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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


Wroxeter Fabrics

Mortaria and coarse wares were produced at Wroxeter, but at present it is mortarium distribution that is best understood and as such, only mortaria are included here. Four fabrics are represented in the collection and are defined as Oxidised, White, White-slipped and Red-slipped ware.

Hand specimen

The mortaria are united by their similar trituration grits, all of which contain quartz and red-brown rock fragments, identified in thin section as altered igneous rocks, although differing radically in their size and sorting (see also Wilderspool).

Thin section

Three samples were thin sectioned, all of which are united by having a clean clay matrix with only sparse silt-grade quartz inclusions. More importantly, they all share inclusions of altered igneous rock fragments as noted above.


Of the various fabric groupings, only ‘Raetian’ mortaria have been found in association with a kiln in the vicinity of Wroxeter; distribution of the other types would support a similar source.


English Heritage


Carmarthen Museum; Wroxeter Roman Site Museum


Bushe-Fox, J P, 1913 Excavations on the site of the Roman town at Wroxeter, Shropshire. 1912, Rep Res Comm Soc Antiq London 1

Ellis, P (ed) 2000 The Roman baths and macellum at Wroxeter. Excavations by Graham Webster 1955–85, Engl Heritage Archaeol Rep 9

Hartley, K F, 1985d Mortaria, in An Iron Age and Roman settlement outside Kenchester (Magnis), Herefordshire. Excavations 1977–1979 (T Wilmott & S P Q Rahtz), Trans Woolhope Natur Field Club 45, 142–5

Hartley, K F, 1993c Mortaria, in Caersws Roman fort and vicus, Montgomeryshire, Powys, 1984–92 (N W Jones), Montgomeryshire Coll 81, 49–53

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)

Brennan, D, and Hartley, K F 2003 Mortaria, in Excavations in Roman Carmarthen 1978–1993 (H James with W John, N Ludlow & K Murphy), Britannia Monogr Ser 20, 242–54

Wroxeter Oxidised ware (WRX OX)

Single sample

General appearance

This sample is orange (5YR 7/6) with a grey-brown (10YR 7/2) core and orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8) surfaces, which are burnished and knife-trimmed externally. It is hard with an irregular fracture and smooth feel.

Hand specimen

In this sherd, the matrix contains well-sorted inclusions and glistens with both fine silver and gold lights similar to mica. However, this may be reflections from the quartz, since in thin section mica is present only as a single thread for Wroxeter as a whole. Quartz, mostly 0.2–0.3mm (but ranging between 0.1–1.5mm), is common, while the remaining inclusions of brown quartz-rich clay pellets (1.0–1.5mm), black iron-rich grains (0.2–1.0mm), limestone (0.3–0.5mm) and quartz sandstone (0.5mm) are all sparse. The trituration grits are abundant, densely packed and well sorted (2.0–3.0mm but range between 1.0–6.0mm) and consist of common subrounded red-brown rocks and quartz (rarely polycrystalline).

Thin section

This variant was considered identical to WRX RS and therefore was not sectioned.

Plate 149a: Fresh sherd break of WRX OX (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 149a: Fresh sherd break of WRX OX (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 149b: Trituration grits on WRX OX (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 149b: Trituration grits on WRX OX (width of field 24 mm)