Roman pottery kilns and associated features at Crambeck
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1016347
Date first listed: 18-Dec-1946
Date of most recent amendment: 08-Dec-1997
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District: Ryedale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SE 73535 66905
Reasons for Designation
Roman pottery production in Britain started soon after the Roman conquest c.AD
40-50 and continued into the fifth century. The peak of production was during
the second century AD, after which the number of production centres began to
diminish. Pottery made in Britain was supplemented by a wide range of ceramics
imported into Britain from elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Early examples of
Roman potteries are concentrated in the south and east, principally in the
Nene Valley and Kent areas. In the second century potteries became more
widespread, with rare northern examples being restricted to sites with
military associations. In the third and fourth centuries the main focus for
pottery production was along the navigable rivers of the central southern and
south and east of the country. By the end of the fourth century production was
restricted to parts of North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and limited areas of the
All of the nearly 400 known potteries in England are located with ready access
to markets, and all are situated close to necessary raw materials such as
suitable clay, water and fuel. Potteries are often found in clusters, in both
urban and rural areas. Although there was some variation throughout the
country, all Roman potteries broadly included the same elements: kiln drying
chambers and associated structures such as worksheds, preparation floors,
stores and sometimes accommodation for the workforce. Some potteries had fewer
than five kilns, others upwards of 35. The pottery site may also be situated
within a larger industrial complex which accommodated other crafts with
similar technological needs, such as iron smelting.
Roman pottery making sites in Britain provide important information about the
technology of pottery manufacture and its development and, more generally, the
economic structure of the Roman province. They also offer scope for
understanding trade patterns and how they related to the political and
military situation. Roman pottery sites are rare nationally and all examples
which are known to survive in good condition and still retain most of their
components are considered to be of national importance.
The Roman pottery at Crambeck survives well and significant information about the original form and technology of the kilns will be preserved. Excavations at the kiln sites have demonstrated the level of survival and the type of kiln and associated features to be found. Evidence from the excavations of has also indicated the presence of iron working on site and evidence this within the monument will be important for an understanding of the Roman iron industry and the relationship with the pottery. There is also evidence of the use of land prior to the pottery and this will offer important scope for the study of the early Romano-British period. Taken together all the elements within the monument preserves important evidence of the occupation and exploitation of the land throughout the Roman period.
The monument includes the extensive buried remains of the Roman pottery
manufacturing complex at Crambeck. The site lies on a slope bounded to the
east by the steep river cliff of the River Derwent. To the west it is bounded
by the modern A64 road which itself follows the course of the Roman road
between Malton and York
The monument includes the fields, paddocks and the area of the tennis court
extending as far as the road through Crambeck and also includes the plantation
at the south east corner. At the south west corner extensive quarrying has
taken place. This has removed some of the remains of the potteries.
The identification of a major Roman site was first made in the mid-19th
century when large amounts of Roman pottery was found and six pottery kilns
were revealed during the construction of the Crambeck school. Subsequent
investigations of the site have included the systematic collection of Roman
pottery lying on the ground surface and the use of scientific survey methods
which can detect buried archaeological remains. These investigations have
revealed a complex pattern of small enclosures separated by boundary ditches
within which the remains of kilns survive. At least seven surviving kilns
have been identified within the area of the monument. As well as the kilns and
waste dumps the complex also included clay dumps, fuel stores, drying areas,
stores, workshops and possibly accommodation for the workforce.
Approximately 60m south west of the monument, in the area now quarried away,
four kilns were excavated in 1928. A further two kilns lying 700m to the south
west were excavated in 1936. These kilns all had a circular, clay-lined
furnace pit cut into the ground with a limestone built flue. They were
arranged in pairs sharing a common stokehole. The 1928 excavations and
subsequent examination of the quarry workings also revealed the corner of a
building as well as investigating the ditches now known to extend right across
the monument. These ditches were dated to the second century AD and are
interpreted as part of an early Roman field system which was reused as
enclosure boundaries for the later potteries.
In addition to the kilns the 1928 excavation also revealed two human burials
in stone coffins known as cists. One of these burials cut through, and is thus
later than, one of the kilns. Further cist burials were uncovered in the
19th century near to kilns adjacent to the road through Crambeck. These
burials are all of a similar nature and are post-Roman in date and were
inhumed after the pottery site had been abandoned.
In addition to the potting activities it has been suggested that iron smelting
may also have taken place. It is common to find one or more industrial
activities taking place at one location and at Crambeck fragments of iron slag
has been found on the monument.
At the south east corner of the monument, a 6m wide terrace with a low
external bank has been constructed extending around the south and east sides
of the river cliff, approximately 5m below the crest of the hill. Early
studies interpreted this feature as the outer rampart of a Roman camp however
it is now considered to be a Roman hollow way to allow access to the ford
across the Crambeck.
The potteries at Crambeck lie at the centre of a wider pottery production area
as shown by further kiln sites which have been excavated at Crambe 2km to the
south and at Norton 7km to the north east. The Crambeck industry started
production towards the very end of the third century AD and soon started to
supply areas of north-east England. The principal market for Crambeck products
appears to have been in north east Yorkshire centring on the town of Malton
9km to the north. The location of the production centre was determined by the
availability of suitable Oxford clay outcropping in the area and the proximity
of water transport on the Derwent which was navigable as far upstream as
Malton. This water link would also have provided access to York, West
Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire and to the North Sea along the Humber as well
as to the leading market at nearby Malton. The predominant production was
of tableware especially bowls, mixing bowls known as mortaria and dishes which
are found at both civilian and military sites throughout the north of England.
It appears to have taken some time for the industry to be established with the
initial distribution being limited to the immediate area. However, in the
late fourth and early fifth centuries Crambeck suddenly became a major
supplier throughout the north west and the north east of England. The industry
maintained this dominant position until the end of the Roman period when it
rapidly fell into decline.
All fences, gates, walls, hard standings, the surfaces of the roads and car
parks, the tennis court, the LPG gas tanks and pipe work, the brick sheds and
the horse feeding equipment are excluded from the scheduling although the
ground beneath all these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 29515
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Swan, V G, The Pottery Kilns of Roman Britain, (1984), 109-111
Wilson, P R (ed), Crambeck Roman Pottery Industry, (1989)
Evans, J, 'The Crambeck Roman Pottery Industry' in Crambeck; The Development of a Major Northern Pottery Industry, , Vol. (Ed), (1989), 51
Evans, J, 'The Crambeck Roman Pottery Industry' in Crambeck; The Development of a Major Northern Pottery Industry, , Vol. (Ed), (1989), 45
Hayes, R H, 'Crambeck Roman Pottery Industry' in A ditch at Crambeck quarry, (1989), 37-40
Wymann M, (1997)
Wymann M, (1997)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing