Updates: Of Dates, Spoons, and Other Bits.

What ho, and, if I might say, a happy new year to you all!

A somewhat chaotic mixed bag this week as its essentially a series of updates of previous posts. But fear not gentle readers, there is pottery here, too. Oh yes, don’t you worry about that. On with the show, then…


A while back I received a strange gift in the form of a spoon left on the wall outside my house. I blogged about it here, but here is a reminder:

Wow, it was sunny day when I took this photograph

I noted that the numbers might have been a way to prevent the theft of the spoon from the Beehive pub. Well now, that’s clearly nonsense, and I have been something of a blockhead (I said “blockhead“, thank you very much), and it took the wonderful Sandra T to point out what should have been obvious – they are military identification numbers, corresponding to an individual soldier.

So I did a little digging (a poor pun, fully intended… please accept my apologies), and indeed it is a WWI military issued spoon. The makers – Walker and Hall of Sheffield – and the spoon design, both check out; millions of this type and design were issued to soldiers, made by a variety of manufacturers. The date of roughly 1880-1920 similarly checks out. Now, the markings. It should be noted that there is no ‘Broad Arrow‘ mark on the spoon, which is something that was put on anything related to the military. This is unusual, but not unknown – an individual spoon maker, hand stamping thousands of these things a day, is bound to make a mistake or two – or it may well have been a replacement spoon for one our man lost. The Service Number is the interesting part, as it could potentially identify the man himself – a name to a spoon, so to speak – and give us a little history. Alas, they are jumbled, with some seemingly upside down, and so far I have not been able to identify the person that used them. They seem to read:

5 4 6/9(upside down?) 6/9(upside down?) 3(upside down) 2

I may be wrong, and please, feel free to have a look yourselves – I’d love to give a name to the owner.

One final aspect of the spoon convinces me that this it is a WWI issued: the shape of the bowl. I had thought that the lob-sided nature indicated use-wear by a right handed person, but according to this forum, inhabited by all sorts of experts, it was deliberately done by many soldiers in order to enable the standard rounded spoon reach the more square corners of a mess tin. So there you go.

As to why it was in a wall… I don’t know. It may simply have been mischievous or bored activity – pointless and mindless, but something we have all done. But it feels more purposeful, and I am reminded of the blacksmith in the village of Catwick in Yorkshire, who nailed to the doorpost of his forge coins given to him by the 30 soldiers from the village going off to war, all arranged around a horseshoe. The coins represented each of the soldiers, leaving a little of themselves in their rural home, and the horseshoe luck. This can be considered an act of sympathetic magic, however half-hearted or jokingly done, conjured by a blacksmith, an individual who folklore already imbues with magical power. Interestingly, Catwick is one of only 53 villages in England known as ‘Thankful Villages‘ in that every man who went off to war, came back alive. Perhaps the magic worked? Was our spoon perhaps placed in the wall by our man as a way of leaving something of him behind, in order that he would return unharmed? And if so, did it work I wonder? I hope it did.


So, the great datestone list has expanded… by three for Whitfield, and several more for surrounding areas. I’ll stick with Whitfield for now, though.

Pikes Farm, Pikes Lane.

Pikes Farm, then. A date of 1780, and the intitials S. W. which, according to the original Robert Hamnett, belong to Samuel Wagstaff. And who are we to argue with that. I like the flourish with which the ‘8’ has been carved, not completed so that it looks almost like an ‘S’. Pikes Farm is interesting; it sits on the line of the Roman Road from the fort of Navio at Brough, near Castleton, and was connected by trackway to Dinting and Simmondley. It is such a prime location that I find it difficult to believe that people waited until 1780 to build a farmhouse there, and I suspect the location is a lot older.

Alas, no photograph. It is set far off the road, and although I tried, my phone’s zoom is not great. And strangely, people take a dim view of random Herberts wandering over their land and taking photographs. So instead, like any other sane and normal person, I sat in the car on the road and, using binoculars, I drew the datestone (…and that, Your Honour, is what I was doing when police Constable Jones wandered over.) . The date is 1772, the letters are R S M W – perhaps Robinson? Not sure, and Mr Hamnett can’t help us here, alas.

This next datestone illustrates why caution is sometimes needed in using datestones

The date of 1657

Whitfield Barn is on Cross Cliffe, the old trackway. As the name suggests it is a converted barn with probable farm house attached (another example of a ‘laithhouse’, that is a building made up of a house, barn, and byre/shippon in one). The stone is modern, and whilst the building is old (1750 – 1800, say), it doesn’t look like one built in the mid 17th century. Now, I’m not suggesting anything is incorrect, and it is likely that the building has a core that is of that date, and that the owners simply had a stone carved to reflect that. Indeed, if you look closely, you can see a number of different building phases. In particular just below the roof, where the upper floor has been raised, you can see the original roof line marked out in a line of stone.

Whitfield Barn, Cross Cliffe.

However, what if the owners were incorrect and mis-read an old deed? Or worse, anyone can commission a stone to be carved with any date they fancy. I’m certainly not saying that this is the case here, just using it to illustrate that there can be problems if we rely on a stone for a face value date. However, if we take that date as legitimate (which I am sure it is), then it provides us with a handy terminus ante quem for the track – the track goes past the house not to it, which implies the house was built after the track, so the track must already have been there in 1657.

I think these local tracks are largely medieval in date, and form a network that enabled people to move between the settlements that made up the Glossop dispersed settlement. And as time went on, more land was freed up, and new farmsteads sprang up along these routes. Thus, along this trackway that starts in Whitfield at the bottom of Cliffe Road, we see Whitfield Barn, Carr House, White House (with a side track taking in Jumble and Lower Jumble Farms). And, it follows, if we know where the original destination was, we can suggest an early date for that. The answer here is The Hurst on Derbyshire Level. Hurst is from the Anglo Saxon Hyrst, meaning ‘wooded hillock’, and which probably describes the hill immediately south-east of The Hurst. It is first mentioned as Whytfylde Hurse in the Feet of Fines in 1550, but an earlier date might be suggested by the rounded or ‘lobate’ shape of surrounding fields, indicative possibly of assarting (the process of converting forest into arable land), and what, to this untrained eye, looks very like ridge and furrow in the fields surrounding it. Both of these are largely medieval practices, and together could be quite telling. Hmmmmmm… I think The Hurst area needs a bit more looking into!


I blogged about a mystery white stone with a cross carved on it ages ago. I suspect that it (the stone, not the cross) is to protect the house from horse-drawn traffic, but why it has a cross on it, I still have no idea. Some months ago, though, I was sitting having a pint at the Beehive waiting to meet Mrs C-G, and vaguely staring at the wall ahead of me (I do love a nice bit of old walling!) when suddenly this came into focus:

The cross, worn, but definitely carved. As seen from the benches outside the Beehive. Cheers!

Given that it is on the same road, not 100 yards from the white stone, and carved in the same rough but deliberate way, it surely can’t be a coincidence… can it? The house on which it is carved – 61 Hague Street – also has a datestone of 1773, which provides us with a nice terminus post quem (the opposite of a terminus ante quem – a date after which it must have happened) – it can’t have been carved before 1773 as the building didn’t exist.

Nope, it’s all a bit strange, but I love a mystery.

And finally… yup, you guessed it. Drum roll please…


A single sherd found between the setts of Bank Lane, Tintwistle, right by Bottoms Reservoir.

The sherd in-situ, nestled between the setts.

Nothing too interesting. I mean it’s a nice sherd of Transfer Printed Ware – probably a bowl, as it has flowers printed on the interior and the exterior.

Late Victorian pale blue & white. More delicate than the usual harsh blue stuff.

It is also unlikely to have been dropped in the last 100 years or so, and has thus laid there, between the cracks, just waiting for a dashing young(ish) and handsomely moustachioed archaeologist to find it. I was going to make this a full on pottery post, but it’s already too long, so the pottery will have to be next week, or so. I know, I know, but good things come to those who wait. And whoever is crying and yelling “no, no, dear lord please not next time” – you must try and control your excitement.


However, back on track, and it’s Bank Lane that proves the focus, the sherd was just a way of getting onto the subject! This is a really interesting trackway, and is one of the two original (probably medieval) ways into Tintwistle from Hadfield, and before the Woodhead Pass bisected it (this stretch was made and improved in 1844 – look at that, another terminus ante quem!), it would have linked up with Bank Brow to get to the heart of the village. Incidentally, the other trackway goes via Lambgates, Roughfield, under the reservoir, and enters at the east of Tintwistle).

From the National Libraries of Scotland map site. Thank you.

So, Bank Lane then. It curves up, and just before it reaches the Woodhead Road, it runs below the retaining wall of Christ Church, Tintwistle.

A nice bit of walling, that.

As I said above, I do love a nice old wall, and I’m always aware that there might be interesting details hidden in them… and so it proved to be the case here. Firstly, I spotted this date:

Rather fancily carved, and definitely not the product of my imagination!

I think it reads 1841. Now Christ Church was built in 1837, is it possible that the wall was put in place 4 years later, perhaps replacing an older one? On balance, I think yes, but a quick rummage through the church records might reveal some detail.

And then I noticed this:

Is it? I think yes, but I might be just seeing too much into it.

I am fairly certain that this is a set of initials, carved messily but cursively into the stone. I have made an attempt to outline what I think they are, but honestly it is entirely possible that I am just seeing things. I’ll let you, dear and gentle reader, decide for yourselves.

I mean… perhaps?

Possibly it reads ‘J. B’. Possibly?

And finally, another carved cross. This one looks more modern, and perhaps is a mark for where some utility is under the road? Not sure.

Possibly interesting?

Anyway, Bank Lane deserves a closer look. I have a whole ongoing project that is looking at these ‘original’ trackways that linked all the farmsteads in the area, as many are still preserved. It’s way more than a single blog post, but I’d like to do a series – examining each trackway, photographing it, marking it on the map, and recording any finds. Oooooh, that sounds exciting, I know.



I have blogged about the guide stoop several times before, as it’s a vital part of the history of the area, and presents something of a mystery – please read here and here for the full lowdown.

The guide stoop.

At the start of lockdown, I went on a walk past the guidestoop, and was horrified. Someone had had some work done in their back garden which required the rebuilding of the back wall and the removal of a large amount of soil. Whoever was doing this work had spread the soil along the track, at the bottom of the wall, and had completely buried the guide stoop in 2ft of earth. I mean, benefit of the doubt, they might not have noticed it. Here’s what it looks like currently:

Under here, somewhere.

If they did see it, however, then they were morons, and I just hope they kept the guide stoop in position, and didn’t steal it. Now, I haven’t re-excavated it yet for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a lot of earth, and a lot of brambles! And secondly, I’m not entirely certain where the guide stoop actually is under all that! all my photographs are of it in closeup, rather than a long view that gives a location in relation to the upper part of the wall. So, I have a favour to ask. Well, two actually. Firstly, does anyone have a long view that shows the top of the wall and the guide stone they could let me see? And secondly, does anyone fancy meeting up with a shovel, so we can dig the thing out and once again have back it on display? It shouldn’t be too much of a job. Anyway, drop me a line if you fancy volunteering.

