Hedingham Ware Pottery Database

Helen Walker, 2011

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Helen Walker
Senior Pottery Specialist
Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit
Fairfield Court
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Helen Walker (2011) Hedingham Ware Pottery Database [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000400


Photograph of Hedingham ware

This is a study of the Hedingham pottery industry based in north-central Essex. Its main products were decorated and glazed fine wares, mainly jugs, and, typically, grey-firing coarse wares, produced between the 12th and 14th centuries. The study comprises two main components, a synthesis of Hedingham Ware production, and the distribution of Hedingham Ware within greater East Anglia. The industry comprises some fourteen known production sites, most of which are clustered around the triangle formed by the settlements of Sible Hedingham, Gosfield and Halstead, with evidence for two production sites further west. Each site is published in a gazetteer, giving the geographical background, a description of the site, and a brief summary of the types of pottery found. The most important production site is Hole Farm, where two nests of superimposed kilns were excavated, revealing a very large assemblage of coarse ware pottery, and modest amounts of fine ware. The evidence of production at some of the other sites is less than comprehensive as many were excavated in the early to mid 20th century, leaving only scant records, but together these sites form a pattern showing what factors affect the siting of a kiln. Other evidence is brought together to place the pottery industry in its geographical setting.

The pottery from Hole Farm and the production sites has been used to create a typology of fabrics, vessel forms, sub-forms and decoration, for both fine and coarse wares (which has been recorded on the Access database submitted to ADS). The fabrics have been defined visually and by thin-section and ICPS analyses. The glazes have been subjected to XRF analysis. The origins and affinities of the industry are examined and, for the fine wares, largely corroborate the influences already outlined by Cotter and others. The study of distribution, which also builds on Cotter's earlier work (Cotter 2000, 88-90), shows the northern half of Essex, south-west Suffolk and south Cambridgeshire to be main areas of distribution, and it is widely but sparsely distributed around The Fens. Coastal distribution is also significant. Smaller quantities reached Norfolk, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, the London area and parts of south-Essex. The route-ways used and the possible mechanisms of distribution are also discussed.

The industry appears to have evolved from the early medieval tradition, although it has similarities with Late Saxon Thetford-type Ware. The coarse wares show similarities to those produced in Suffolk. The Hedingham industry did not die out in the 14th century but became subsumed into the sandy orange ware tradition and lost its identity as Hedingham Ware. Much documentary evidence was uncovered relating to pottery and other clay-working industries in the late medieval and post-medieval periods, but unfortunately there is little documentary evidence for the main period of Hedingham production.

The study is awaiting publication as a monograph in the East Anglian Archaeology Series.


Cotter, J. 2000: The post-Roman pottery from excavations in Colchester 1971-85, Colchester Archaeology Report 7