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Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre - Pottery Replica Project

Bill Crumbleholme was commissioned to produce replica pottery for the visitor centre at Hengistbury Head, a multi-period trading port at the mouth of the Christchurch Harbour.

The centre opened in late 2013 and again in spring 2014!

Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre opening

The second opening, with the Great and the Good being thanked for their contributions.

Hengistbury Head Visitor centre First Opening

The first Opening - showing the brilliant banner title for Bill's efforts "Piles of rubbish"!

The display behind these good folk includes a collection of replica urns, beakers and bowls and round the corner is an "Ask The Expert" interactive video which features Bill explaining some of the methods he uses.

Hengistbury Head pottery display

The centre's website can be found at this link

There is a map of the locations at this link.

The pots that were finally selected for the display have been recorded at this link.

The pots that were made as back-ups will be sold, either at the new centre or by Bill on his travels.

Workshops were run at the Head in mid April 2013, when people interested in the project were given a chance to see how Bill makes and fires the pots and have a go themselves. There is a page devoted to that event at this link.

Bulk emails about this project are sent out using Mail Chimp to people who are interested. View the latest email at this link and also sign up receive future copies yourself.

Email to Bill to receive alerts about this project and his other activities.

This webpage can be looked at like a blog - in one long page, with the oldest posts at the bottom (after these introductions).

Bill researched and developed a range of clays and inclusions to use for the pottery, which covers styles from the Neolithic to the late Iron Age.

The final task was to blacken the Iron Age vessels, by smoking them in burning woodchips and dry leaves.

Smoking pots

Bill fired many of his pots in his large wood fired kiln in August 2013, there is a webpage devoted to that firing at this link.

Selected Pots

These are some of the pots selected for the display at Hengistbury Head, fired in the wood kiln and after a scrubbing to clean the ash off them. Some of them need to be smoked to turn them black, like the originals.

Workshop Pots

These are some of the pots made at the workshops run as part of the project, they were fired in the wood kiln.

Trevisker Urn Fired

The Trevisker style urn replica - the largest vessel made for the project.

Trevisker Urn

The same urn, after construction. They originated in Cornwall, often containing granite grit from the Lizard area. This needed help to construct in sections.

Bronze Age Collared Urn

A Bronze Age Collared urn, with cord impressed decoration.

Glastonbury Ware Bowl

A Glastonbury Ware bowl, with scratched flowing design.

Glastonbury Ware Bowl

Another Glastonbury Ware bowl.

Glastonbury Ware Bowl

This is a smaller Glastonbuiry Ware bowl.

Deverel-Rimbury Urn

A smaller simpler Deverel-Rimbury urn. This zigzag decoration was impressed using a flint, the bands were pushed in with a blunt stick.

Deverel-Rimbury Urn

A Deverel-Rimbury Urn, with a simple scratched design on a globular body. This pot was made while demonstrating at the National Trust "Spring Tide" event at Burton Bradstock.

Grooved Ware Bucket

This is another copy of a Grooved Ware Neolithic bucket (made to replace the earlier ones which where made from clay from Hengistbury and then broken during the bonfire firing). It was made from clay dug in Preston (very near the Rimbury Urnfield, so it will be used for those pots as well!). Some grog and builders sand was added to give some body to the clay which had been watered down to a slip, passed through a kitchen seive to remove the flinty granules and then dried out on a plaster bed. A test piece had been fired electrically to check it behaves well - which it does!

Collared Urn

This is a Bronze Age collared urn made from the same clay. The decoration is simple thumb nail stabs.

Collared Urn

The urn was made from the same clay, but without the grog - just some sand.


This is an electrically fired beaker.

Collared Urn

This is a large collared urn, electrically fired.

Glastonbury Ware Bowl

This and the two below are copies of Glastonbury Ware, mid Iron Age bowls with distinctive flowing incised decoration. These were thrown (to quickly produce some items that we could practice the decoration on), some more will be made by hand building using rings.

Glastonbury Ware Bowl


Glastonbury Ware Bowl


Iron Age Bowl

This is a copy of an Iron Age bowl, the originals were probably made in northern France, like this one thrown on the wheel using a fairly fine clay.

Deverel-Rimbury bucket urn

This is a copy of a Deverel-Rimbury bucket urn, with small lugs and a "rusticated" finger decoration. These were found in Bronze Age Urn fields, large cemeteries of buried urns containing cremated bones.

A couple of days were spent video recording Bill at work, making and fired pottery at Down Farm, there is a description on a separate page at this link.

Fired collared urn

Collared urn fired at Down Farm in a small turf kiln.

Grooved Ware Bucket

This is a copy of a "Grooved Ware" neolithic bucket, the grooves were impressed using a knapped flint edge and a chopstick (standing in for a bird bone!)

Grooved Ware Bucket Detail

This is a close-up detail of the Grooved Ware pattern.

Incense Cup

This is a copy of the "incense cup" found inside an urn at the Head. That description may be misleading as to its original function, but it looks like a very good guess. Another fairly similar type of pot was usually called a cheese strainer, but tests showed that it functioned really well as a "Bunsen Burner", fueled by rushes soaked in fat, to produce a very hot pin-point flame which would have been used by metal workers.

Dried Urns

This is a couple of the urns after drying out - the clay from the Head that was part of the blend appears to be salty, as seen by the deposits of salt building up on the surfaces as the water evaporates away.

Damp Pots

This is a collection of damp pots, some of the first ones to be made, they are now drying out before being decorated.

Collared Urn

This is one of the first "Collared" urns, hand made from three sections using clay from the Head, mixed with some homemade grog (see below). The decoration is impressed using a piece of rope. (The fired result can been seen above and on the separate page about the activities at Down Farm.)

Grooved Ware Bucket

This is a "Grooved Ware" bucket, before the grooves have been made. Twin vertical ridges have been pinched down the sides. Note the coarser grade grog in the surface texture.

Poked Beaker

This is a beaker, with poked decoration to form the pattern, it looks a bit top heavy - but that is partly because the camera was too close! (This was also fired well at Down Farm)

Buckets of crash pottery grog

These are buckets of "grog" which Bill has prepared by smashing and grinding pottery that broke during previous firings. The grog is shaken (& stirred!) through a set of sieves so that it is separated into grades from fine to coarse. These are then added to the various clays in a range of proportions, together with ground-up sea-shells and fired flint. This should produce a collection of clay bodies suitable for the types of replica being produced.

Grog and other materials are added to clay to increase the strength of the wares, during making, firing and use. It is found in ancient pottery, sometimes it can be seen on the surface, sometimes it is only apparent when broken pieces are carefully examined. It is thought that some of these inclusions may have had "ritual significance", being made from ancestors' pots or using materials from special locations.

Bill is worried about the sea-shells and flint, which he has not used before. As a modern potter he would avoid contaminating his clay with these minerals, which are not very stable when heated. So this project is an opportunity to do some experimental archaeology and see what happens.

Set out below are the documents drawn up to describe all the pots being made. An image of each pot has been printed full size on card and the profile cut round to use as a template. Details of the clay types and inclusions have been annotated on the drawings, to help sort out the differences.

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