Right, after that mammoth post, I’m going for a lie down! I will post the pottery in the next week or so – it’s largely written, and the photographs are ready to go, so it won’t take long… I can feel the wave of excitement from here.

Until then, look after yourselves, and each other. And I remain,

Your humble servant,


Archaeology · Oddities · Whitfield

A Song of Sixpence

What ho! What ho! What ho!

The Christmas season is upon us once more, and my word it seems to have come round again very quickly… in my mind it’s only September! It’s also bloody cold at the moment, and despite the protestations of Mrs C-G, the heating is not going on… honestly woman, just put another jumper on! Anyway, kind and wonderful folk of the blog-reading variety, here’s a little offering to keep you warm.

So, a number of years ago (22 July 2018 according to my records), I found this object on the footpath below Lean Town:

A metallic disc. And no, before you ask, I’m not deformed… I just have chunky and somewhat stubby fingers, Nor is it me holding the disc with my foot/toes either, as someone once ‘amusingly‘ commented.

A coin” I thought, excitedly. And I still think it is. Well, a trade token, perhaps, but it has no discernible features that allow identification; it is completely effaced. A closer look reveals that some of the original surface has survived, revealing the dark green of oxidised bronze – so we know what it was made from. It is very thin, and seems to be relatively poor quality metal, so I err on the side of it being a trade token of some type, rather than a coin.

A close up. The central circular worn patch is the result of wear, and it looks as though the metal has delaminated. You can see the original surface – smooth green patches – above and to the right of the circular wear patch.
Another close up. This side seems more worn, although the original surface is visible in places.

A trade token, incidentally, was a privately minted token used as small change between people, or for a specific retailer or trader. They were common in the 17th century and later when small denomination coins were rare, and often come with the name of the trader, or other information. This one… alas!

Some trade tokens – not mine, but some for sale here.

However, for me, the most interesting thing about it is that it has been bent on the edge, and this wasn’t accidental:

The bend is clearly not accidental, but instead deliberate and thoughtful.

As damage goes, it seems to be very targeted, unlike the rest of the damage which is the result of acidic ground conditions. No, this is a deliberate bend, put there by human intention, and that, dear and gentle readers, neatly leads us into an obsession of mine: the bent coin.

As you might have noticed I have a tendency to be somewhat… focused, shall we say? Yes, I know other words are available, but I was being kind to myself! In my real life, I am honestly a shambles; a veritable clown-car at times, complete with wheels that regularly fall off and an enormous horn (madam, calm yourself please, this is not that sort of website). But by Jove, when it comes to archaeology, I can tell you the what, where, and when with almost surgical precision, complete with spreadsheets, plastic bags, labels, and typologies – with archaeology, then, I am mustard, tickety-boo and, I’d venture, oojah-cum-spiff. The ability to focus on single topics in such a way means that I sometimes fall down rabbit holes (literally, as it happens, as well as figuratively) and become obsessed with certain features, topics, and objects… and so it was here with bent coins.

A number of years ago, whilst sorting the small finds at the Blackden Trust, I came across a coin that had been bent into something of an ‘S’ shape. “Hmmmmm…” thought I, and off I wandered – and wondered… why would a coin be bent like that?

A survey of what little literature there is on the subject revealed that coins bent in this manner are a relatively common find by metal detectorists. Further research revealed a fascinating history of coin bending traditions that begin in the medieval period as an important, if not official, religious function, which later shifts to encompass such concerns as love, luck, and loss.

A silver sixpence of the 1690’s bent into an ‘S’ shape. It must have taken some effort to do. I mean, perhaps not lots, but it’s not the sort of thing you can do accidentally. You can often see teeth marks in the bends, which may answer the question of how it was done.

The first account we have of coins being bent in a deliberate manner comes from the 1160’s or 1170’s. A monk from Durham had injured his testicles in a riding accident (look, I’m not making this up, I promise. And there is absolutely nothing funny about a monk with knackered knackers. Nothing at all. Nope.) Anyway, in pain and desperation, the poor chap bent a coin and dedicated it to St. Cuthbert, asking for the saint’s help, and promising to go on a pilgrimage to the shrine of the saint on Lindisfarne to make an offering of the coin. Once there, the monk made the offering and immediately began to recover. Here, then, we are presented with the essentials of the medieval practice; the idea behind the bending of the coin being one of mutually beneficial exchange designed to strike a deal with the saint. A coin is held aloft and bent in honour of that particular saint, with the hope that they will intercede on your behalf. In return you’ll undertake a pilgrimage and deposit the same coin at the saint’s shrine in order to further promote their glory.

This was a common practice in the medieval period: we hear of a William Child, a constable from Peterborough, bending a coin over his ‘dead’ child in the name of Simon de Montfort and the child miraculously recovered. When, during a storm at sea, a man amongst the crew of a ship bent coin with the words “I vow myself and this penny to my lord St. Wulftan”, the storm passed with the miracle attributed to Wulfstan. A coin bent to St. Wulfstan calmed a woman “in the grip of insanity” when it was tied around her neck, and a coin bent over a still-born child and dedicated to St. Richard of Chichester effected an immediate cure. Following an injury, a certain Alice had a suppurating foot, and her father bent a coin to St. Thomas Cantilupe, afterwards making a pilgrimage to his shrine at Hereford. Ann Plott was run over by a cart in 1485 on the Isle of Sheppey, one of her neighbours bent a coin over her body and she recovered. A certain Katherine Bailey, blind in one eye, was told by a stranger to bend a coin to Henry VI; making a mental promise to do so, she found she could see with both eyes. Somewhat bizarrely, it helped with criminals as well as the innocent; in the early 1290’s, a William Cragh was hanged for arson and 13 counts of homicide. Taken from the gallows, a coin was bent over him, and miraculously he lived, apparently for another 15 years.

A half groat of Henry VII (1485 – 1509). The coin has been bent double at some stage in its life – you can see the crease running top to bottom.

A lot can be made of the symbolism of bending a coin, and even the shape can be open to interpretation. The coin itself may have been seen as a relic of the miracle it brought about, and worn round the neck it may have acted as a talisman. Medieval ‘popular religion’ (i.e. not officially allowed by the Church, but done anyway) and magical practice are interests of mine, but I won’t go into it here (never mind yelling “thank God“. And the person bending a 20p coin asking for help in getting me to stop talking about pottery is, frankly, just being rude). Buy me a drink sometime, though, and I’ll tell you allllllllll about it!

During the reign of Henry VIII, the religious upheaval of the Reformation meant the role of saints within the Church was very much downplayed, and the practice of bending a coin lost it religious meaning. However, coins continued to be bent, only now redefined as tokens of love or remembrance. The meaning is the same – faith, promise, and devotion – but the object of this faith and devotion shifted from a saint to a person, and from the sacred to the secular.

A sixpence of William III dated 1696.

Thus we read of Alice Benden, a protestant martyr, who in 1557 gave her brother a ‘bowed shilling’ as a keepsake on the occasion of her execution. In a letter dated 1790 we read the following: “I have a bent sixpence with a hole through it, which was given by my only brother as a keepsake”. More commonly, though, they were given as love tokens by one, or both, of the partners as a way of promising their faithfulness, and showing their devotion to one another, and references to this activity are found in literature. Indeed, the giving of a coin was a similar gesture to giving an engagement ring, and was often understood to be a statement of betrothal or marriage. In 1715, Lady Bridget Osbourne, eldest daughter of the 2nd Duke of Leeds, gave the Reverend William Williams half a gold coin “which she had almost bent double with her teeth” as a way of announcing her intention to marry him. The ensuing clandestine marriage produced a scandal that was played out in court, with the coin figuring quite prominently within the case. It is interesting that here the protagonists are educated middle and upper class individuals, suggesting that all elements of society understood the gesture.

A silver shilling of George III (1816) that has been bent into an ‘S’ shape. What is interesting about this coin is that it has obviously been kept for a long time – the coin is very worn along the bend. Was it a treasured possession and kept in the pocket?

Bent coins were also considered lucky, and people carried them on their watch chains, or around their necks, and were often referred to as ‘touch pieces’. George Eliot in Silas Marner writes “You’ve got the beauty, you see, and I’ve got the luck, so you must keep me by you for your crooked sixpence; you’ll never get along without me”. They were also used to protect against witchcraft; milk that wouldn’t churn properly had a bent coin dipped in it to reverse the spell that was assumed to be the cause of the problem. We also read about more direct action against alleged witches, animals believed to be the witch in disguise were shot with a bent coin to lift a curse.

As a practice, coin bending seems to have ceased by the early Victorian period, although examples are known from as late as 1860’s. After this period, and into the early 20th century, coins were still used as keepsakes and love tokens, but were inscribed with names, verse, dates, and pictures instead.

It’s quite a story from a little disc of metal I almost overlooked as it lay in the mud. Makes you wonder what else is there… And as you can see I have collected a number of bent coins over the years (actually, quite a number. In fact, I’m not going to lie to you, I have many. Just don’t tell Mrs C-G, she has no idea! Bloody rabbit holes). Some of this blog post was extracted from a dense academic paper I have written on the subject – complete with references and soooo much more information. If anyone is interested, I will happily send you a copy – drop me an email. In fact get in touch anyway, wonderful blog reading folk, even to tell me you want more pottery posts. What’s that? Of course you do!

In other news, I have written a story for the Glossop Winter Story Trail organised by the incredible people of Glossop Creates. The idea is 24 creative types (myself included) have written short stories that are displayed in shop windows dotted all over Glossop town centre – follow the trail to read them all and uncover a hidden poem. Mine, obviously, is the story of a sherd of pottery and can be read in the window of The Bureau on Henry Street, Norfolk Square. You can also listen to it being read here.

Right then, I’m off to clean some pottery in preparation for the next instalment (which may happen before the New Year). In the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas, and as always, take care of yourselves and each other. I remain, Your humble servant.


Archaeology · Pottery · Pottery Guide

The Rough Guide to Pottery Pt.6 – Porcelain & Bone China.

What ho, wonderful folk, what ho!

We have today yet another instalment of that momentous work The Rough Guide to Pottery – it truly is the gift that keeps on giving. Try to contain your excitement, but I know it is difficult. Mrs Hamnett herself commented only the other day, as I was explaining the process of making a 17th century slip ware bowl, how lucky she was to have married me. And Master Hamnett runs and hides from me screaming “go away!” whenever I show him a lovely piece of stoneware… the playful scamp.

So then… Porcelain.

A modern Spode porcelain teacup and saucer – stolen shamelessly from their website here.

