Pottery supply and exchange patterns

Late first- early second century

Too little pottery was recovered from the stratified deposits of this date (15 sherds) to reconstruct the wares being used on the site in this phase.  However vessels of this date from later deposits included rusticated and plain jars with grooved shoulders and short everted rims in grey ware fabrics GRA1, GRA1B, GRB1, GRB2, GRB3, GRC1, MG3, OAA1 and OAB1, with only two sherds in the last two fabrics. 

The late first-early second century kiln at Middlewich had a kiln load of ring-necked flagons and neckless, everted–rim jars, some with linear rustication. The jars were in a grey ware and the flagons included both grey ware and oxidised, white-slipped flagons.  Some of the white-slipped flagons may have come from this local pottery and waster sherds were present whereas the white ware flagons are likely to have come from potteries also trading mortaria with the site such as those at Mancetter-Hartshill and Wroxeter.  Nine bodysherds in a distinctively granular white ware typical of the kilns near St Albans may represent flagons from that industry which supplied Middlewich with mortaria during the late first and early second century. 

One white-slipped “honey-pot” was identified. This form was made at the kilns at Holt and Wilderspool (Hartley and Webster 1973, no.39, Grimes 1930 nos 69 and 72) and is common in the first century, but was still present in Antonine levels at Manchester and Whitchurch (Leary 2007 fig 3.59 no. 115 and Webster 1969 no. 179).  One uncommon white ware “honey-pot” was also present and this may have come from Wroxeter where the form is known to have been made in a white-slipped ware and also a cream ware (Evans 2000, 207 type JH3, JH2.11 in cream ware). 

A hemi-spherical bowl in fabric GRB8, copying samian form 37, compares to a vessel from SLP and a bowl made at the early second century kiln at Northwich (Jones 1972 fig. 11 no. 16). Other bowls dating to this phase comprise a reeded-rim bowl and some carinated MG2 bowls.  Two eggshell ware terra nigra vessels are likely to date from the mid- to late first century.  One was the common carinated beaker form while another sherd had unusual rouletted decoration, but is likely to be of the same date range. 

Fine wares other than samian were scarce.  Several oxidised and reduced mica-dusted wares used to make beakers and carinated bowls were identified and these were also found at the Fairclough site.  The reduced mica-dusted wares were similar to group from Manchester and may have been made there.  At Middlewich and at Manchester Barton Street the mica-dusted wares were most common in the Trajanic-Hadrianic period although a third century mica-dusted oxidised ware is known from Nantwich (Evans in prep.). The earlier group included indented beakers, carinated bowls, a bead-rim hemi-spherical bowl and a reeded-rim bowl.  One scrap of Central Gaulish glazed ware belongs to this phase.  Eggshell terra nigra ware was also found at the Fairclough site but the scrap of Central Gaulish ware (see http://www.worcestershireceramics.org/hms/object.php?type=fabrics&id=107 for details of this ware) is not paralleled there. 

Both imported and local colour-coated roughcast beakers were present in small numbers on both Middlewich sites.  The mortaria of this date came from the Verulamium kilns and north Gaul.  At the Fairclough site these were further augmented by mortaria from Holt and the Rhone Valley. 

Hadrianic-early Antonine

The assemblage compared very well with the Hadrianic-Antonine groups from the Fairclough site.  Some 26% of the pottery assemblage was locally produced grey ware either from Middlewich or other kilns on the Cheshire Plain, and a further 21% comprised oxidised Cheshire Plain fabrics. 16% of the group assemblage came from the black burnished ware industry in Dorset and 2% from the Severn Valley industries.  The quantity of BB1 is somewhat greater than at the Fairclough site overall but compares very well with the Hadrianic-early Antonine groups as does the Severn Valley ware contribution.  The single BB2 jar is unusual but small numbers of BB2 are known from the Cheshire Plain such as two sherds from the Beetham Hilton Hotel site, Deansgate, Manchester (Martin in prep.).

Changes in the quantities of wares by phase show a rise in the amounts of BB1 vessels reaching the site between the phases 7 and 8 which is also found at the Fairclough site.  At Manchester Barton St the rise in BB1 occurred in Phase 3.1 dating to cAD160.  Discounting the small early groups in phases 4-6, the oxidised Cheshire Plain wares increased numerically in phases 8, 9 and 10 as the reduced wares became less common.  The Severn Valley type wares also increase during this period.  The evidence for wasters and distorted sherds suggests that some of the reduced wares came from local kilns, but the absence of oxidised wasters may indicate a decline or cessation of production at kilns in Middlewich by the mid-second century. 

