Nottingham Stoneware

by Haley HoffmanArchaeological Field and Lab Technician

As many of you know, here at CART we eat, sleep and breath historic ceramics. So when a unique and perplexing piece comes through our doors we are more than intrigued. Recent excavations have uncovered an interesting piece of what we believe to be a variety of Nottingham Stoneware (see picture). Nottingham was originally produced by James Morely starting in 1700 in, you guessed it, Nottingham, England, and produced later on in other locales like Derbyshire and Staffordshire until around 1810. (FLMNH n.d.) Like other stonewares, it has a hard homogenous body with no inclusions. It typically has a thin grey body but can also be found with buff or orange bodies. What makes Nottingham unique is its brown burnished metal look (MAC Lab 2015). This is achieved by applying an iron based brown-orange wash before the salt glaze (Gallucci 1997). The wash can sometimes totally eliminate any signs of the typical “orange peel” look found on other salt glazed stonewares. In some cases, a thin white slip can be seen beneath the glaze in cross section. Nottingham ceramics can have a wide array of decorative patterns and techniques. Techniques included “incising, press molding, piercing, sprig molding, rouletting and rustication” (MAC Lab 2015). Floral, scroll and armorial motifs were often present as well as simple riling and geometric lines. Rustication techniques such as applied grog, crumb and shavings became more prevalent on Nottingham around the 1750s. (FLMNH n.d.)

Which brings us back to the curious piece of ceramic we have (see picture above). The sherd has a thin, grey vitrified body with a brownish-orange matte exterior. There is no evidence of the typical “orange peel” look and the matte “glaze” looks like it is covered in sporadic metallic sparkles. The sherd’s decoration is even more intriguing. There are six (visible) bands of incised shapes and curved lines (see below).The matte but metallic exterior probably looks the way it does from degradation and the incised scroll motif, however odd, is consistent with the reported decorative techniques.

MAC Lab, 2015. “Nottingham – type.” Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland. Accessed December 11, 2017. http://www.jefpat.org/diagnostic/ColonialCeramics/Colonial%20Ware%20Descriptions/Nottingham.html

FLMNH Ceramic. (n.d.). Stoneware, Nottingham – Type Index. Historical Archaeology. Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH). Electronic. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/histarch/gallery_types/type_index_display.asp?type_name=STONEWARE,%20NOTTINGHAM

Gallucci, Timothy R. 1997. The early American salt-glazed stoneware jug as art and artifact: A critical approach to interpreting the aesthetic meanings and cultural origins of a craft archetype. The Pennsylvania State University.

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About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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