Here we stray into the realm of real ‘collectors’ and people who spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on a cup. Fair play to them I say, but to be honest, to me and you the minute details of rare and collectible porcelain don’t matter that much.

A Victorian pair of tea/coffee cups – £13 on ebay here (and no, they are not mine!)

True Porcelain was developed in China in the 9th century, and is essentially a very refined stoneware. It is often delicate with very thin walls – so thin that you can see light through them – yet is very hard wearing and tough. Its development was due to an aesthetic search to find a substance that was as hard and cold as jade, and yet gave a ringing tone when struck, like bronze. True Porcelain is made from a mixture of the mineral feldspar and kaolin, a type of clay, and fired to a very high temperature (1400°) which vitrifies (melts) it into an almost glass-like state. It was exported to Europe from 1500s onwards, and was hugely different to the coarse earthernwares that made up European pottery then; this stuff was incomparable (that thing your 3-year-old made using Playdoh versus the finest China).

The genuine thing; late 17th/early 18th century Chinese porcelain. A mere snip at £38,000!

Porcelain became very popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly due to tea and coffee consumption among the wealthy being fashionable – essentially they wanted something similarly exclusive to drink out of. It honestly amazes me how much of history is driven by fashion and the need to be different and ahead of the crowd – something that isn’t going to change any time soon. 

Now, being imported from China meant it was hugely expensive, and many factories began to try and make it. However, no one really knew how it was done. Meisson in Germany began producing very similar pottery in the 1710’s, and others in Europe and the UK had early successes, often involving adding glass dust to fine clays. A significant breakthrough came in the mid 1790’s when Josiah Spode perfected what became known as Bone China. Here, a very fine clay is mixed with about 25% crushed burnt bone, and fired. This produced an almost identical porcelain, and it allowed the mass production of the pottery which is still going today. Also, as it became affordable, it was no longer an exclusive product despite still having a ‘classy’, even snobbish, image. Personally, I prefer an earthernware mug, but my grandparents generation would have scowled at my choice of cup. Now, at the risk of incurring the wrath of Porcelain experts, I’m lumping true imported Porcelain with Bone China here.

Does exactly what it says on the bottom on the early 20th century teacup

There are no perceptible differences at the level at which we are working, nor is it vital that we pinpoint a date of something – we are simply having fun (admittedly some of us take our fun more seriously than others who, for example, don’t clean their pottery. Or who use an egg as a photographic scale. I’m not naming names, you know who you are.). If you do want to go down that rabbit hole, there are dozens of books on the subject that allow you to explore dates, patterns, shapes, types, names, etc. However, for our purposes, it all goes under the heading PORCELAIN. I expect a visit from the heavy thugs of the porcelain collecting world within moments of publishing this.

PORCELAIN (aka Bone China, China)
DATE: Realistically c.1800 – Now. Theoretically, but unlikely, 1500 onwards.
DESCRIPTION: Thin walled vessels, delicate, with many different decorative motifs and colours, occasionally with gilding.
SHAPES: Most shapes, but very commonly tea/coffee cups, saucers, small plates.

Very thin walls, but is very hard, especially when compared with ‘normal’ pottery. The fabric is white or very pale grey, with perhaps a hint of blue, and with no inclusions – it is pure. The texture is very glassy, and is grainy with tiny voids – it reminds me of cauliflower heads, or snow. See this comparison with earthernware, for example:

Porcelain left, earthernware right (my bare foot, bottom right… it’s probably for the best we move on, really). The difference in the fabrics is very noticeable, it’s almost wet(porcelain) versus dry (earthernware).

It also breaks like glass or flint, rather than pottery, with tiny flattish flakes and sharp edges.

It’s odd stuff! You can see how it breaks into flakes, and I remember reading about Australian Aboriginal tribes using telegraph wire insulators to make stone tools. Makes sense.

Banging sherds together, they make a high ringing sound – a ‘tink’, rather than a ‘thunk’ if you see what I mean (don’t look at me like that…). Also, if you hold a sherd up to a light, you should be able to see through it – try moving a finger between the sherd and the light source. The surface is very shiny with the glaze visible in the section as a clear white line, often with the paint of the decoration bleeding into it. Decoration is fine hand-painted images, normally in blue, though other colours are found, and normally of naturalistic scenes – flowers, landscapes, trees, etc. The start of the obsession with ‘Chinese’ decorations (including ‘Willow Pattern’) can be traced to the original porcelain vessels. Shapes are largely bowls, delicate teacups, plates and saucers, though teapots, milk jugs, and other shapes do occur. Other decoration can be painted over the top of the glaze. Later examples of Porcelain/Bone China can be very colourful, and very fine, too, often with a gold leaf gilding.

A random selection of Glossop found sherds of porcelain showing a range of decoration. I have to say, it’s all a little gaudy for my tastes.
This is more like it – a flowing, living, painted decoration – fluid lines, almost jazz-like in improvisation. Lovely stuff. I found this tiny sherd in the River Thames a few years ago, and it is one of my favourite sherds. Blimey, now there’s a phrase I never expected to type!

Now, because I love you so much, and I know how much you enjoy my ramblings about pottery (I’m ignoring you – you don’t have to be here, you know), I thought I’d add another related ware type.

Whilst searching for an easy Porcelain recipe, Wedgewood made numerous innovations in pottery (including the famous Jasper Ware), one of which was Basalt Ware. Although it is rare, I love this stuff.

Some Black Basalt Ware. As I say, I really like this stuff.

BLACK BASALT WARE (aka Basalt Ware or Basaltes)
DATE: 1770-1820
DESCRIPTION: It is characterised by a black surface, thin walls, and impressed – not painted – decoration. Very classical Greek and Roman influenced motifs and designs.
SHAPES: Cups, Bowls, Tea & Coffee Sets, Vases, Busts, Plaques, Figurines, and Relief Medallions.

A red clay is mixed with manganese oxide, which gives it its black colour, and it is fired to a very high temperature to make a refined stoneware. It is hard-wearing, and, like porcelain, doesn’t break like ‘normal’ pottery, but more like glass, with straightish sharp edges. The fabric is very hard and very dense, as you would expect, and is totally uniform – there are no inclusions – but it is quite grainy, again, like porcelain. The gloss surface can be dull or shiny, though never a brilliant shine, and there is no glaze or surface; the fabric is the pot, which seems odd.

Here is the fabric – hard and grainy, but there is no surface. You can also see the voids that are formed by gasses produced during firing.
Impressed decoration, very Classical in inspiration.
More impressed decoration – this time the base of a tree or shrub.

Thin walled, it has impressed and embossed decoration – rouletting, geometric shapes, naturalistic scenes with classical motifs and flora. It looks vaguely Roman, and is very heavily influenced by the Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities that were being unearthed at that time, and which were fuelling the Georgian neo-classical obsession in all aspects of life. As a pottery type it’s not common, but you can occasionally find it here and there.

Well then, excitement over. That’s all for this time.

There is lots in the pipeline – both Glossop related, and further afield – so watch this space, and as always I have several large posts ready written – so perhaps two this month? You lucky people, you!

I also have a thing coming up – one of this public speaking things that I can’t seem to stop doing! This one is in Chester, and is a folklore/archaeology ‘discussion’ with the wonderful Elizabeth Garner, and called ‘The Gold In Your Back Yard‘. It’s free, but do book through Eventbrite here. It will, of course, be amazing… I think. But if not, you can just sit at the back and ask awkward questions! I’ll also shamelessly plug Liz’s book, Lost and Found (buy it here). It is a wonderful collection of folktales, beautifully told. She also mentions this archaeologist bloke, Tim Campbell-something-or-other. Honestly though, it is well worth buying.

More soon, I promise. But until then, look after yourselves and each other. And I remain,

Your Humble Servant,


Archaeology · Roads · Stones of Glossop

Ma(r)king Tracks

What ho, wonderful people!

Nope, no pottery today. Instead we have tracks. And stones. And holes. Look, just read on… it’s simpler.

Now, I do love a good track. Ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll say “why yes, that ruggedly handsome, wonderously whiskered, and all-round splendid chap does indeed love a good track or two“. I also love a good stone. In fact, ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll say “why yes, that marvellous man, that genius gentleman, that… ” What’s that? What do you mean “get on with it!“? Honestly.

Ok, so several years ago I noticed that dotted around the Glossop area are a number of standing stones that have holes carved in them. I did wonder about them, but presumed they were a form of gatepost, even if they didn’t seem to be in a place one would expect a gatepost.

A holed stone on Hague Street. They remind a bit of Hattifatteners from the Moomin stories… they probably come to life at night.

More recently I have been looking at tracks:

TRACK (noun) A rough path or road, typically one beaten by use rather than constructed.

And more specifically, the old – medieval or post-medieval (10th – 17th centuries) – trackways that dotted the area. Glossop is a great example of what we call a medieval ‘dispersed settlement’ – essentially, whilst there is a central focus – Old Glossop, with the church and market – most people actually lived in the many surrounding ‘dispersed’ farmsteads – Heath, Dinting, Ashes, Jumble, etc. People came together every Sunday for Mass, as well as other feast days and holy-days, for market days, as well as socially – for a drink in the tavern, for example. But by and large, Glossop in the medieval and early modern periods was dispersed throughout the valley in farmsteads. In this instance, a farmstead may be understood as a farmhouse and associated buildings – barns, shippons, and various ‘farm-ey’ outbuildings – as well as houses for the farmworkers. In total, we’re looking at perhaps 20 people or so for a larger farmstead, maybe 5 for a smaller. Of course, people need to travel, and roads were made through the landscape, connecting these farmsteads, and it these I incredibly interesting.

This is the track that runs down from Ashes to Dinting – once the main thoroughfare, now a beautiful sunken trackway, or holloway as they are known, its age is shown by its depth, worn through use.

They were not just a means of physical movement through the landscape, but also a conduit for other aspects of life. As packhorse routes (no horse and carts here, just heavily laden beasts of burden) they connected everybody, and allowed goods and produce to move between places and markets. News of the wider world also moved along these tracks – a new king or a new religion, or news of battles and wonders in far off places. But so did disease and infection; the Black Death and Great Plague once walked these tracks. We also encounter the more local and personal aspects of life, too: newlyweds from church, newborns from baptisms, and the final journey from the farmstead to the church yard, as the deceased was carried for burial, often for miles, along the tracks, followed by mourning family and friends. All of life is contained in a track, worn deep by use, and all of history held there, if only we could access it.

However, the collision of stone and track didn’t connect until last year, when it occurred with an audible click at Pyegrove.

Pyegrove circled in red. For orientation, the Snake Pass runs horizontally across the bottom, with the Commercial Inn on Manor Park Road circled in blue on the right, and the Royal Oak, left. Note the green arrow. Map from the marvellous and incredibly useful National Library of Scotland map website – well worth an explore.

