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North Devon Pottery and Its Export to America in the 17th Century   By:

North Devon Pottery and Its Export to America in the 17th Century by C. Malcolm Watkins

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North Devon Pottery and its Export to America in the 17th Century

by C. Malcolm Watkins

Paper 13, pages 17 59, from

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY

UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM

Bulletin 225

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION ยท WASHINGTON, D.C., 1960

CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND TECHNOLOGY: PAPER 13

NORTH DEVON POTTERY AND ITS EXPORT TO AMERICA IN THE 17TH CENTURY

C. Malcolm Watkins

[Illustration: FIGURE 1. North Devon sgraffito cup, deep dish, and jug restored from fragments excavated from fill under brick drain at May Hartwell site, Jamestown, Virginia. The drain was laid between 1689 and 1695. Colonial National Historical Park.]

By C. Malcolm Watkins

NORTH DEVON POTTERY AND ITS EXPORT TO AMERICA IN THE 17th CENTURY

Recent excavations of ceramics at historic sites such as Jamestown and Plymouth indicate that the seaboard colonists of the 17th century enjoyed a higher degree of comfort and more esthetic furnishings than heretofore believed. In addition, these findings have given us much new information about the interplay of trade and culture between the colonists and their mother country.

This article represents the first work in the author's long range study of ceramics used by the English colonists in America.

THE AUTHOR: C. Malcolm Watkins is curator of cultural history, United States National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

Pottery sherds found archeologically in colonial sites serve a multiple purpose. They help to date the sites; they reflect cultural and economic levels in the areas of their use; and they throw light on manufacture, trade, and distribution.

Satisfying instances of these uses were revealed with the discovery in 1935 of two distinct but unidentified pottery types in the excavations conducted by the National Park Service at Jamestown, Virginia, and later elsewhere along the eastern seaboard. One type was an elaborate and striking yellow sgraffito ware, the other a coarse utilitarian kitchen ware whose red paste was heavily tempered with a gross water worn gravel or "grit." Included in the latter class were the components of large earthen baking ovens. Among the literally hundreds of thousands of sherds uncovered at Jamestown between 1935 and 1956, these types occurred with relatively high incidence. For a long time no relationship between them was noted, yet their histories have proved to be of one fabric, reflecting the activities of a 17th century English potterymaking center of unsuspected magnitude.

The sgraffito pottery is a red earthenware, coated with a white slip through which designs have been incised. An amber lead glaze imparts a golden yellow to the slip covered portions and a brownish amber to the exposed red paste. The gravel tempered ware is made of a similar red burning clay and is remarkable for its lack of refinement, for the pebbly texture caused by protruding bits of gravel, and for the crude and careless manner in which the heavy amber glaze was applied to interior surfaces. Once seen, it is instantly recognizable and entirely distinct from other known types of English or continental pottery. A complete oven (fig. 10), now restored at Jamestown, is of similar paste and quality of temper. It has a roughly oval beehive shape with a trapezoidal framed opening in which a pottery door fits snugly.

[Illustration: FIGURE 2. Sketch of sherd of sgraffito ware dish, dating about 1670, that was found during excavations of C. H. Brannam's pottery in Barnstaple. ( Sketch by Mrs. Constance Christian, from photo. )]

Following the initial discoveries at Jamestown there was considerable speculation about these two types. Worth Bailey, then museum technician at Jamestown, was the first to recognize the source of the sgraffito ware as "Devonshire."[1] Henry Chandlee Forman, asserting that such ware was "undoubtedly made in England," felt that it "derives its inspiration from Majolica ware ... Continue reading book >>




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