• Nicholas Harrison

Learning from home - Part 1. Introducing our home learning Resource – Pottery

Updated: Jun 18

Hi everyone from Nicholas, Founder of Soldier On! Sadly, our field-based projects have been postponed this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find things to do! I’ve asked one of our members to put together some factsheets about historical pottery for us to learn more. Now, if I’m to be completely honest, when Tim was managing our last dig on the site of a C12th Priory, I did as much as I could to avoid his finds table, small bits of broken pottery not being of great interest to me, or so I thought… One evening, we held one of our evening briefing sessions in Tim’s room and, merely out of courtesy, I asked Tim to tell me more about what the team had found. My area of interest is people, their thoughts, emotions, dreams etc. not bits and pieces of old rubbish. So I braced myself and let Tim begin. Within seconds, I was hooked. “So here we have pieces of a mug, made locally, which from the positioning we found it in, looks like it was dropped by a worker who was stripping the Priory following the dissolution”, said Tim. Only a few days before, I had helped a friend, a dry-stone waller, pull an old stone cottage apart, slab by slab. My mind immediately flew between my own experiences and the imaginary figure, hot and thirsty, his hands, as mine had been, bleeding and covered in stone dust, pulling apart the Priory. The cup that held the drink that quenched his thirst had been unearthed from the position it had fallen to when it was dropped and was now sitting in a little blue plastic finds tray around 470 years later. Under Tim’s guidance, I began to see that their intricate designs, advanced manufacturing processes and beauty represented far more than something I would normally throw over the garden fence when weeding. They became part of someone’s life story, an illumination of a previous existence, a glimpse into the world of our forebears. I was hooked, and I hope you will be too! So, for now, over to the expert himself!

Tim at work


Hello everyone from Tim, an archaeologist who, over the next few weeks, will be delivering some information about historical pottery. I’ll be using examples of things we have found during Soldier On! digs as well as seeking out other interesting pieces. To introduce myself: I am a qualified geo-archaeologist with extensive experience in excavation, survey, post-excavation report writing, research and public presentation. Since 1987, I have been working on short-term projects as a volunteer and professionally. In total this equates to the equivalent of approximately 3 years full time excavation experience with the equivalent of another 3 years surveying and over 9 years of post-excavation and finds work. I have worked on a wide range of sites including intertidal Mesolithic sites on the Severn Estuary, PPN sites in the Near East, Neolithic monuments in Wiltshire, various Roman and Medieval sites, both in the UK and abroad, and abandoned post-WWII defences. I also have extensive experience of Geological, Environmental and Oceanographic field work as well as commercial land surveying experience which includes standing building work, surveying for road schemes and land reclamation work. My particular specialities are ceramics-taught to me by Peter Webster, archaeometallurgy and Ancient and Medieval weaponry. Over the last couple of years, I have participated on Soldier On! projects, most recently as a voluntary Project Director, as I try to find paid employment. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take you on a distance learning journey into a world I find fascinating, a world of pottery from an archaeological perspective. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask us by Twitter: @soldieronorg or Facebook: www.facebook.com/soldieronorg For now, here’s our first piece:


Name: Feathered Slip ‘pie-crust’ plate Origin: Staffordshire Date: Late 17th -mid 18th century Information: The vessel was made by pressing a slab of clay into a simple domed mould to obtain the correct plate shape the rim of which was then decorated by forming the ‘pie-crust’ effect seen at the bottom of this image. The feathering effect was achieved by trailing lines of brown slip across the surface and then running a ‘feather’ through them while still wet to produce the spikes visible near the rim. Very similar vessels were made in the Bristol area; however, this example is shown to be from Staffordshire by virtue of the creamy white clay visible in the break, if it was from near Bristol the break would appear redder. The white clay is also what produces the butter-yellow overall colour. The plate has been coated with a clear iron oxide rich glaze that when fired makes the white clay appear yellow. Stay tuned for more!...