An afternoon playdate with Master Hamnett and his friend led us to Manor Park via Pyegrove. Now Pyegrove is an interesting corner of Glossop, with a long history; the name means the copse or thicket’ (grove or greve, as it is in older maps) of the magpie (the ‘Pie’ or ‘Pye’ element) which suits its location below Shire Hill perfectly. The house here has a datestone that reads “I.M.A. 1747” (no photographs, alas… it’s difficult to even see it without overtly trespassing), so that the house is at least that early. However, in the baptism record of a John Shepperd at Glossop on Christmas Day 1735, his father (Robert Shepperd the Younger) gives his address as Pyegreve, so we know something else was there at an earlier date. Pyegrove is, I suspect, another medieval farmstead… but all that (along with tales of Buffalo Bill) is for another time. Let’s return to tracks and stones.

The footpath at Pyegrove splits – right skirts Shire Hill down to Mossy Lea, left ploughs on over the playing fields to Glossop.

Tarmacked, unlike the original, choose your path wisely.

But just at the split I noticed this:

Oooooh!, thought I – a holed stone…

It was at that point it suddenly struck me, and as I stood there gasping like a stunned fish, ignoring the children, and mentally ran over all the holed stones I knew about (5 at that point). Of course, I thought, they all marked a junction in a footpath or track! And all of those tracks, I was fairly certain (and am now convinced) were the preservation of early (medieval or post-medieval) trackways between farmsteads. I have talked about this before – the fossilisation of early trackways, preserved as footpaths within modern settings, but in essence once the newer – and much better – roads were constructed for the mills (1790’s onwards), these old roads fell out of use, but as they often were more direct, and were known by locals who still used them, they gradually became public rights of way.

The stones, being big and heavy, are often not moved, so there they sit as testament to the tracks that were once the main roads between the dispersed settlements that made up Glossop. I know of 9 holed stones now (and two more that might be relevant), and looking closely at the stones, they all share similar aspects. Upright, and roughly shaped from millstone grit or similar gritstone, and they seem quite worn – usually an indicator of age. The hole, made through the stone, is broadly square in shape, measuring between 3 and 4 inches across, roughly carved, and placed in the top third of the stone. I am convinced they were shaped and set up by the same group of people to make using the notoriously bad road system around Glossop easier. Of the stones, the obvious question is why does it have a hole in it? My first thought was that it would mark the stone as different from others that might be in the area, making sure that a junction wouldn’t be missed in the dark or bad weather. This might be the case, but then I remembered reading that in 1693 a law was passed that trackways had to have a guide post showing destinations (the Whitfield Guide Stoop was a result of this law, but probably a later incarnation), and I wonder if the hole was there to allow a wooden sign to be placed in it with destination painted or carved on it? Or perhaps a simple stick pointing the way? Any thoughts on this, o’ wonderful readers? I also wonder how far this tradition continues – certainly I know of no others in surrounding areas – even Tintwistle or Hadfield, for example, seem to have no holed stones, although I’m happy to be proven wrong. .

But let’s have a virtual explore the Pyegrove to Glossop track here, starting at the stone that started it all.

Ignore the later drilled circular hole, and the rusty bolt through the hole – this is a classic junction marker, with its ‘square’ hole and rough shaping.

Ignoring the A57/Snake Pass (opened in 1821, although bits are older), behind us is what is now Derbyshire Level, with the farmsteads of The Hurst, Jumble, and Gnat Hole, and also the road to Whitfield and Chapel en le Frith. Going left, then, a track along the edge of some houses leads out into Pyegrove Playing Fields.

Looking back at Pyegrove, the overgrown track hides what was once a main thoroughfare into Glossop. O’ for an excavation of this track!

Along the northern edge of the playing fields the track is no longer used, but is visible as a ‘holloway’ – a track worn deep with use.

Here is the Holloway, Green Way, or sunken trackway, depending on how you call it. Do you known what, it’s oddly difficult to photograph a dip in the field, but it is there… honestly!

We join the track again at the corner of the playing field, where there is a lovely squared off standing stone.

A simple standing stone, if such a thing exists.

This seems to mark the junction of a track that originates at Cross Cliffe, here marked in blue:

The trackway is visible in the older maps, and although it fizzles out on the ground, it is preserved in field boundaries and fossilised in strangely preserved bits of pathway.

Whilst it is just about marked on older maps, it is no longer in use, although its memory is fossilised in this bit of unnecessary and unusually wide stretch of pedestrianised path leading from the Snake Pass to Pyegrove Park (marked with a red circle in the above map)

Oddly wide, and completely unnecessary, this is the fossilisation of an older track from Cross Cliffe.

These simple – unholed – standing stones sometimes mark junctions, but more normally simply mark the line of a path where is might not be obvious, particularly in the dark or rough environment (I know of about 12 of these, too).

We continue along our Pyegrove track beyond the stone and past the remains of the Royal Observer Corps station. Briefly, the station was meant to monitor potential enemy aircraft in the immediate post-WWII period, but it would also serve as a monitoring post, observing and recording the effects of any nuclear detonation on Manchester – wind speed, radiation levels, blast radius, etc. This is why it is built into the hillside, 15ft below ground level. A sobering thought, and one sadly now relevant once more. This will also be the subject of a future blog post, don’t worry!

An interesting slice of much more modern history, but one that is certainly worth a look at .

Back to the task in hand, and on to another standing stone. This one, looking for all the world like a gravestone, was originally one of a pair (its partner is embedded, horizontally now, in the wall.

One of a pair – the other can be seen lying horizontally built into the wall – same stone type, same width, same depth, and presumably the same length, accounting for a few feet underground.

These gravestone pairs are usually found mid track or at the start of junctions, and seem to be a later addition to the tracks (probably post-1790’s) and seem to be an attempt to force packhorses and traffic onto the newer roads (and presumably so they can pay the tolls) – and early form of traffic calming, if you will. I am fairly certain with the date of c.1800 as Whitfield Cross was used as a partner to one of these ‘gravestone’ pairings after it was moved in about 1800. There is some graffiti carved on the top of this stone – ‘G.B.’.

G.B. step forward and take a bow – I do like a bit of carved graffiti.

From here we continue, round the corner, to the farmstead of Hall Fold.

Converted barn and outbuildings of the farmstead of Hall Fold

A datestone here records ‘J.S.J. 1806’, but this was apparently found when the owner was digging a foundation, and clearly Hall Fold Farm is older that that.

Not my photo – stolen shamelessly from the Old Glossop website, which has a bit of history and a series of very interesting photographs of Hall Fold Farm – here.

The name itself may refer to a long demolished, possibly medieval, original Glossop Hall (Manor Park Road was once known as Hall Street). This is also the location of a junction – our track is joined from one that comes from Whitfield (an extension of this one).

A fork in the track!

Our track from Pyegrove is on the left hand, but the one from Whitfield comes via Old Glossop Cricket Club, and would have come through the gates ahead. Though no longer in use, its presence is preserved in field boundaries and the fact that these houses (c.1830’s) respect the track, which is why they are built at that strange angle. It’s also visible in LIDAR under the cricket pitch.

Sadly, no marker stone remains at Hall Fold Farm (although I didn’t start poking around people’s gardens, and it may well be lurking somewhere – large stones are hard to completely lose). From here, the medieval centre of Glossop is a hop, skip and a jump… if you are feeling so inclined.

I have to say, though, walking into Glossop this way is a much more interesting – and authentic – experience, and one that is very different from walking along Manor Park Road! We take our modern roads for granted, and I’m not going to lie – the idea of moving along these tracks in bad weather and in darkness fills me with fear.

This is a small part of a much larger project I’m working on, tracing these tracks all over Glossopdale. Each of the settlements that make up ‘Glossop’ – from Wooley Bridge in the west, to Pyegrove in the east, Tintwistle at the north, to Chunal in the south – have multiple tracks linking them, and for the large part they are still there, often hidden, occasionally ‘fossilised’ as footpaths, or even still in use. This is truly an overlooked, and indeed largely undiscovered, aspect of Glossop’s pre-Victorian/pre-Industrial history, but one that was vital to its development. And I have to say it is great fun being able to walk these ways, and pondering the history they hold – if anyone fancies joining me, give me a shout. Also, and this is a serious request, if anyone knows of any holed stones (or any standing stones, for that matter) that I might not know about, please do get in touch – often half hidden in hedgerows, they will lurk where two or more tracks join.

Right, that’s all for now. More pottery next time (did anyone else hear that high-pitched screaming sound?), but until then look after yourselves and each other, and I remain,

Your humble servant,


Archaeology · Pottery Guide

The Rough Guide to Pottery Pt.5 – Blue and White Bits.

Look, it’s no use yelling “for the love of Jove, not more bloody pottery!” No one is forcing you to be here. Honestly, I haven’t even started yet, and here you are, giving your two penn’orth.

What ho! Wonderful readers. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

A quick one today – Part 5 of my best-selling, most talked about book of the year, Booker Prize shortlisted Guide to Bits of Old Pot. I have a brace of posts almost ready to go, but to keep you going I thought I’d publish this. Enjoy.

TRANSFER PRINTED WARE (aka Willow Pattern, Blue & White)
DATE: 1800 – Now
DESCRIPTION: A cobalt blue pattern or image on a white background. Also, red, brown, black, or green.
SHAPES: Any and all vessel shapes – from delicate tea cups to whacking great soup tureens – literally everything.

Ah yes… Transfer Printed Ware. If you are going to find pottery, this is the stuff you’ll find, and in particular the ‘Willow Pattern’ pottery. It dominated the 19th century, and arguably a large portion of the 20th – it is everywhere. I have actually dreaded writing this part of the guide, probably because of the quantity of material, but also I’m worried that it might not appeal to all of you (*sigh, yes I know it doesn’t appeal to you. And look here, there’s no need to use language like that… there are ladies present, and calling me a “honking tallywacker” is hardly becoming of a gentleman.”). But it turns out that it’s exactly the sort of thing appeals to (most of) my readers.

As we have covered previously, 18th & 19th century potters were trying to find the perfect blue and white decoration on a perfect white background to match the desirable Porcelain being imported from China. Tin Glazed Pottery (or Delft) certainly filled that gap, but it really wasn’t perfect. An easier form of decoration was wanted, and the idea of transfer printing began to take shape in roughly 1750, being applied to Porcelain only at this point. It was in about 1785 that the process successfully began to be applied to earthernware, being perfected by that wizard of English pottery, Josiah Spode.

A random selection of Blue & White Transfer Printed pottery.

