Material Histories 4 – Gritty Ware
(An occasional series to help you keep sane in an insane world)
Gritty Ware is a catch all term for medieval pottery made of pale grey through to red brown fabrics with angular to sub angular quartz rich grit temper. Fabric is a collective term for the materials used to construct the body of the ceramic object and temper is the stuff added to the clay to stop the pottery breaking when fired. The gritty temper in the fabric gives it a texture that has been likened to toad skin.
Early in the medieval period it was unglazed but by the thirteenth century the use of glazes was widespread. The most common colour in North Western assemblages seems to be a translucent yellow green. The glaze was generally ‘splashed’ from the late twelfth century with covering glazes becoming the norm in the late thirteenth to fourteenth centuries. Bright green to blue/green glazes become popular in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries though in the North West they seem to stick with the yellow/green more than in other parts of England. Unglazed and partially glazed wares continued to be made, especially for use in cooking.
Very few production centres have been found in the North West and it was long conjectured that most was being brought in from other areas, notably form Yorkshire along the salt trading routes. This is probably true to an extent but I feel certain that there was a reasonable sized production centre in east Lancashire and others elsewhere too. If there was, they are yet to be discovered, though the pottery found in the county, and the post Medieval ceramic industry, support the likelihood of local kilns.
Our featured find is from near Burnley in the east of Lancashire. It a splash glazed body sherd from a large vessel, probably a storage container of some kind. It has a ‘reduced’ fabric which means that inside ‘core’ of the vessel did not ‘oxidise’ or react to oxygen during firing in the kiln. Similar fabrics have been found nearby at Whalley (Museum Of Lancashire collection) and at the excavation of a Medieval site a few miles to the north of Burnley. Dates from c1150 to c1400 AD.