Ancient Monuments

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Rye Hill medieval pottery and tilery, 60m south of Spains

A Scheduled Monument in Rye, East Sussex

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Latitude: 50.9574 / 50°57'26"N

Longitude: 0.7351 / 0°44'6"E

OS Eastings: 592182.491529

OS Northings: 121111.116148

OS Grid: TQ921211

Mapcode National: GBR RYV.ST7

Mapcode Global: FRA D6FL.26W

Entry Name: Rye Hill medieval pottery and tilery, 60m south of Spains

Scheduled Date: 2 November 1961

Last Amended: 2 December 1998

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018783

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31398

County: East Sussex

Civil Parish: Rye

Built-Up Area: Rye

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): East Sussex

Church of England Parish: Rye

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a medieval pottery and tilery situated on the
south-facing slope of a clay hill on the northern outskirts of Rye. The
pottery and tilery, discovered during investigations carried out in the early
1930s, survives in the form of below ground archaeological remains. Five kilns
were revealed, and these were found to have parallel flues leading to firing
chambers excavated into the subsoil. The kiln walls, which survive to a height
of up to around 1m, are clay lined and made up of broken tiles, pots and
stones. Large quantities of pottery wasters, the discarded products not fit
for sale or use, were found to have been dumped close to the kilns. A
geophysical survey carried out in 1997 indicated that traces of further
kilns and associated features and structures will survive in the areas
surrounding the five kilns investigated during the 1930s.
Plain and decorated floor tiles, roofing tiles and a wide range of ceramic
wares, including lead-glazed jugs, bowls, pipkins and dishes, some with
sgrafitto, or incised, designs, were made on the site. These have been dated,
by comparison with similar wares produced elsewhere, to the years between
1275-1425. Most of the floor tiles were fired in two short episodes and were
used to pave the north and south chancels of Rye church in 1279 and around
1330. Historical sources suggest that the pottery and tilery may have formed
part of the possessions of the nearby St Bartholomew's medieval hospital.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval potteries were industrial sites where ceramic wares were formed and
fired. Some potteries were small scale enterprises worked by a single potter,
while others were much larger concerns. They usually survive in the form of
below ground archaeological remains situated in rural areas close to sources
of clay, water and wood, although the earliest, pre-12th century medieval
potteries were often located within towns. Kilns for firing the clay
vessels are usually the most prominent and easily recognised surviving
components. Investigations have revealed that medieval kilns developed from
the simple clamp, or bonfire type, in use during the early part of the period
and leaving few recognisable traces, to more substantial structures with clay-
lined walls, partly excavated into the bedrock or subsoil. These kilns had a
firing chamber, a sunken circular or oval pit up to around 3m in diameter,
into which the unfired clay wares were placed. Leading from the firing chamber
were one or more flues with stokepits containing the fires for firing the
pottery and drawing air through the kiln. The larger, later kilns could have
as many as six flues. Kiln roofs are believed to have been temporary
structures, dismantled after each firing, and traces of these rarely survive.
Some kilns had surrounding walls or windbreaks, and a few had sheltering
roofed structures. Situated close to the kilns were pottery waster heaps,
workshops, drying sheds, storage buildings, yards and hardstanding, clay pits
and drains. The whole pottery complex was sometimes enclosed by a boundary
ditch or fence. There was some regional diversity in kiln form and
construction. During the medieval period, pottery vessels were a low status,
everyday item. Although each pottery produced plain, decorated and/or glazed
wares for local or regional markets, the most commonly manufactured items such
as cooking pots, jugs and bowls, were similar in form throughout the country.
Medieval potteries are distributed over most of England, in areas where
suitable potting clay was available. Potteries associated with the manufacture
of important wares and/or which are known to contain substantial surviving
remains are considered to be of national importance.

Medieval tileries produced floor, wall or roof tiles fired in parallel-flued
kilns. Some kilns were short lived, manufacturing tiles for a specific, high
status building, whilst others were larger scale and more permanent commercial
concerns. Most known larger tileries produced only roof tiles for a local
market, whilst the rare examples which made finer products such as decorated
floor tiles, did so for a wider market. Like potteries, medieval tileries are
distributed fairly evenly throughout the country, in areas with clay subsoil.
Tileries associated with the manufacture of important wares and/or which are
known to contain substantial surviving remains are considered to be of
national importance.

The medieval pottery and tilery at Rye Hill survives well and has been shown
by part excavation and geophysical survey to contain archaeological and
environmental evidence relating to the original use of the monument. The Rye
Hill kilns are unusual in that they produced both ceramic wares and tiles,
many of which were good quality decorated and glazed items, over a period of
150 years.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Barton, K J, Medieval Sussex Pottery, (1979), 191-254
Geophysical Surveys of Bradford, , Fairfields, Rye: 1997 Geophysical Survey, (1997)
Vidler, L A, 'Sussex Archaeological Collections' in Medieval Pottery, Tiles and Kilns found at Rye: Final Report, , Vol. 77, (1936), 107-119
Woodcock, Dr A, (1998)

Source: Historic England

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