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


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018783

Date first listed: 02-Nov-1961

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Dec-1998


Ordnance survey map of Rye Hill medieval pottery and tilery, 60m south of Spains
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: East Sussex

District: Rother (District Authority)

Parish: Rye

National Grid Reference: TQ 92183 21111


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

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.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


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.

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


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 31398

Legacy System: RSM


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)

End of official listing