Black Burnished Wares - Iron Age Pottery (Celtic)

"Black Burnished Ware" is the inspiration for a range of pottery made by Bill Crumbleholme - it may not be Bronze Age, but it deserves recognition as a special Dorset based pottery type.

There is an archive webpage about Bill's activities with Black Burnished Ware at this link

Maiden Castle War Cemetery Bowls


Bowl inspired by BBW, stoneware, wheel thrown, glazed with iron rich Cornish Stone glaze in electric kiln


Shards of Black Burnished Ware

Shards of Black Burnished Ware from Bestwall Quarry

BBW Bowl

Bowl, thrown, burnished, insised and smoked.

These functional bowls are inspired by the Celtic Iron Age pottery of Dorset.
They are a very useful size and shape, easy to handle and very versatile, as well as being pleasing on the eye.
The shape known as the “Maiden Castle War Cemetery Bowl” is a design classic; so called because they are found with the Warrior burials at the Dorset Hillfort, ritually filled with food for the afterlife.

The bowls were prize possessions of local origin in the Iron Age.

In the Roman period following, the technology formed the basis of a huge industry in the Poole Harbour area and was a great commercial success, with the pottery traded all over Britain and northern France.

The originals were usually decorated with a lattice design around the outside, which enhanced their appearance and identified them – as a “brand”. The designs were tried and tested, part of the local heritage, which archaeologists now use to identify and date the cultural remains.

The Celtic pots were unglazed, burnished with an attractive smooth black finish, achieved by densely smoking them in a clamp after initial firing.

Bill's modern versions are made for everyday domestic use from stoneware clay; they have safe non-toxic glazes and are waterproof, ovenproof, microwave proof, easy to clean and fully functional. Yet they retain the simple shape and appeal.

The range of sizes fit all occasions, they can be used for food preparation, cooking, storage and serving for the living as well as the dead !

Download a copy of this text at this link.


Cooking Jars

Black Burnished Ware Jar

Black Burnished Ware Jar, thrown, but fired by wood at Bestwall Quarry

Black Burnished Ware Jar

Jar being made by hand, from 4 large rings joined together, not yet smoothed out.

Victorian archaeologists named these vessels as cooking jars, because that seemed a good idea at the time!

They may well have been used for cooking, but they were also useful for storage and transportation of food and ingredients.

They were the most popular shape of BBW in the Iron Age, but fell out of favour relatively with the Romans because they needed some skill to produce compared with the simpler bowls.

The lattice design around the shoulder enhanced their appearance and identified them – as a “brand” - when coupled with the smooth dark black finish of the best examples, achieved by polishing the damp pot and densely smoking them in a clamp after initial firing.

Bill has made various batches of these, notably at the Bestwall Quarry site near Wareham, where he worked with the team of archaeologists to rebuild some of the kilns and fire pottery in them, before they were distroyed. That is documented at this link.