The process is relatively simple if a little convoluted. Firstly, an image was engraved in a copper plate, as was done for book illustrations at the time, and applied to an oiled tissue paper using a cobalt ink – this being the only colour at the time that would survive the firing process. This is the ‘transfer’. Next, a vessel is ‘biscuit’ fired – that is fired without glaze, and at a lower temperature, to make it hard and able to take the transfer print. The transfer paper is then pressed onto the surface of the vessel, with the ink absorbed in the fabric. The pot is then fired a second time to remove oils and fix the ink into the clay body. Next, a glaze is applied, and then it is fired a third and final time. Originally applied to Creamware, then Pearlware, it became a standard decoration for White Ware, and by 1820 TPW was everywhere, and being used for all sorts of images. A brown ink was developed in roughly 1835, a green chrome ink in 1850, and a red ink at about this time, too.

Various coloured Transfer Printed plates. And of varying quality.

Eventually a technique for multi colour printing was developed by the pottery factory F.R. Pratt, allowing full images to be put onto vessels from late 19th century on.

Pratt’s development meant that anything could be printed in any colour. These date to very late Victorian and early 20th Century.

A technique called ‘Flow Blue’ was perfected around 1800, in which the cobalt blue transfer print was deliberately smudged or blurred. The pot is prepared as normal, but during the firing a ‘flow powder’ (a mixture of 22% salt, 40% white lead, 30% calcium carbonate, and 8% borax) was added into the kiln, giving off a chlorine gas which caused the cobalt to diffuse or blur into the glaze.

Flow Blue. For some reason, I just couldn’t take a good photograph of this. I must have spent 20 minutes getting more and more frustrated, taking endless shots of just this scene. To be honest, even looking at it now makes me angry.

Sometimes this changed into a more purple colour, termed ‘Mulberry’, occasionally it was highlighted with gold.

My only piece of Mulberry Flow Blue.

Flow Blue’s popularity peaked around mid-century, and as a style lasted until perhaps 1900. The more extreme blurred examples may have been sold as cheaply as ‘seconds’, and were thus popular with the poorer market. Indeed, for many years I just thought that Flow Blue style was just really badly made TPW, and only fairly recently did I discover that it was deliberate.

In terms of decoration, I don’t know where to begin; from classical scenes to commemorative plates, souvenirs from castles, to children’s rhymes – literally anything and everything was inked onto the vessels. You may get lucky and find a name or a date, or a maker’s mark from the underside of a plate. Or it may just be a pattern from the edge. The classic is of course the ‘Willow Pattern’, with its spurious story of lovers turned into birds. This was, and still is, reproduced in huge numbers: it is everywhere. In fact, so common was this pattern that it is used – incorrectly – as a short hand for all Blue & White pottery.

The actual Willow Pattern – image from Wikipedia.

Theoretically, though, given infinite time and patience, one could identify and date any sherd using the wealth of pattern books that were kept by the factories that made them, but even for a certified sherd nerd such as myself, that way madness lies!

Transfer Printed Ware began life as a prestigious and very exclusive pottery type, with the early stuff being of incredibly high quality. Once it began to be mass produced, as always happens, the quality began slipping, until the lower end of the market was cheaply produced and sold for next to nothing. This produced some shoddy designs and duff workmanship; sometimes you can see where the transfer has slipped, where bits overlie each other or don’t join in the pattern as they should. I do like these mistakes – I think it adds a human touch.

At first glance, quite attractive – bees and flowers, what’s not to love. But look closely – it’s blurred, there are smudges, blobs, lines stop and start, patterns don’t meet. This is budget pottery of the lowest order. I love it!

Allied to Transfer Printed Ware, although not actually transfer printed, is this stuff:

SHELL EDGED WARE (aka Feather Edged/Edge)
DATE: 1780 – 1890
DESCRIPTION: Plain white bowl or plate rim decorated with crinkly ‘feathering’ and painted blue (occasionally green).
SHAPES: Plates, wide rimmed soup bowls, tureens.

This type of decoration is very distinct, and was fairly common in the late 18th and early-mid 19th centuries making it a frequent find. Once seen, it never forgotten.

A varied selection of Shell Edged Ware. You can see the blue-tinged Pearlware of some of these sherds, dating them to roughly pre-1830. I also realised I don’t have any green edged sherds.

Essentially a plain white bowl or plate – Creamware, Pearlware, or Whiteware – is decorated on the rim edge with a feathered type decoration in cobalt blue or, less commonly, chrome green. The rim may or may not be undulating, and the feathering may or may not be impressed into the clay, but it is always painted to look feathered or shell-like. I seem to be a magnet for this stuff, but it’s always a welcome find.

Lovely shot. You can see the cobalt blue edge, and impressed decorative ‘feathering’ that here has been filled with the blue tinged glaze that makes up Pearlware. I improved the shot by cropping out my gnarled bare feet that were visible at the bottom of the photo.

Interestingly, there seems to have been a development in the style, allowing a broad date to be given to some sherds. This is based on American data – much of this ware type was exported, and there was some serious work done on dating it – and I’m not sure how applicable it is in England. Chronologically then:

Type 1 (1775-1810)

Asymmetrical scalloped rim, impressed curved lines (not straight), blue/green edging (feathering).

Type 1. I must add that I don’t own the rights to this, or any of the following images, and cannot now recall from where I stole them, shamelessly as always. Apologies if it is your image.

Type 2 (1800-1830’s)

Symmetrical scalloped rim, impressed curved or straight lines, blue/green edging.

Type 2

3) 1820’s-1830’s

Symmetrical scalloped rim, impressed curved or straight lines, embossed decoration below – garlands, flowers, wheat, feathers, etc. blue/green edging

Type 3

Type 4 (1840’s – 1860’s)

Unscalloped rim, impressed curved or straight lines, normally blue edging, not green.

Type 4

5) 1860’s – 1890’s

Scalloped rim, no impressed lines – the paint is applied to make it look like impressing. Blue edging.

Type 5

As I say, the academic rigour is there, but whether this is a ‘true’ chronology rather than reflecting deposition dates (that is the date which the pottery was manufactured, as opposed to the date ended up in the ground – which, given I still use my grandmother’s stoneware pie dish to cook with, could be as much as 100 years or more), I couldn’t possibly comment. And here we stray into the strange realm of archaeological pottery studies; I could talk it all day, but I fear some of you may become violent, and nothing takes the shine off a chap’s day like an angry mob.

Right, I think that’s all for today. I do have more pottery to publish, but I might save that for another time – I don’t want to over-egg the pudding, so to speak.

More soon, but until then look after yourselves and each other, and I remain.

Your humble servant,


Archaeology · Graffiti · Stones of Glossop

Naked Ladies… and a Quarry

Well that got your attention! What ho, wonderful people! What ho!

Up by Coombes Edge lies Cown Edge quarry. This quarry, long disused, contains a number of interesting, and oddly well executed, carvings on the walls. I have heard about this particular place – and its carvings – many times, and from many different people, but had never managed to get up there. No reason, simply that there are so many places to see, and so little RH. A few months ago, a friend (my thanks to Andy T) suggested a walk up that way and, well, I thought, let’s have a look.

What I like about this place is not just the ‘historical’ history, which is visible and tangible, but the ‘personal’ history which is similarly visible, but often better felt than seen. The quarry seems to be one of ‘those places‘; a destination, a space in the landscape that attracts; a shelter, an asylum, a place of freedom, and perhaps decadence. In particular, it’s place where ‘youths‘ go and be ‘youthful‘, frolicking, feeling, fumbling, and… well, you get the picture. I didn’t grow up in Glossop – I’m a ‘comer-inner‘, so to speak – but if I could take you to Cheadle Hulme where I did grow up, I could show you a few such places from my youth. Every town & village has them – and the similar stories they could tell of the first time drunk, illicit substances consumed, virginities lost, love discovered, best friendships forged, fights fought, and the always difficult transition from child to adult negotiated – often on the same evening. But perhaps most importantly, memories are made. To quote Wordsworth “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven“. I have recently turned 47 (young for some of you, old for others… it’s all relative), and have been marvelling at the swift passage of time, so forgive the nostalgia. Now on with the show.

Cown Edge Quarry seems to have been started sometime in the early 19th Century, probably as a source of roofing stone. Geologically, the stone is Rough Rock – a type of sandstone of the Peak District and southern Pennines, and the most commonly occurring of the Millstone Grit group.

Incidentally, and as a rule of thumb, you can roughly date the buildings of Glossop by what the roof is made from. Prior to c.1850 roofs were made from stone taken from local quarries such as these. However, once the railway arrived (c.1850) Welsh slate could be imported on trains. Not only was slate cheaper, but it also weighed less so the roof could be constructed using less timber, and so roofs after 1850 tend to be made of this. A rule of thumb not an absolute guide, but useful nonetheless.

Anyway, the quarry is located here:

Thank you Google for the image.

And here it is in 1898:

And thanks to the National Libraries of Scotland for this image.

If you use the What Three Words app, the reference for the quarry entrance is: tribal.workers.crossword

Now, as subjects go, it isn’t perhaps the most interesting, but then as we know on this site more than most, ‘interesting’ is a veeery subjective word. However, it was deemed important enough to have its own Historic Environment Record – MDR10021. Largely overgrown now, and with none of the urgency and noise that would have marked it out as a place of work when it was operating, it is peaceful and still.

The view looking north from the quarry mouth
Looking west. Interesting, and a little odd, to think that the roof of my house, where I type these words, was almost certainly quarried from this place.

However, the walls are full of interesting graffiti, carved over the years since the place was abandoned. Some is more worthy than others, but all is a record of people, humans being, well… human. I have said elsewhere that there is something universal about the need to leave a mark on the environment, almost a way of achieving immortality, your name living on past you, perhaps. And hats off to those who did it before the invention of spray paint… if you wanted to put your name up in the past, you had to mean it – with a hammer and chisel. Here follows a sample of the carvings – mundane, as well as the more creative.

AKW 1942 – presumably there is no reason to lie about the date, so this is interesting… and asks further questions.
“Tim. Joey. Glossop”?
“.D” – quite modern, I suspect, and a worn hole.
“BEAN”? and some pock marks. These overlay – and are later than – the painted anarchy sign.
“DUF, LEZ, ANT, GUS” 1994. “KEV” at the bottom is even probably even more modern.
“DAN”, “SID”, “LES”, “LYNN”, and some symbols. These seem to have been carved and re-carved.

Talking of symbols, there are what seems to me an unusual number of Christian crosses carved here:

“BUZZB” and “JB 23.9.69” I love this one – the date is so specific. The cross is also very prominent.
An ancient Egyptian Ankh symbol – quite old (filled with slow-growing lichen), and odd to find on the rock face.
Another lichen-filled cross.

Perhaps it’s the crosses that give the quarry its reputation for Satanism and witchcraft? Anyway, the ‘religious’ iconography culminates in this, what the HER calls “a potential Calvary figure” – that is, Christ on the crucifix:

Well executed, and subsequently highlighted in paint.

This is a weird one – is it one figure, or two – a smaller, more feminine and naked, between the Christ-like figure’s legs? Or is it three? The more I look, the less I know. Is that the point? Is there a point? Even down to the almost-altar like outcrop of stone in front of the figure, this is very good.

