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The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: a Handbook

Hand specimen picture panel
Thin section picture panel

References

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

 

Severn Valley Ware Fabrics

Severn Valley ware was produced at numerous kilns, some of which have been located, in the Severn basin and its fringes. The products of these kilns are allied in both form (particularly tankards, narrow-mouth jars and necked bowls), colour and surface treatment. Equally, most were produced on the Keuper Marl and thus share a fine, micaceous clay matrix. Exceptional to this is the production site at Perry Barr, located on the Bunter Pebble Beds and therefore resulting in a coarser fabric. Fabrics produced in the Malvern region contain typical Malvernian rock fragments, but they are not common, nor obviously present in each sample. Two different groups of SVW are included here: products from a known kiln in the Malverns (SVW OX 1) and samples which illustrate the burnishing typical of Severn Valley ware products when their surface is intact (SVW OX 2). Diagnostic forms comprise wide- and narrow-mouthed jars and tankards, frequently with burnished decoration.

References

Adby, C, 1991 Neutron activation analysis of Severn Valley ware: characterisation and classification, Unpublished BSc thesis, University of Bradford

Carrington, P, 1977 Severn Valley ware and its place in the Roman pottery supply at Chester: a preliminary assessment, in Roman pottery studies in Britain and beyond. Papers presented to John Gillam, July 1977 (eds J Dore & K Greene), BAR Suppl Ser 30, 147–62

Evans, C J, Jones, L, & Ellis, P, 2000 Severn Valley ware production at Newland Hopfields. Excavation of a Romano-British kiln site at North End Farm, Great Malvern, Worcestershire in 1992 and 1994, BAR 313/ Birmingham Univ Field Archaeol Unit Monogr Ser 2

Hughes, H V, 1959 A Romano-British kiln site at Perry Barr, Birmingham, Trans Proc Birmingham Archaeol Soc 77, 33–9

Peacock, D P S, 1967 Romano-British pottery production in the Malvern district of Worcestershire, Trans Worcestershire Archaeol Soc 1, 15–28 (3rd ser)

Peacock, D P S, 1968 A petrological study of certain Iron Age pottery from western England, Proc Prehist Soc 34, 414–28 (new ser)

Rawes, B, 1982 Gloucester Severn Valley ware: a study of the Roman pottery forms, Trans Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol Soc 100, 33–46

Scarth, Rev H M, 1865–6 Roman potters’ kiln, discovered at Shepton Mallet, November 1864, on the site of a large brewery belonging to Messrs Morris, Cox and Clarke, Proc Somerset Archaeol Natur Hist Soc 13, 1–5

Timby, J R, 1990 Severn Valley wares: a reassessment, Britannia 21, 243–51

Tomber, R S, 1980 A petrological assessment of Severn Valley ware: kilns and selected distribution, Unpublished MSc, University of Southampton

Waters, P L, 1976 Romano-British pottery site at Great Buckmans Farm, Trans Worcestershire Archaeol Soc 5 (3rd ser), 63–72

Webster, P V, 1972 Severn Valley ware on Hadrian’s Wall, Archaeol Aeliana 50, 191–203 (4th ser)

Webster, P V, 1976 Severn Valley ware: a preliminary study, Trans Bristol Gloucestershire Archaeol Soc 94, 18–46

Webster, P V, 1977 Severn Valley ware on the Antonine frontier, in Roman pottery studies in Britain and beyond. Papers presented to John Gillam, July 1977 (eds J Dore & K Greene), BAR Suppl Ser 30, 163–76


(Malvernian) Severn Valley Oxidised ware 1 (SVW OX 1)

Four samples

General appearance

A red to orange (2.5YR 6/8–5/8, 2.5YR 6/6) fabric with paler surfaces (5YR 7/6–7/8, 5YR 6/6, 2.5YR 7/8) and, when present, a characteristically grey-green (5Y 7/1) core. The fabric is susceptible to soil conditions and as a result all our samples are abraded, and soft and powdery to the touch. If well preserved one would expect the surface to be similar to that described for SVW OX 2 below. The fracture is irregular.

Hand specimen

The fabric has a fine silty clay matrix, containing sparse fine silver (occasionally gold) mica, which is sometimes vesicular from poor wedging. Diverse ill-sorted inclusions are normally sparse and measure c <0.5mm; although they occur up to 3.0mm typically they are <1.0mm. Amongst these inclusions are red and white clay pellets (to 1.5mm), black or brown fine-grained rock inclusions (to 1.0mm) and unidentified soft white inclusions, not reacting to hydrochloric acid and possibly decayed feldspar. In rare samples quartz is common, while some also have black iron-rich inclusions.

