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Kent Archaeological Review extract

More Roman 'Lamp-Chimneys' from Kent.
by John Parsons.

It was interesting to read in KAR Number 26 of the discovery of a Roman "Lamp-Chimney" by Roger Walsh at the New Ash Green Roman Villa Site During an Emergency Excavation in 1956 by the Cray Antiquarian Association under my direction on the site of the solitary Roman Bath-House at Bedens Field near Footscray, Kent (NGR TQ 4795 7118), we were fortunate in finding fragments of several of these objects. The items were later submitted in 1961 to Mr A W G Lowther, FSA, ARIBA, who was preparing a Research Report on the subject of Roman 'Lamp-Chimneys.' In the absence of such a report since that date perhaps a brief note of our discoveries at Bedens Field might be made. In all, some ten pieces of 'Lamp-Chimneys' were recovered from the Roman Bath-House site (circa 80-180 AD) and prior to submitting the pieces to Mr Lowther, an outline sketch of each one was drawn, which now form tile basic illustrations in this article, together with observations made at the time. It will be seen from the illustrations that the pieces form two distinctive types of objects, i.e. those made of brick-tile (Numbers A.1 - 6) and those made of mortarium type pottery (Numbers B.7 10). This distinction has been noted already by Mr Lowther in his initial report on Roman Chimney-Pots from the Ashstead Roman Villa, (see SAC XLII (1934) page 61, et seq); also, Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot. LXX (1935-6) pages 387-391 We found fragments of both types at the Bedens Field Roman Bath-House and this appears to be a unique occurrence. At Verulamium, Sir Mortimer Wheeler recovered pieces of an 'Incense Burner' from the vicinity of an altar in a Temple (in INSULA VII); whilst from the Ashstead Roman Villa, Mr Lowther found fragments of the other type of Chimney Pot of crude clay, and associates the two types of objects together. This in my opinion is rather misleading, as these items have two distinct and different purposes, judging from examination of the finds from Bedens Field in this report. It is agreed that the Verulamium example may well have been used for the dissemination of perfumed incense within the Temple walls. Examples discovered in Germany confirm a votive purpose for such objects. However, in the Bedens Field Bath-House such an 'Incense Burner' could have been used for aromatics or, alternatively, for fumigation purposes within the Bath Building itself. (For plan of the BathHouse see J.R.S. (1957) XLVII page 224). Regarding the Ashstead type of 'Chimney Pot,' it is known from Silchester (KAR Number 26 (1971) page 183) and other sites, that these objects were used in association with roof-tiles and were indeed, 'Chimney Pots' but, of a rather specialist character for downward smoking flues from hypocausts, etc. (similar to the 'Colt-Cowls' which some chimneys need in this modern age). Hence the relative scarcity of such 'FlueCowls' from Roman sites, because of their specialist nature. Equally scarce from Roman buildings are the well known earthenware 'drainage-pipes.' Perhaps we ought to have a rethink about these objects as well, because they could have been used for 'topping' hypocaust flues into which the 'Chimney Pot' bases (illustrated) could be collared In conclusion, therefore, it must be stated that there are two distinctive types of objects, and these cannot be classified under the general heading of 'Lamp Chimneys' in future! The objects can, however, be divided into those of the 'Verulamium' type and those of the 'Ashstead' type (see illustrations of both types SAC XLII (1934) plate XII, page 61 The 'Verulamium' type stands on a fixed base, with a decorative rim both at top and bottom of the object. It is made of fine clay of mortarium-like texture. The 'Ashstead Chimney' is crude in comparison, made of brick-tile clay with a base-neck for insertion into a securing collar (unlike the "Verulamium" type). The decoration consists of heavily-thumbed flanges, and an assortment of roughly cut vents of various shapes and sizes; whilst the 'Verulamium' type has well made 'Vector' vents. Furthermore, the 'Ashstead' type can 'be identified by its Finial, again, of most crude construction, while the 'Verulamium' form is always openended. As already stated we were fortunate in finding at Footscray examples of both types, ten pieces in all-the largest number of fragments recorded from any Roman site in Britain today. I hope that our discoveries will throw new light on these interesting archaeological objects.



    (AI) BASE-NECK (diameter 144 millimetres; thickness 18 millimetres) in soft red clay distinguished by the presence of a 'nail-hole' halfway down its length. Such a feature has not been found on fragments of these objects previously reported, and shows that the base-neck was inserted into a collar and secured. (Incidentally, this 'Chimney Pot' has external knife-paring of the 'base to facilitate entry into its securing collar.)

    (A2) BASE-NECK (diameter 132 millimetres; thickness 15 millimetres) in hard-baked red clay with blue internal core. Signs of burning were evident on all surfaces of this piece and may be due to a later conflagration; the base-neck had internal tooled paring in this instance.

    (A3) BASE-NECK (diameter of 'base not known; thickness 13 millimetres) in hard clay with blue core. Internal face of base-neck has many traces of mortar attached and may indicate a constructional feature or was, alternatively, re-used in later construction.

    DRAWING: The finds from Bedens Field.

    The finds from Bedens Field.

    (A4) and (A5) Arched segments which join together to form the thumb and forefinger 'frilling' of the flanged construction of the superstructure of the chimney as per examples illustrated in SAC XLII (1934) PLATE XII page 61.(A6) Worn fragment in soft red clay with thumb-impression found on the field surface with a solitary Roman sherd in 1952, and so indicated the existence of a Roman Building nearby. (Compare SAC XLII (1934) Figure 1 page 62.)


    (B7) (B8) and (B9) Fragments of 'Incense Burner' such as found at Verulamium by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1933. (see Verulamium Report. INSULA VII page 119 Pl. Iviii.) The pieces consist of thin-walled well fired pottery with a blue core, and an orange-buff exterior (some 6mm thick). The principle piece (B9) forms part of a triangular shaped sherd, with two cut-edges and the third forming part of a rim with a thumb-pressed 'slashed' decoration. This piece is pierced by a hole (17 millimetres in diameter). The other two fragments display similar features-possibly all part of the same object.

    (B10) Thumb- impressed rim in hard red clay, smaller than rest of the fragments found. This could well be part of a 'tazza cup' similar to those found in association with the Incense Burner from the Verulamium temple (already mentioned).

If I might be allowed to comment on the item from the New Ash Green villa found by Mr Roger Walsh (KAR Number 26, page 183) it appears to be a hybrid form between the Ashstead and Verulamium types, with the thick texture of the former and the decoration of the latter, but judging from the 'base-form' it stood, rather than was inserted and, therefore with the complete absence of thumbed decoration must qualify for the Verulamium class of 'Incense Burner.' At the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, are some items from the Sumerian town of Kish in Anatolia including an Incense burner type object together with a tazza like cup.
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