It seems that this is a modern(ish) rendering, done by a known person – I have heard several different reasons and accounts – and people – but the story is not mine to tell, nor is it for me to name names. That I will save for the comments section, should anyone wish to do so.

However, it looks like it was the same hand that carved this naked lady, as well, so I’m not sure about any religious motivation as such:

It’s carved with skill, too.

There’s also this lower half of a person on their hands and knees.

Not sure what I can say about this… so I’ll say nothing!

Moving away from carvings, and back onto the safer territory of history and archaeology, there are traces of the original purpose to which the quarry was put here and there amongst the more modern intrusions.

The rough dressing is visible in the dark area of the quarry face.

Here we can see the rough dressing of the stone, done prior to it being broken out of the rock face. This provides it with a flat-ish surface before it is smoothed properly elsewhere. This was probably the last thing that was done in this quarry before it was shut down, as it is part of the quarrying process, but was never finished. I like that.

The quarry road, with spoil piles on the left.

The quarry road is very nicely preserved, but if you look closely at the stone at the bottom of the above photograph, you can see a groove worn into the rock there, running top to bottom. This is the track of a sledge repeatedly being drawn over the stone, day in, day out, for decades. A horse-drawn sledge is easier to use, more stable, and less likely to cause accidents, than a cart, and were often used in these remote quarries.

I also found also a concretion in the rock face of the quarry. Essentially, a concretion is a small boulder of one type of rock which is formed naturally, and which becomes trapped within the matrix of a surrounding rock when it was laid down as sediment millions of years ago.

I love that the concretion looks like an eye, the ‘eyelid’ accentuated by the red paint.

The concretion erodes at a different rate from the surrounding material, and so they stick out quite clearly. They’re fairly common in this type of Rough Rock, as indeed are plant fossils, apparently, but I didn’t see any of those… I need to go back.

Right, there you have it. More soon – including more pottery, you lucky, lucky, people. I’ve got so many ideas – walks, books, tours, blogs posts, pottery workshops, YouTube shenanigans, surveys, excavations, art, creativity, etc. – and so much I’d like to do. For now though, stay in touch and follow me here, or on Twitter (@roberthamnett), or even on Instagram (timcampbellgreen). Or just come up to me and say “What ho, Robert Hamnett!”.

But until next time, please look after yourselves and each other.

And I remain, your humble servant,


Archaeology · Pottery · Pottery Guide

The Rough Guide to Pottery Pt.4 – Creamware, Pearlware, & Whiteware.

What ho, dear and gentle readers, what ho!

How are we all? I hope everyone is well. Or, at the very least, not actively unwell. Well, all except you, that is. Yes you… you know who you are. The “all pottery is dull as dish soap” chap… Mr Shouty-Outy. I hope you stub your toe really hard.

Anyway, with such unpleasantness out of the way, we can move on to the subject of today’s article. Ladies and gentlefolk, may I introduce to you… Creamware, Pearlware, and Whiteware.

Now, even for a certifiable pottery nerd such as myself, this is far from a riveting subject. I mean, it’s less ‘edge of your seat’, and more slump down the back of the sofa in a fashion that causes people to enquire as to whether one is alright, and mutter concernedly about ‘strokes’ and ‘comas’. But before you agree with Mr Shouty-Outy, and start tying a noose, pause, crack open a bottle of the stuff that cheers, and have a read, as the above three pottery types will form a large part of any pottery you find, and is an important part of the development of British pottery.

The history of British pottery since roughly the mid 17th century can perhaps be characterised as the pursuit of white. Once imports of Chinese porcelain began, with their pure white fabrics and background, and blue painted patterns, we Brits fell in love with the design. But the problem was that it was very, very, expensive, and far out of the price-range of the developing aspirational middle classes, who were seeking to copy the upper classes. We copied the designs and colouring in beautiful Tin Glazed or Delft wares, and made some incredibly fine pottery in what is called Fine White Stoneware (you’ll be pleased to note that both of these will feature in future pottery guides; oh look, that woman over there is so excited about that, she is literally screaming with joy). But with the mid 18th century explosion in tea and coffee consumption, there was increasing demand for a cheaply produced white background upon which decoration might be painted or printed.

The following three types – Creamware, Pearlware, and Whiteware – were developed as these backgrounds. It is unlikely that you will come across them on their own (though not impossible), it is more likely you will say “What ho! I say, that looks like blue and white transfer printed decoration on a Pearlware background” which should, if you use the guide the right way, give a date for your sherd, and make you feel warm, fuzzy, and happy. And a little smug that you know things. Unfortunately, though, it will make other people angry and beg/threaten you to stop talking. No? Just me? Ahem… anyway.

CREAMWARE (aka Queen’s Ware)
DATE: 1760’s – 1820’s
DESCRIPTION: A pale cream colour ‘white’.
SHAPES: A huge number of shapes – from the plain bowl and plate, to wonderful pierced vases, decorative vessels, and truly strange designs.

Developed by, among others, Josiah Wedgewood – the great 18th century potter – in the 1760’s, and by the 1780’s was so popular that it essentially killed off both White Stoneware and Tin-Glazed pottery production. Wedgewood attained royal patronage by supplying a tea set to Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, who later commissioned a 925 piece dinner service; he renamed his Creamware ‘Queen’s Ware’ in her honour. Shape wise, it occurs in every conceivable pottery type – from regular plates and bowls, to rare and fancy shapes – pierced vases, delicate jugs, salt and sugar shakers, ice buckets, etc. Some of the vessels were also moulded with ornate naturalistic shapes – leaves, plants, etc.

Fancy pierced shapes. Courtesy of Salisbury Museum.

It is also very decorative. Commonly with a blue and white transfer print, but also hand painted with pictures, words, and designs.

A two-handed loving cup, hand painted. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
Two sherds of Creamware. The one on the right is particularly nice – a lid to a jug or similar with a moulded leaf design on the top.

Because the shape of the vessel is moulded, it means that it has very thin walls (the nice stuff does at least), but it also means that it can be very decorative, with all sorts of complex applied designs.

The fabric is a pale creamy white, achieved by mixing Kaolin, a very fine white clay, into the regular earthernware clay. This already pale clay base is then coated in a lead glaze mixed with copper, and fired producing the pale butter colour. Where the glaze has pooled whilst drying before being fired – usually on the base – you can sometimes see a greenish tint (the copper), which is a tell-tale sign of Creamware.

The greenish hue of the glaze can be seen where it has pooled in between the leaves.

It is also noticeably cream-coloured when compared with other white sherds. Creamware’s popularity waned after 1800, when it was overtaken by Pearlware, a cheaper, more pure white version of it.

PEARLWARE (aka Pearl White, or China Glaze)
DATE: 1780’s – 1820’s
DESCRIPTION: A blusish ‘white’.
SHAPES: Seemingly more utilitarian than the Creamware, but still a large range; so plates, bowls, dishes, jugs, cups, tankards, & goblets.

Pearlware is a refinement of Creamware, developed again by Wedgewood, in the 1780’s. It is almost like a less fussy, less fine, and more robust version, and there seems to be far fewer of the pierced vessels, ornateness, and incredibly detailed moulding. It does occur moulded, especially in tankards and Feather-Edged dishes, but it is less common than in Creamware. This may reflect the fashion of the time – a move toward simplicity – but equally it could be that Pearlware was conceived as more utilitarian.

The blueish tint of the glaze is obvious against the black background, and especially compared with the white clay.

The whiteness in Pearlware was achieved by adding cobalt – a blue mineral – to the lead glaze, giving an almost blue glow to the pottery – a sort of trick of the eye. Again, the blueness is particularly noticeable where the glaze has pooled, often on the underside.

Here you can see the cobalt blue colouring to the glaze where it has pooled on the underside of this mug. This is a badly made mug, and the glaze has over-fired in places.

In terms of decoration, it could be hand painted – either as a pattern, or just the edges in Feather-Edged Ware (see the example in the photo above). However, it is more commonly encountered as a base for transfer printed decorative motifs – willow pattern and the like. It was also commonly used as a base for Industrial Slipwares (discussed here in Part 3 of the guide). Pearlware began to fall out of favour in the 1820’s, and was superseded by the development of Whiteware.

DATE: 1820’s – Now
DESCRIPTION: White fabric, with a white glaze.
SHAPES: Quite literally every shape.

Characterised by a very white fabric, with a white glaze, upon which all sorts of patterns and motifs were put; this is essentially the stuff that we eat from now. If you are uncertain, go into your kitchen, get a plate from Ikea, break it, and have a look at the break. That’s Whiteware.

Cobalt use declined in the early 1800’s, perhaps due to difficulty and expense of obtaining it, but this coincided with the process of chemically refining the clay to produce a purer white becoming easier. And this, combined with better glazes, meant that a perfect white background colour could now be achieved. And not much has changed 200 years later. Well, apart from the fact the glaze now has less lead in it… which is nice. Decoration is, well, everything we can think of – painted, sponged, transfer printed – and is pictures, patterns, or words. This stuff is very, very, common, and largely boring even by my standards, but sometimes, precisely because it was used for all sorts of things, it throws up a gem or two.

A selection of 19th and early 20th century printed sherds on Whiteware. This stuff is always a joy to find.


Should you want to know which sherd is of what type, for whatever reason (and we don’t judge on this website), then it would be very helpful to put them on a plain white piece of paper under a bright light. In this environment, Creamware will appear pale cream coloured, Pearlware will appear blue-ish tinged, and Whiteware will simply blend in – like so:

The three types together: from left, Creamware, Pearlware, Whiteware.

So now you know.

Now, I admit that this wasn’t the most fascinating article (look it’s no use sobbing… I don’t force you to read the blog), but it is an important one in that it builds a more complete picture of post-medieval pottery, and means that you now know what I mean when I say Pearlware. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that is a good thing or not.

That’s all for now. I have about another six half-finished articles which I will get around to completing very soon, including ‘magical protection‘, ‘quarries‘, ‘holed stones‘, ‘tracks‘, ‘updates‘, and your favourite and mine… some more pottery, but I’ll spare you that until later.

Right, until the next time, look after yourselves and each other, and I remain.

Your humble servant,


Archaeology · Pottery · Whitfield

A Green-Fingered Garden Grab*

*Ok, so I couldn’t think of a better title.

What ho, what ho, what ho!

So, right now, as we hurtle toward the solstice, is my favourite time of the year. Spring into summer – the days are long, my birthday is hoving into view (19th July, if anyone is interested… and a dark fruity red, if anyone is feeling flush). It also means time spent in the garden, planting and preparing the soil. Hamnett Towers is blessed with a small back garden (utterly destroyed by chickens… honestly, it looks like the Western Front), and a slightly larger front garden where the vegetables are planted. Both of these forces of nature – chicken and man – excavate all sorts of goodies. Predictably, I have kept everything I have found, and kept them separate; Hamnett Towers was at one point two separate ‘back-to-back’ terraced houses, so the archaeology of either side might tell a slightly different story (old archaeological habit). And so far, this year has produced some very interesting bits.