The BB1 vessels comprised everted-rim jars with lattice burnish, flat-rim bowls and dishes, plain and grooved-rim dishes, small jars/beakers and some lids and small numbers of the late jars with obtuse lattice, one bead and flange bowl and one grooved, flat-rim bowl.  56% of the BB1 vessels were jars and of these most were of Hadrianic-early Antonine date.  Around 32% were bowls and dishes dominated by the Hadrianic-early Antonine bowls and dishes with flat rims with some so-called dog-dishes with grooved or plain rims.

The grey wares were less common in this phase.  The campanulate bowls in pit 403 are of this date and some of the neckless, everted-rim jars may have continued to be used in the Hadrianic period.  Other forms such as the narrow-necked jars are difficult to date securely typologically and as much of the late first to early second century material was present in the later groups, it is not possible to date them stratigraphically.  A flanged hemi-spherical bowl may belong to this period as may the roughcast beakers.  However during this period the oxidised wares became more common.

The oxidised wares included hemi-spherical bowls copying samian forms 30 and 37, a flanged, hemi-spherical bowl and everted-rim beakers, perhaps originally roughcast.  From phase 8 onwards several narrow-necked and wide-mouthed jars appeared which were similar to vessels made in the Severn Valley industries.  Two of these, both narrow-necked jars with wedge-shaped rims, were in a finer fabric similar to some of the Severn Valley ware fabrics.  Only four vessels, two narrow-necked jars and two wide-mouthed bowls, were certainly identified as Severn Valley ware.

The flagons were made up of white wares and local white-slipped wares in similar proportions.  The overall numbers of white and white-slipped wares were very similar to those from the Fairclough site and occurred in similar proportions throughout phases 6-9.  It is likely that the white-slipped wares came from potteries such a those at Wroxeter and Mancetter-Hartshill since evidence from kilns on the Cheshire Plain suggests that the local clays fired to an orange colour and were slipped to obtain a white surface. It is not clear whether the later ring-necked flagons in white-slipped wares were locally produced or traded with the mortaria in similar fabrics from larger potteries such as those at Wilderspool. The white-slipped flagons were predominantly ring-necked forms, with a slightly splayed profile.  Also present was a cupped-rim form (1) and one flagon with a simple everted-rim form (as Leary 2007 fig. 3.59 no. 116 from an Antonine group at Manchester Barton St.).  Three examples of the white-slipped flagons were burnt or overfired and could be wasters.  Unfortunately these were represented by bodysherds only and their full form is unknown.  Two overfired mortaria from SLP were probably wasters and of local manufacture in Middlewich or in the vicinity.  These dated to cAD 130-60 so it may be suggested that local manufacture of pottery extended into the early Antonine period and included mortaria and possibly also flagons. No other Antonine wasters have been identified.

The white ware flagons included one ring-necked flagon but most of the vessels were large with bead rims, rebated internally similar to the form of the imported Gallic wine amphora.  David Williams commented that in general, the fabric was too coarse to represent most of the Gauloise series, certainly the Narbonnensian Gauloise 4, the most common Gauloise form found in Roman Britain and classified them as flagons. The well-sorted quartz grains in the fabric, together with occasional strands of muscovite mica may well derive from the local Triassic Sandstones.  Similar vessels were identified at the Fairclough site and at Manchester Barton St (Leary forthcoming no. 192, Webster 1974 no.230 and Leary 2007 fig. 6.32 no. 167)  and at Warrington (Webster 1992 no. 209) associated with Antonine coarse pottery and samian.  In addition similar vessels have been noted at Rocester (Leary forthcoming).  The example from Manchester is double handled.  Several similar vessels were found at Derby Little Chester (Birss 1985 fig. 40 no. 41 and fig. 41 no. 70).  Most of the dating evidence points to a date range in the Hadrianic-Antonine period.  The form is similar but smaller than the British-made Gauloise 4 amphorae from St Albans and London (Symonds 2003). The source of these flagons has not yet been established.

There were fewer samian vessels in the stratified groups than at the Fairclough site but this was due to functional differences within the excavated areas (8% rather than the 13% at the Fairclough site). 
As in the late first-early second century fine wares other than samian were scarce. Local and possibly imported roughcast beakers were present at low levels (<1%) but no red-slipped fine ware of the type made at Wilderspool was present.

