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Kent Archaeological Review extract

Some Interesting 17th Century Finds from Rochester, Kent.
by John Parsons.

The remains of a rubbish-pit filled with some interesting 17th Century domestic debris have recently been unearthed at Number 308 High Street, Rochester, Kent and, due to the kindness of the owner, Mr W Hanman, the objects have been made available for this report.

Amongst the items recovered were two Bellarmines, several water jugs, a pipkin (or cooking pot), an early wine-bottle with embossed medallion, a thin glass perfume bottle, remains of a woman's decorated leather shoe, fragments of Lambeth "Delft" plates, besides about a dozen clay-pipes (circa 1670-1690). These items form an interesting collection of the period and were possibly discarded when the present 18th Century structure was erected upon the site.

It is hoped to display the finds at the forthcoming "Rochester Exhibition" being held on Saturday, 21st September, 1968, under the auspices of The Lower Medway Archaeological Research Group and the Medway Towns Numismatic Society.

Description of the Finds.

GRAPHIC: Pottery: Figures 1-6.

Graphics Caption: The Finds (1-6).

Figure 1. "Bellarmine" Stoneware in light honey-coloured mottled glaze, "Cardinal" head with prominent lip-form roughly fashioned on neck. Middle medallion with "Wheatsheaf" motif. Handle missing (ancient fracture). (For general discussion on "Bellamines" see Note at conclusion of this article).

Figure 2. "Bellarmine" Stoneware with deep rust-coloured glaze running to its base. "Cardinal" head deeply indented into neck. Middle medallion has "Lion Rampant" motif. Handle on reverse side.

Figure 3. "Cistern" or Storage Jar. Large rim decorated with finger-impressions in ancient Iron-age tradition. Earthenware with internal dark brown glaze and an external "bloomed" appearance similar to Wrotham Wares. (Acknowledgement is made to Mr John Ashdown for kindly identifying this sherd amongst others).

Figure 4. Dish or Platter of the period with similar internal dark brown glaze to the two vessel types (Numbers 3 and 6) in brown hard clay. Delightfully decorated with an overlapped finger rim in the fashion of Wrotham ware (see "Collection" Fitzwilliam Museum -- Cambridge, from kiln site).

Figure 5. "Delft" Drug Jar (base only). Tin-glazed earthenware with manganese-puce "spots" and cobalt blue lines as external decoration. Possibly an earlier "survival". (Compare V/A Cat. 3878-1901 English 17th Cent. possibly London).

Figure 6. Water Jug. One of half a dozen similar vessels found in the collection of pottery from the pit. Brown clay with deep rust coloured internal glazing only. Single "strap-handle". Slight distortion of rim in one case where handle attached.

GRAPHIC: Pottery: Figures 7-10.

Graphic Caption: The Finds (7-10).

Figure 7. Selection of clay pipes, some of which show signs of use. There are no identification marks of makers but the pipes conform in shape to general period circa 1670-1690 AD. (For further information on "Clay-pipes" for dating purposes see "Archaeological Newsletters": Volume 3 Number 10: Volume 5 Numbers 10, 11, 12: Volume 6 Number 5: Volume 7 Numbers 3, 8, 11; besides JBAA Volume XXIII (1960).

Figure 8. "Pipkin" or cooking pot in white clay with burnt base, supported upon three "feet" points showing extensive burns probably due to resting on a charcoal fire. "Spout Handle" attached to vessel would not have held a wooden extension as mouth of clay handle has accidental obstruction in surplus clay. Internally, the pipkin is coated with a yellow glaze and recessed for a lid (absent). (Compare V/ A. Cat. 948-1917, ENGLISH 17th Century.)

Figure 9. Wine Bottle of olive green glass with long neck and roughly applied single "string" rim. Onion-shaped body with sharply-angled shoulders with "applique" seal stamped with initials B.I.R. Glass bottles of this type took over from the firmly established Stoneware Flagons (Bellarmines) trade and were in use during the period 1660-1670 AD until the introduction of the shorter-necked type wine bottles. (For further information see "Sealed Bottles" by the late Lady Ruggles-Brise, "Country Life" (1949) and Foyles Handbook of Archaeology in Britain (1953) by I. Noel-Hume--Figure XXV (Page 111).

Figure 10. Lambeth "Delftware" dish in earthenware, lead-glazed with typical colouration in yellow, brown and blue composing a "fruit banquet" of pomegranates, etc., surrounded by a blue dash-decorated rim, again, a feature of this ware. (Compare V/ A Cat. 850-1920 Mid 17th Century.)


In general, objects of this date (second half of 17th Century) have largely escaped archaeological publication, mainly due to the "lateness" of this period and furthermore, the lack of precise dating of such objects. However, it is hoped that this report on a group of such items will initiate further research into this period. Mention must be made of the pioneering work done by Mr M R Holmes FSA on "Bellarmines" (Ant. Journal XXXI (1951) pp. 173-180) followed by an article on the same subject by Mr J E L Caiger (Kent Archaeological Review, Number 7, February 1967 pages 8-12); whilst there are some excellent excavation reports on pottery of this period by Mr J G Hurst, MA, FSA see "Hangleton Parsonage Site, Sussex" (S.A.S. Volume CI (1955) pp. 139-142) and the "St. Benedict's Gate Site, Norwich" (Norfolk Arch. XXXI (1963) pages 83-86) for which the writer of this article acknowledges his thanks.

NOTE: -- "BELLARMINES" These prominently-featured flagons, were produced during the period 1500 to 1700 A.D. They were manufactured possibly for containing white Rhine wine initially, but later, English ones held ale, cider and gin until glass bottles (such as Figure 9) completely took over the "container" market in the late 17th Century.

Fortunately, many of the earlier "Bellarmines" were date-stamped. An excellent series of such vessels is displayed at the Victoria & Albert Museum (German Stoneware Section).

Attention is drawn to the Museum example (V/A Cat. 764-1868) which is date-stamped 1572 and decorated with "The Twelve Apostles" and "Crucifixion" besides a magnificent "face-mask" on the neck -- possibly the artist's impression of the "Head of Christ"?

In 1671, Charles II forbade the importation of "foreign flagons" into England, in order to encourage the manufacture of home-produced wares. It is difficult to distinguish between the foreign and English "Bellarmines", however some flagons have a crowned "C.R." upon their centre medallion which indicates, at least, they are English by inference. It may well be that these two specimens from Rochester were "home-produced", during the second half Seventeenth Century the date assigned to the rest of the "finds" from the site.

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