So, please join me in the garden. Ah, sorry, no shorts or baseball caps please – this is an English gentleman’s abode; t-shirts I can just about cope with, but I mean, a chap has to have standards dash it!

Here’s the day’s findings from the front garden:

A selection of the history of the land the garden has decided to show us this year… so far.

Let’s start with the nail – a Victorian, hand-made, copper roof nail, to be precise. I’m something of a magnet for these things, and they seem to find me wherever I go. They are truly mundane – the nail that holds on a roof tile – and yet are such lovely and tactile things (I’ve blogged about them before – here – FIVE years ago… blimey!). Copper was used as it is largely resistant to corrosion, and their square section is a dead giveaway of age.

Lovely green verdegris competes with rust (the result of it lying next to something iron based) on the surface.

They are made relatively simply, but by hand. Each nail is cut via a press from a long flattened strip of copper (thus the square body of the nail). It is then placed into a small mold or former, point down, and the exposed top is hammered by hand until it flattens out, forming the nail head. Close-up you can see the two flashing strips formed as the soft copper is driven between the halves of the mold.

A close up of the underside of the nail head, clearly showing the copper flashing.

The nail may have come from my house roof, which is a great thought.

Next to the nail is a sherd of spongeware, probably from a large bowl or shallow dish. I find a lot of this particular vessel in the garden, and I might have to try and reconstruct it sometime (follow the link above, 3rd photograph down, on the right for more of the same bowl).

Next row, a sherd of marmalade/preserve jar (here, for more information), and then two thoroughly uninspiring sherds of white glazed pottery. Then, this beauty!

Super. An amazing chance find whilst whilst putting in some pea and bean plants… half of which were eaten on the first night by what can only be imagined as a biblical plague of famished slugs – honestly, I swear I could hear a very slow moving rumbling sound. If you’ll pardon the French… Bastards!

Wonderful! A small bone button, and almost certainly Victorian in date. Delicate, handmade, and slightly off-centre, it is lovely. Again, something so mundane – every item of clothing would have had a dozen of these; will people be cooing over the zips in our trousers in 100 years? And yet, here we are, admiring it’s beauty. Bone was such a common substance in the pre-20th century, and we tend to shy away from it as a material now – how many of us would brush our teeth with a bone toothbrush? Or use bone game pieces? I think we have become a little squeamish. Yet, it was a major resource in history – so many animals, so much bone. Bone preserves very well in the right conditions, and although this has cracked with age, I bet it could be sewn on and used again.

Right then, the image of the Somme, c.1916, that is the back garden. There’s always something that turns up here, not all of it interesting, but usually worth a look. And this year is no exception, with a couple of very nice finds.

A rather motley looking collection, I must admit.

So then… top left we have bonfire glass. Essentially glass that has been melted in a fire. This may have been accidental, or just the result of rubbish disposal. Often Victorian and later rubbish dumps were set on fire to keep the rat population down, and bonfire glass can be quite pretty. This one… not so much.

It’s quite a cool object, but not particularly pretty.

Ignore the next sherd for the moment, and move onto the cream coloured stoneware sherd, possibly from a flask or other oval shaped vessel. Then we have some glass – it is quite chunky, which indicates it is old, but isn’t that lovely green colour, nor full of bubbles, that would indicate a Victorian date. Probably Early 20th century, and likely from a small bottle – perhaps medicine or similar.

Ignoring the other reddish coloured sherds, again for the moment, we have this beauty:

You can see the striations caused by wiping the red under-glaze slip with a wet rag – the marks of the potter preserved for eternity in clay. Lovely stuff!

This is often called Pancheon Ware, after the large (50cm+) pancheon bowls that were extremely common from the 17th century to the early Victorian period. The correct term should be Post Medieval Redware, but that covers a multitude of pottery types and shapes from c.1550s to the Victorian period, of which this is just one.

Essentially a large mixing bowl, bread proving bowl, or vessel to allow cream to separate from milk. This is a lovely antique example, the image of which was stolen from this website which sold it for £195.

They often occur in huge chunks up to 2cm thick, and are usually glazed only on the interior to make it waterproof. I’ve talked about them before, but this is a nice example, showing the red slip on the surface, and then the dark brown glaze, made by adding iron oxide to a lead glaze, producing the deep shiny colour. The glaze on this, as with many, has been allowed to slop over the side and stop just below the rim, producing a messy natural decoration (the example above shows the glaze stopping on the rim, but you can see the effect they are going for).

Below and right of this sherd there are 4 sherds of standard Victorian to mid 20th century whitewares nothing inspiring, or even particularly worth writing about, although there is a rim of a bone china cup. Below and left is a single fragment of a clay pipe stem. Again, nothing exciting – the hole, or bore, through the middle of the stem is narrow which tells us that it is Victorian in date (broadly, a wide bore = 17th to early 18th century, a narrow bore = late 18th to 19th century). Still, it’s a bit of social history… I just wish I could find a bowl!

Then there was the treasure! Occasionally, certainly not often, I find something made of metal. And a few weeks ago, as those who follow me on twitter will know, I found a metal button.

Tiny, just 1cm in diameter, and very delicate. Amazing it survived, to be honest. And even more amazing it was seen.

Well, no… credit where credit’s due – I didn’t find it, Master Hamnett did, with his six year old eagle eyes. A lovely little 2 eye brass button, probably Victorian in date. It’s probably from a child’s dress, probably something like this:

A heavy linen dress for a child. It is beautifully decorated with hand-made edging.

And if you look closely using a decent magnifying glass, rather than the dodgy macro setting on my phone, you can see the remains of the original cloth that would have covered it:

Amazing that the cloth has been preserved, trapped between the two sides of the button’s lip.

It would have looked like this when new:

Small and delicate, and lovingly sewn on.

The thing I love about this is that the child must have lived and grown up exactly where Master Hamnett is now, and doing many of the same things. There is real sense of connection to the past through a single, small and dirty, seemingly uninspiring object. By the way, the story of the Victorian child’s dress (one of several, I hasten to add) is for another time, but it is from a probable apotropaic cache that was donated to me for safekeeping. One of two I now curate. I really don’t have enough time to write all this up, so if someone want to donate a stack of cash to allow me to write, please feel free!

And now this, the real treasure. Quite literally, for once.

Gnarled is the word. I had no idea what it was when I picked it up.

I know at first glance it looks like something has blown it up, but look beyond that, and it’s a wonderful, if completely knackered, piece Victorian costume jewellery brooch. It’s missing just about everything, including the central glass stone, but would have been very pretty – probably looking something like this:

Picture stolen from this website… the brooch is still there. Honest, guv.

I didn’t know what it was when I picked it up, but it was that greyish green that indicated a copper alloy (brass or bronze, for example), and is something I always pick up. It was only when cleaning it that I noticed the paste stones.

You can see the cut paste stone in it’s setting, and all the other setting missing theirs. There are three stones still on the brooch, and very little else.

Amazing, really. And this was just a small amount of time poking around, getting really close and personal with the soil in my garden. And my garden is not unique by any stretch, not even close. I guarantee, every garden in Glossop – no, the country – will produce some treasure – whether it’s early Victorian annular ware from a house near the station, a broken bottle rim from a former pub, a pipe stem from a current pub, or a piece of Victorian child’s plate from a modern garden in Simmondley (all examples from experience). Obviously, I realise that not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden, but we all can access some green space. As an experiment, this evening, pour yourself a drop of the stuff that cheers, and go and sit on what ever patch of earth is closest to you. This may be your garden, or it might be a park, or someone else’s garden, a playing field, or public footpath, or whatever. Now sit down and take a deep breath, listen to the sounds – birds or traffic – tune in, and simply look around you. If you can, dig about a bit, and don’t be frightened of getting your hands dirty, either. With enough time, something will turn up. And please, mail me the results.

Right, that’s about it I think. Next time more pottery – essentially a part 2 to this post, looking at the pottery I told you to ignore above. A competition! If you can get back to me and tell me what they are, and why they are not our type of thing, before I can post the next article, you can win those bits of pottery. Woohoo! (Now look here, Mr Shouty… some people like pottery, you know. And no, I’m not “having a laugh“).

More very soon, but until then, look after yourselves and each other.

And I remain, your humble servant,


Archaeology · Pottery · Pottery Guide

The Rough Guide to Pottery Pt.3 – Industrial Slipware

What ho! What ho! And, if I may be so bold… What ho!

Well, as promised, here is the second post in the month of May. At this rate, I might make three posts… but let’s not tempt fate.

And also as promised, it’s a pottery one! Now, I know, I know… pottery is not to everyone’s taste (I say! Look here… calling me a “pottery obsessed hobbledehoy” says more about you than it does me), but it is important. And besides, it’s my blog!

Part 3 of the guide looks at ‘Industrial Slipwares’ – a broad group of commonly encountered Late Georgian and Victorian pottery (roughly 1780 to perhaps the 1850’s, and later). The term Industrial here refers both to the method used to make them – in factories, and often employing machines – but also in order to distinguish them from the earlier handmade 17th and early 18th century ‘Staffordshire’ type slipwares (which I’ll cover in a later post… you lucky folk, you). Originally called ‘Dipped’ wares, the process employed in making them involves dipping the formed clay vessel into a coloured slip – essentially a thin solution of clay suspended in water – and firing it. It is then glazed and fired for a second time to produce a hard-wearing pot. In terms of fabric, it is a fine earthernware with thin walls, in a clean white fabric – originally a Creamware or Pearlware, but later (1830’s onwards) a standard Whiteware.

Fabric. Ahhhhh… fabric. Creamware, Pearlware, and a plain Whiteware.

Originally very fashionable amongst the elite, by the early 19th Century Slipware begins to lose its social status, until eventually it becomes a utilitarian ware of the commoner, very much associated with pubs and taverns.

I have to say, some of this stuff looks decidedly modern – particularly the stripey stuff – and their bright colours and bold slick designs must have been a welcome antidote to the often drab creams and endless blue and white transfer printed stuff that dominated the period. The emphasis is on natural, earthy, almost pastel-coloured slips – brown, blue, green, orange, yellow, grey, and violet are favoured. I have to say, though, that some of this stuff is a tad on the garish side, and wouldn’t look out of place in a Wild West Bordello. Not that I would know what that would look like. Or indeed have any knowledge of such places. At all. In fact, I don’t know why I said that. Anyway… moving swiftly on.

Ahem… the pottery, then. Broadly speaking, there are 5 types that can be readily identified, although there is some crossover between them, as you’ll see.

