[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Journal Homepage]

2. Pottery production in Anglo-Scandinavian Lincolnshire

The image evoked by Lincolnshire is of a flat landscape punctuated by fields and farmhouses. It is off the beaten path since the main north-south railway and the M1 motorway skirt the county boundary. These routes do not advertise Lincolnshire as a picturesque holiday retreat. Indeed, the view from the Flying Scotsman is one of bleak bogs along the River Trent. Nor do the reports of the fenland from the Anglo-Saxon period boost Lincolnshire's tourist appeal:

"There is in the midland district of Britain a most dismal fen of immense size, which begins at the banks of the river called Granta not far from the camp which is called Cambridge, and stretches from the south as far north as the sea. It is a very long tract, now consisting of marshes, now of bogs, sometimes black waters overhung by fog, sometimes studded with wooded islands and traversed by the windings of tortuous streams"
(Felix's Life of St. Guthlac; trans. Colgrave 1956, 87).

The late Anglo-Saxon landscape of Lincolnshire was one of lowland fens punctuated by a central limestone ridge running from north to south. The fens were not drained until the 17th and 18th centuries (Coles and Hall 1998, 84). During the Anglo-Scandinavian period (AD 850-1100) settlements dotted the fen edge, keeping to higher grounds, abandoning previous settlement within the fens. Roman roads stretched along the solid ground from Stamford through Sleaford towards Lincoln and Winteringham. Other roads cut north-east from Lincoln up towards Burgh-le-Marsh and Bullington as well as north from Stixwold to Saltfleetby. Between these ridges of land ran long tidal rivers: the Witham from Lincoln south-eastwards to the sea; the Trent from Derby and Nottingham through Newark and Torksey to meet the Ouse in the north; and the Welland from Stamford east towards the Wash.

The late Anglo-Saxon period in Lincolnshire was one of change and unrest. The Scandinavian settlement in the 9th century profoundly influenced the toponymy of the region. The liberal scattering of Scandinavian placenames, sometimes in combination with older Anglian names, demonstrates the development of an Anglo-Scandinavian ethnicity in this region following the Scandinavian settlement during the 9th century (Hadley 1996; Fellows-Jensen 1972). New styles and uses of sculpture by secular leaders rather than ecclesiastical bodies illustrate both a change in land-ownership and transmission (Everson and Stocker 1999; Boddington 1996). The development of towns as centres of production and trade, a phenomenon which extended throughout late Anglo-Saxon England in varying degrees, also signals shifts in social practice, which undoubtedly were influenced by the Scandinavian settlement along the east coast of Britain.

The development of towns is often associated with the late Anglo-Saxon period. This is not surprising, as the majority of archaeological evidence has been recovered from urban contexts (Biddle 1966; 1976; Biddle and Hill 1971; Hall 1988a; 1988b; Miles et al. 1989; Perring 1981; Hooke 1988). The level of organisation demonstrated by the emergence of towns points towards a restructuring of Anglo-Saxon socio-political practices. Regionally, the shire administration evolved with its central town and church. Locally, the large estates and minster parochiae were reorganised into small parish churches and manorial farms (Blair 1994; Boddington 1996). This culminated in the establishment of a single English ruler by the 11th century.

In conjunction with the rise of towns after the Scandinavian settlement of Lincolnshire and the east coast of England, pottery production moved into the towns of Lincoln, Torksey and Stamford. This is significant in itself, especially when associated with the general concentration of craft specialisation that occurred within these developing urban contexts. The aristocratic investment of authority and control in towns can be observed in many aspects of urban life, from the administrative activities to the concentration of craft production. Coincidental to the shift in production locale, pottery became more globular in shape, resembling Continental wares (Kilmurry 1977, 183-4; Barley 1982, 279 & 284; Miles et al. 1989, 206-10; Adams Gilmour 1988; Coppack 1973; 1980). From the mid 9th to mid 10th centuries pottery was primarily wheel-thrown. Previously, the Anglian Maxey wares were straight-sided, coil-built vessels which were fired in bonfire kilns referred to as clamp kilns (Vince 1993, 154). As the Anglo-Scandinavian period progressed there was some resurgence of hand-coil techniques (J. Young pers. comm.). Kilns developed an architectural structure, incorporating stone (or clay) lining and interior structures illustrating the investment in craft facilities within the town (Kilmurry 1980, 85-6; Barley 1964, 175-7; 1982, 270-5; Miles et al. 1989, 186; Wilkinson and Young 1995, 6).

These shifts in pottery production are indicative of changing social practices linked with Scandinavian settlement in England and the increased consolidation of government in the late Anglo-Saxon period, a trend that can be identified throughout the Anglo-Saxon period. The dramatic shift towards a Continental pottery style (incorporating wheel-throwing, globular form, glazing and more substantial kiln structure) suggests an initial immigration of potters into the east coast of England. It has been postulated that Continental potters were imported to Lincolnshire when Scandinavian activity disrupted communities on both sides of the English Channel (Kilmurry 1977; Miles et al. 1989, 226; Barley 1982, 275). Some localised production appears to have continued despite the monopoly of town wares, and re-emerged as important industries at the turn of the 11th century (J. Young pers. comm.). This article is concerned with the town-based industries and their floruit during the late 9th and 10th centuries.

Pottery was originally produced in Lincolnshire at three towns: Lincoln, Torksey and Stamford. Both Stamford and Lincoln are listed among the Five Boroughs of the Danelaw, that later became (with the exception of Stamford) the shire towns of Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire. Torksey became a Domesday borough and is thought to be one of the additional two towns in the singular mention of seven Danelaw boroughs. Although daughter workshops for Lincoln and Torksey developed at Horncastle and Newark-on-Trent respectively during the Anglo-Scandinavian period, this article will focus on the three original town-based industries, in particular that of Lincoln.

[Back] [Forward] [Contents] [Journal Homepage]

© Internet Archaeology URL: http://intarch.ac.uk/journal/issue13/1/2.html
Last updated: Wed Nov 13 2002