A number of fabrics were produced at Holt. Included here are the common oxidised one, in which the ordinary coarse wares and mortaria were produced, and a white-slipped variant which was reserved for flagons, jugs and mortaria; ‘Raetian’ mortaria are not included here but are similar in every way to the above fabrics except in their ‘Raetian’ slip.
These wares were produced at Holt for the XXth Legion at Chester (Grimes 1930).
National Museum of Wales
National Museum of Wales; Library Museum, Wrexham
Greene, K, 1977 Legionary pottery and the significance of Holt, in Roman pottery studies in Britain and beyond. Papers presented to John Gillam, July 1977 (eds J Dore & K Greene), BAR Suppl Ser 30, 113–32
Grimes, W F, 1930 Holt, Denbighshire: the works-depot of the twentieth legion at Castle Lyons, Y Commrodor 41
Grimes (1930, 144) characterised this fabric as follows: ‘In its best quality . . . this ware is hard and of fairly smooth surface, with a somewhat glass-like fracture. But much of the Holt pottery is undoubtedly below standard, soft and coarse in texture. . .’ Our samples are consistently orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8–5/8). Their hardness and feel, as Grimes suggests, are variable and the fracture irregular. The surfaces are wiped or burnished, occasionally to a smooth, good quality finish. A wide range of coarse wares, including mortaria, were produced in this fabric: bead-and-flange mortaria (ibid, fig 61, 2–9) are typical of Holt products.
The inclusions are generally common and range from well to ill sorted, with quartz (some polycrystalline or aggregate), red-brown and black iron-rich grains, and orange-brown clay pellets consistently present. The texture of the quartz varies considerably: in finer examples it averages 0.2–0.4mm, although grains between <0.1–0.5mm are present (Plate 172a); in coarser examples its range increases to over 2.0mm. Less frequent are fine silver and gold mica and, falling within the finer size parameters, feldspar and rounded brown and red-brown lightly metamorphosed rock. In addition, white clay pellets, to 0.8mm, are occasionally present. Abundant silver and gold mica (0.1–0.5mm) is visible on the surfaces of our bowl sample, and it is possible that it is mica dusted. In the mortaria, trituration grits are common angular to subrounded milky monocrystalline and polycrystalline quartz, measuring 1.5–4.0mm, not dissimilar to that seen on Caerleon mortaria.
This sherd has a fine micaceous (muscovite and less biotite) clay matrix containing common silt-sized quartz. Larger fragments, frequently rounded and normally measuring between 0.2–0.5mm, are common to sparse and comprise quartz (including polycrystalline), siltstone (sometimes micaceous), opaques and clay pellets; rare flint is also present. A second sample is similar with occasional grains, including matrixcoloured clay pellets and feldspar, to 1.0mm. Trituration grits are common angular and rounded polycrystalline quartz, falling between c 1.5–3.0mm.
Our sample is essentially a harder, finer and redder version of the oxidised ware with a white slip applied, but in most cases the fabric is identical to that described above, apart from the added slip (K Hartley pers comm). Our sherd blends from a red (10R 5/8) inner wall to a mid-brown (5YR 7/6) outer one, with a pale cream (2.5Y 8/4) slip on the exterior surface. It is hard with a smooth fracture and a rough feel. Flagons, jugs and mortaria were produced in this fabric.
Inclusions seen here are generally well sorted and although some measure to 0.5mm, most are <0.3mm: quartz is common, with orange-brown iron-rich grains sparse. The clay also contains sparse quantities of fine gold and silver mica.
This group was considered equivalent to the Oxidised ware and therefore a sample was not thin sectioned.