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Hengistbury Head Visitor Centre - Pottery Replica Project

Making & Firing Days at the Head April 2013

Workshops were run at the Head in April 2013, to give people interested a chance to see how the pots are made and fired and have a go themselves.

Return to the main page about the project at this link.

Bill Crumbleholme made pottery and and fired some he had made earlier in a bonfire and a turf kiln. The images below show some of the results.

Bonfiring urns

These urns are being pre-heated with a ring of fire around them to dry them.

Blazing bonfire

After pre-heating the bonfire was built up - a bit like a log cabin around and over the pots, forming a simple chamber in which the pots were heated to about 850C. This was restoked to burn for about an hour and a half.

Glowing pots

The pots can be seen in the depth of the fire, glowing red - which shows they have been turned to ceramic.

cooling fire

The fire is then left to cool down slowly. When the pots started to emerge from the embers they were hooked out with a long stick and cooled rapidly, this evens out the thermal shock and allows most of the carbon trapped in the surface to be burnt away.

Bonfired collared urn

This is one of the collared urns just out of the fire, there is still some carbon black and unfortunately a crack in the collar.

beaker and urn

This is one of the collared urns made using clay from the Head, it was fired on its side and has sagged a bit as the clay became softer while being fired. The surface has patches of discolouration from the salt and other impurities in the clay. The small beaker was also made of local clay, a particularly dark batch with a lot of organic residue that mostly burnt away.

The firing was not completely successful, as often happens with "experimental archaeology", most of the pots suffered from spalling because they were heated before being sufficiently dry or cracked on cooling. Some of them made from local clay were distorted because the clay is impure. The attempt to built a larger than usual turf structure as a simple kiln was abandoned when then relative proportions were seen to be wrong, with no heat reaching some of the pots.

The need to use well prepared timber fuel was highlighted when we struggled to get the damp and newly cut timber to burn at times. Some very dense branches of a hornbeam tree were difficult to set alight, but burnt very effectively in the bonfire blaze, producing very hot embers.

While demonstrating how he constructs the pots Bill made the following batch.

Collare Urn

This is a collared urn, made by joining 5 rings to a base section, the clay has to dry out and stiffen up during the process to enable it to carry the weight without sagging. The pot is pinched and beaten to thin out the walls. It is then smoothed using a wooden tool to scrape the surface and then brushed over with water to form a slip that fills any small holes. The decoration is made by impressing a thin rope into the soft clay.

Collared Urn

Another urn made in the same way.

Collared Urn

A more bucket like urn with a taller collar that shows the "corded" decoration well.

Cup and beaker

A copy of the incense cup found inside an urn buried in a barrow on the Head, with a beaker similar to those found in the area.

Deverel-Rimbury bucket urn

Deverel-Rimbury bucket urn, with lugs and "rusticated" finger impressions.

Many thanks to Mark and Jennie for helping with the workshops and firings and the Outdoor Activities Centre for hosting us.