, self-slipped surfaces. Flagons, jars, bowls/dishes and roughcast beakers were made in this fabric.

Hand specimen

WIL OX conforms to the overall description of the base clay body given above, with most examples containing common, frequently well-sorted quartz resulting in a sandy fabric. Roughcast beakers have an external self slip.

Plate 94: Fresh sherd break of WIL OX (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 94: Fresh sherd break of WIL OX (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 94.1: Photomicrograph of WIL OX (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 94.1: Photomicrograph of WIL OX (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)