Thin section

This is a fine micaceous (muscovite and biotite) clay with common silt-sized inclusions, primarily of quartz and slightly less feldspar, with sparse larger grains to c 0.5mm. It is characterised by distinctive and common shale pellets, measuring between 0.1–0.7mm although not normally exceeding 0.5mm; occasional quartz-rich clay pellets are also present. Other diagnostic inclusions are common micaceous siltstone (sometimes felspathic, 0.1–3.0mm, normally to c 0.5mm) and sparse fine-grained sandstone, volcanic rock and a sprinkling of hornblende and pyroxene.

Source

Several areas with debris indicative of production are known within the Malverns, but evidence from actual kilns now also exists (Evans et al 2000). Inclusions of felspathic siltstone, volcanic rocks and accessory minerals are all typical of the complex geology of the region, described by Peacock (1968), and provide complementary evidence for production in the area.

Donor

Hereford and Worcester County Museum, Hartlebury Castle

Museums

Hereford and Worcester County Museum, Hartlebury Castle; Hereford City Museum and Art Gallery; Tudor House Museum, Worcester

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

Plate 121: Fresh sherd break of SVW OX 1 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 121: Fresh sherd break of SVW OX 1 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 121.1: Photomicrograph of SVW OX 1 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 121.1: Photomicrograph of SVW OX 1 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)


(UnSourced) Severn Valley Oxidised ware 2 (SVW OX 2)

Five samples

Samples included in this group cannot be attributed to a particular kiln, but are included here to illustrate the glossy and hard, burnished surfaces typical of well-preserved Severn Valley ware. A source in the Malverns cannot be ruled out for these samples, as indicated by the thin section description below.

General appearance

These samples are typically orange to orange-brown (2.5YR 5/8, 2.5YR 6/6–6/8) in colour; some sherds have a reduced break or core, which is pale grey (6/0, 5YR 6/1) to grey-green (2.5Y 6/2). Where the surface survives is it characteristically well-burnished, often in horizontal facets, and in colour is similar to the break, although a wider range of tones, including brown (5YR 6/4, 5YR 6/6) is represented amongst our samples. A similar clay was used to produce a reduced fabric, but the reduced sample included here is a waster and may not be intentional. The fabric tends to abrade easily in adverse soil conditions, but where preserved it is hard to very hard, with a smooth or occasionally irregular fracture. Burnished surfaces are smooth, elsewhere they may be rough.

Hand specimen

Somewhat diverse fabrics are represented here, but generally they seem finer than SVW OX 1. The samples are however united by a fine matrix with common fine mica (mostly silver) and silt-sized inclusions typical of the Keuper marl. Additional inclusions, variable in size and quantity although normally sparse, comprise clay pellets (white, red and matrix coloured to 7.0mm), red-brown and black iron-rich inclusions, and unidentified white inclusions, in rare instances reacting to hydrochloric acid and therefore calcareous. When present they tend to be ill sorted, ranging in size from <0.1–1.0mm and not falling into average size categories, although few are greater than 0.5mm. Several sherds give the appearance of being poorly mixed, with a corresponding vesicular matrix. The photographed sherd (Plate 122) belongs to the fine end of the range. The presence of limestone in some, but not all, samples may indicate that more than one source is represented.

Thin section

A fine micaceous (muscovite and rare biotite) clay dominated by common silt-sized quartz is seen in this sample. Larger grains are sparse (0.1–0.25mm, occasionally to 0.6mm), comprising quartz (sometimes polycrystalline), feldspar and opaque fragments. Rare micaceous siltstones and ferromagnesian minerals, as well as single fragments of fine-grained sandstone and ?shale link this fabric to that described for Malvernian SVW OX 1.

Source

A number of different kiln areas are known from the core of the Severn Basin, with outlying production areas as far afield as Somerset (Scarth 1865–6) and Perry Barr, near Birmingham (Hughes 1959).

Donor

Department of Prehistoric & Romano-British Antiquities, The British Museum

Museums

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery; Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle; Hunterian Museum, Glasgow; City Museum and Art Gallery, Gloucester; Hereford and Worcester County Museum, Hartlebury Castle; Department of Prehistoric & Romano-British Antiquities, The British Museum; Somerset County Museum, Taunton; Tudor House Museum, Worcester

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

Plate 122: Fresh sherd break of SVW OX 2 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 122: Fresh sherd break of SVW OX 2 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 122.1: Photomicrograph of SVW OX 2 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 122.1: Photomicrograph of SVW OX 2 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)


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