  1. Multi-Coloured (aka Variegated) (1780 – 1820)

Patterns of slip are made from multiple colours and smudged (the correct term is Joggled), giving a psychedelic effect that you either love or hate. Common patterns are the Cat’s Eye, Earthworm, Fan, and a nightmare-fuelled, migraine inducing, all-over slip. The crucial identifier is the joggled coloured slip.

An ‘earthworm’ design on a Variegated bowl. You can see how the slip decoration was applied in three colours, and then ‘joggled’ to make the wormlike decoration. These sherds are courtesy of The Blackden Trust, where I work. An amazing place where history and creativity collide… well worth checking out.
The nightmarish ‘all over’ decoration.

2. Mocha (aka Dendritic) (1780 – 1890)

Here, the slip is applied, and a substance – boiled tobacco juice, or urine, for example – was applied whilst still wet. This diffused producing the characteristic treelike (dendritic) decoration in a dark blue or black colour. Commonly associated with banded decoration (Annular, below) and in a brown or cream slip. Popular, but largely of early to mid-19th century, and less common later in the century. 

Two sherds of Mocha or Dendritic pottery. It’s difficult to get an understanding of what the whole looks like, so here is a shamelessly stolen photo from ebay…
You can buy this tankard for a mere snip of £125 here. You can get an idea of how it looks, though.

3. Engine Turned (1790 – 1880)

This looks particularly 20th century. Here the slip is applied one over another, and the vessel is turned on a lathe, with the upper slip removed by machine, revealing the contrasting colour below. Vertical stripes, horizontal bands, and patterned geometric designs are all common. Painted designs were also applied using a machine, creating complex linear bands. Mainly early 19th century in date, and particularly associated with Pearlware, so is much less common later. 

Sherds of Engine Turned, showing the patterns created by machine – putting the ‘Industrial’ into industrial Slipware.
An excellent example of the complex painted and turned designs found on Engine Turned pottery. Sherd is not mine, alas. It belongs to a friend, Helen D.
Good close-up of a sherd showing where the slip removed to create the pattern.
Another close-up showing the grooves… groovy! Sorry, that was terrible – although I think I got away with it as no one seems to read these captions.

4. Banded (aka Annular) (1780 – 1890’s)

Simple horizontal bands of slip are painted on using a lathe in the manner of Engine Turned above, producing precise clean lines. Commonly contrasting blue and white, but also in browns, yellows, and creams. The banded decoration is also a large part of the decoration of the above three types, particularly Mocha, so there is considerable overlap. Also, the simple basic theme of bands continues into the 21st century, particularly in Cornishware pottery. 

A selection of Annular pottery. The stripes were applied using a lathe, rather than by hand, hence their precision and uniform nature. This photo also gives us a sample of the kinds of colours that Industrial Slipware used.
The distinctly modern looking blue striped pottery, a predecessor to the Cornishware type you can still buy.

5. All Over (1780 – 1890’s)

The vessel is slipped, inside and out, in a single colour of the earthy colours common in Industrial Slip Ware, and then fired, producing a surface that is uniform in colour and treatment. Common in the 19th century, but less so as the century went on.  

Lovely stuff! The plain, All Over pottery.
The rim of a delicate tankard or mug. Beautiful colour, fantastic detail – this would have been lovely.

In terms of shapes, Industrial Slip Ware is exclusively a tableware, and very much liquid focused, so elegant mugs & tankards are common, as are jugs, and more rarely bowls.

Right then, armed with this new found knowledge, go forth and find! Honestly, this stuff shows up everywhere, in particular the banded Annular ware (very common in blue and white). Don’t forget to email/tweet/post any examples you find. I’d actually like to start posting finds that other people have found – a community of sherd nerds, if you will! So please, get in touch.

Honestly though, my life of late has been very busy, and increasingly I have started to realise that I am very bad at multi-tasking – meaning I can focus on only one big thing at a time – hence the lack of blog activity. I recently lead a Wan.Der (a curated historical walk, in association with the Glossop Creates mob). I thoroughly enjoyed it (despite the public speaking terror), and it seemed to be successful, which is nice – watch this space for news of others coming up, both more of the same, and new ones, too.

I’ve also started to upload some video onto the Glossop Cabinet YouTube account – there isn’t a huge amount on it at the moment, but more is coming soon. You can check it out here.

Right, that’s all for now. More later… I’m on a roll! But until then, look after yourselves and each other, and as always, I remain,

Your humble servant.


Dinting · Mason's Marks

Mason’s Marks at Dinting Arches

What ho, kind and gentle folk of the Glossop-based blog reading world!

Firstly, please accept my apologies for the lack of activity on the blog as of late. I have been surprisingly busy in both my work life and my actual life, and have somewhat neglected the blog, which is frankly not on. I will atone for my sins by posting twice this month – this post, and another part of the “Guide To Pottery”. (What’s that…? Hmm? Look, it’s no use shouting “Dear God, spare us the pottery“, and no, I won’t “curl my hair with it“, thank you very much. No one is forcing you to read the blog, you know. Honestly, the nerve of some people.)

There is all sorts of exciting blog related news, more about which soon, but for now on with the show, so to speak.

As regular readers will know I do love a good carved stone or two, and from graffiti to bench marks, I am always interested. However, one category of carving in particular holds a fascination for me, and that is the mason’s mark. I have blogged about them previously, and regularly post them on Twitter when I see them around and about, as there is something about them I find captivating.

Briefly, mason’s marks are the unique signature of an individual stonemason, made using a chisel onto the stone they had finished carving or shaping. The reason for this was ostensibly two-fold. Firstly, the stonemason was hired on a piecework basis – he was paid for each stone he finished, so it was important that ownership was established.

A quarryman of the Victorian period.
Some more Victorian quarrymen.

Secondly, it acted as a form of quality control; each stone was inspected and finished by the mason, with any flaws or issues noted, their reputation, and thus livelihood, being based on their work. It also meant that substandard work could be traced to an individual. But beyond this, I suspect also that making their mark was important to the masons themselves – a sense of pride in their work, to be able to stand back and say “I made that”, and being able to point it out to their children or grandchildren. It gave a sense of agency to the stonemason, allowing them ownership in both senses, and making them feel as an individual, rather than simply a cog in a much larger machine. This is a hugely important point, and the reason for my fascination with them: these are the personal signatures of the men who carved those stones, men who almost certainly couldn’t read, and most of whom couldn’t sign their name beyond an ‘X’. Indeed, it is entirely likely that, sub-contracted by a foreman, their names wouldn’t be recorded elsewhere either. Thus, these simple geometric shapes are all that remains of the men who built Dinting Arches, testament to their skill and backbreaking labour; this is them signing their work in the way an author does their book, or an artist does a painting. The silent stones speak for them.

Quarrymen in the Victorian period. Image taken from the very interesting Valley of Stone website that looks at the stone quarrying and masons of Rossendale – it tells a fascinating story of the men and their lives. Well worth a visit by following this link

Because I am that kind of person, I have a larger project in mind. Between 1841 and 1847 (ish) the line between Broadbottom and the Woodhead Tunnel, and including the branch line to Glossop, was completed. A massive undertaking, costing enormous amounts of money, and involving huge numbers of men, in that 6 year period, millions of tonnes of stone would have been blasted, shaped, finished, transported, and fitted into place. At some stage, most of the stone would have a mason’s mark put onto it. Not all survive – they might be placed with the mark facing inside the construction, or it might have been removed during the final finishing once the stone was in place. However, dotted around the railway lines – the bridges, underpasses, tunnels, retaining walls, as well as the two viaducts – some marks are still visible. I thought it might be a fun* – and worthy – thing to do to survey all the remaining railway stonework to see what is there, and to make a note of the mason’s marks before they disappear, and the lives of the men with them. We could also see how many match at different points along the track, indicating that the same men were working in different locations. I’d also like to see if any records exist of the men – quarrymen, rough shapers, or finishers – and see if it would be possible to put a name to a mark. Highly unlikely, I know, but you never know.

(* yes, I am painfully aware that ‘fun’ is a very subjective concept… as is Mrs Hamnett)

One has to start somewhere, and so I thought I’d give Dinting Viaduct a go.

An early image of Dinting Arches – taken before 1914 when the brick pillars were inserted. Interestingly, you can also see the track at Adderley Place that originally ran under the arches at the far end, but which is now filled in.

The technique is relatively simple; using eyes and binoculars, I surveyed all the stone I could see, taking a drawing of all the different marks I could make out, and taking photographs, where possible, of good examples of marks (I need to go back and highlight some in chalk). This is not rocket science, or indeed any kind of science, it’s a bloke with some binoculars and notebook. I compiled all the data, numbered each mark, uploaded the photographs, et voila… you are reading the result. Please enjoy. Or don’t, as you wish.

Some broad observations. By and large, the marks are placed centrally in the stone block, only occasionally toward the edges. It seems that only the more ‘natural’ looking blocks contain a mark, and particularly those on the lower courses. The other blocks seem to have been roughly dressed, a process which may have removed a mark, were one present. As expected, the marks are largely constructed from straight lines, with marks D1, D19, and D23 being the exceptions – straight edges are easy to carve, circles less so. The execution of the carving is often poor, with little precision shown – one wonders if they were done with speed before moving on to the next stone, after all, time is money for these men. It must also be remembered that, talented though they undoubtedly were, it is unlikely that these were the fine master-craftsmen who were carving scrollwork and lettering. Rather, they were focused on shaping the stone – accurately and with skill – so that it would fit.

So then, these are the marks, and in a sense these are the men. It is important to note that I have not included inverted example as separate – for example, mark D5 occurs both with 2 points up and with 1 point up, but as the mark was carved prior to it being installed, which way up it is depends entirely on which way up the stone was installed. Conversely, marks D1 and D19 might be the same stonemason’s mark, but the fact that D18 is off-centre in that the lines aren’t paralell to the rectangular edges as they are in D1, suggests they are two different men (unless he was carving it at an angle). It is also possible that some of the different marks noted here are actually the same mark which has been worn or damaged, leaving only the partial mark that I have transcribed – D6, D9, D13, and D15 for example.

So then, what did I see? A selection…

A type D1 carved into the stone.
Types D8 and D19 amongst others. This image makes me feel distinctly weird… I hate looking up under there.
D2 & D6
The fantastically complex D14 – impressive! And another above it.

I could go on, but you get the picture. The whole of Dinting Arches are covered in mason’s marks, and it is well worth a trip down – it’s a fascinating bit of architecture, and of Glossop’s history. Below is the page of marks in my notebook, and I feel certain more are waiting to be discovered.

Here are the 25 marks so far identified. As I say, this is an ongoing project that will theoretically start at Broadbottom, and continue to Hadfield and along the Longdendale Trail to the Woodhead Tunnel.

I will move on to another section of the railway soon, and if anyone fancies joining me, drop me a line – many hands make light work! I’ll post the results, and see if we have any matches.

Right ho, another post soon… I promise. Until then, look after yourselves and each other, and I remain,

Your humble servant.