Small amounts of traded wares came from the Midlands and Derbyshire.  The shell-tempered and grog-tempered storage jars came from the south Midlands (Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire).  The shell-tempered ware may all be from one vessel, a large storage jar with cordon and grooves, similar in form and fabric to a vessel from Harrold, Bedfordshire (107).  The grog-tempered sherds were undiagnostic except sherds from one storage jar (29).  Three slightly different fabrics were identified and these may belong to a ware group from the south Midlands around Towcester in Northamptonshire known as early pink-grogged ware, which developed into a late pink grogged fabric with a wider distribution pattern (Booth and Green 1989).  An early rebated-rim jar (Booth and Green 1989 nos 15-16) was identified in the Fairclough site (Leary forthcoming no. 82).  Six sherds from Derbyshire ware jars were identified and these can be paralleled at Nantwich, Wilderspool and Mellor on the Cheshire plain, and also at Ribchester and Quernmore (Webster 1982, 22, Jones and Shotter 1988, 142 and Hinchcliffe and Williams 1992, 151 no. 668).  An early-Derbyshire ware jar was also identified at Melandra (Webster 1971, 104 no. 181).  These vessels may well have been distributed on a small scale for their contents and have also been identified at Walton-le-Dale (Evans in prep) but not at Manchester (Leary 2007).  Alternatively they could represent the movement of troops from the Midlands to the Cheshire Plain as has been suggested for the Cumbrian mortaria found at the Fairclough site (Hartley and Leary forthcoming).

Some small sherds from a Malvernian jar was identified (http://www.worcestershireceramics.org/hms/object.php?type=fabrics&id=139, Peacock 1967) and a vessel of this type was also found at the Fairclough site.  It has been suggested that Malvernian jars may have been used for the distribution of salt (Peacock 1967, 27). Although it is unlikely that salt would be being traded to Middlewich, it may represent the personal belongings of a salt worker in the Malvern area who was visiting or had moved to the site for work.

Considerably fewer amphora sherds were present at Buckley’s Field compared with the Fairclough site (3% rather than 8%).  Most of the vessels were Dressel 20 oil amphorae with 0.3% of the ceramic assemblage being Gallic amphorae.  The globular-shaped amphora form Dressel 20 (Peacock and Williams, 1986, Class 25) carried olive-oil from the Roman province of Baetica in southern Spain and is found on many sites in Britain, showing something of the wide distribution of olive-oil in the Roman Empire (Williams and Peacock, 1983). Dressel 20 amphorae were produced over a long period, from the reign of Claudius until shortly after the middle of the third century AD and well over 100 Dressel 20 kilns in the region of the River Guadalquivir are known to date (Rodriguez Almeida, 1989). A number of body and basal sherds most probably belong to the flat-bottomed Gauloise amphora series from southern France and date from the mid first century AD to around the end of the third century AD (Laubenheimer, 1985). This was the most common wine amphora imported into Roman Britain during the second century AD and predominantly from Narbonensis.  At the Fairclough site a greater range of amphorae were identified including Verulamium amphora sherds and four sherds from an amphora from Lipari, which seems to have carried alum and is dated to the first century AD and early second century (Borgard and Cavalier, 2003).

In the first half of the second century the sources supplying mortaria in the late first to early second century were superseded by local production at Wilderspool and (as yet) unexcavated kilns suspected elsewhere on the Cheshire Plain.  Fragments of eight vessels dating to the first half of the second century were identified as products of the Wroxeter kilns, with a small number (about three or four) of early Mancetter-Hartshill mortaria.  None of the mortaria from kilns on the Cheshire Plain can be certainly dated after cAD160 whereas eleven of the Mancetter-Hartshill mortaria can be dated after AD140.  Mancetter-Hartshill is the only source contributing mortaria in the third century in this part of Middlewich. 

Table 2: Mortaria by date and source using minimum vessel count (click to view)

Table 3: Mortaria by date and source using rim equivalent values (click to view)

Late second to third century

Very little pottery dated to this period.  A small number of oxidised wares from the later phases date typologically to the later second and third century, such as the bifid-rim narrow-mouthed jars (11-13) and wide-mouthed jars (67 and 105) and some of these were of Severn Valley type.  The late BB1 vessels comprised one grooved, flat-rim bowl and a bead and flange bowl and at least five late jars with obtuse lattice.  Also belonging to the late Roman period were two shell-tempered ware jars of south Midlands type (100 and 110) and six mortaria of typologically late form. The late Nene Valley mortaria present at the Fairclough site were not found in this group, and Nene Valley colour-coated ware was uncommon.  This ware is scare generally at Roman sites on the Cheshire Plain (<1%). One scrap of Trier black slipped ware was also identified.  Four sherds of this ware were present at the Fairclough site, and one sherd at Nantwich (Evans in prep).