Highgate Wood Roman Pottery Kilns: Geological and Topographical factors influencing the location, by Peter Collins and Michael Hacker, 2018
Excavations in the 1960s and early 1970s verified the presence of a Romano-British pottery-manufacturing site in Highgate Woods, north London. This short note considers the factors affecting the location of the site. A particular focus is the examination of the geology and topography of the natural deposits at the site and how this relates to the type of fabric found in the Roman pottery from Highgate Wood. Such factors could well have a wider bearing on the location of other Roman pottery manufacturing sites in North London. The underlying premise is that the type of sandy, silty clay, which is present in the vicinity of the site, commonly called the Claygate Beds (classified as the Claygate Member of the London Clay Formation [LCF]), is ideally suited for the manufacture of pottery.
In 2010 an experimental archaeology project constructed a kiln at the Roman kiln site and excavated a pit to provide clay for the kiln and pots. This pit, and auguring in the base of the pit, allowed samples of the in situ sediments to be collected and subsequently analysed. The aim was to confirm the assumption that the source of the material used in the Roman pottery was the Claygate Member.
Centenary Excursion to Richmond Park, Kingston Hill and Wimbledon Common on 20 May 2017
This trip aimed to follow the Excursion on 19 May 1917 detailed in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. Inevitably not all the original exposures were available but there was enough to create an interesting trip aimed at members of the Geologists’ Association, the Friends of Richmond Park, the London Natural History Society and the general public. It was led by members of the London Geodiversity Partnership and was written up in the GA Magazine by Diana Clements interspersing quotations from the original write-up with the actualities in 2017. We are grateful to the Geologists’ Association for allowing us to reproduce the article here.
The Geology of Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood by Diana Clements 2015 (reprinted from an article in The Amateur Geologist, the 50th Anniversary Issue of the Amateur Geological Society’s Magazine)
Highgate Wood and Queen’s Wood have been designated a RIGS (Regionally Important Geological Site) by the London Geodiversity Partnership. A glance at the BGS 1:50,000 North London map may cause you to wonder why; the only rock-type mentioned is London Clay and it is adjacent to Hampstead Heath where geology is much more in evidence.
Why then was there a Romano-British pottery site on the highest point of Highgate Wood? London
Clay is not a particularly good potting clay whereas the overlying Claygate Member at the top of the London Clay Formation has provided most of the traditional yellow London Stock bricks for the 19th century housing in the area. Exposures circle Hampstead Heath and many of the brick pits are labelled on the 1920s 6 inch maps of the area. Tell-tale contorted, blackened and welded bricks in garden walls indicate brickmaking in the close vicinity; the bricks were not of sufficient quality to travel far and were made more or less where the clay was dug and stacked into large clamps for firing. The over-burnt bricks came from the centre of the clamp. The Claygate Beds are a more sandy facies than the underlying London Clay and indicate a shallowing-up sequence of alternating silt and fine-grained sand, becoming progressively sandier towards the top. It is the coarser nature of these beds that make them suitable for brickmaking and potting generally which points to the probable reason why the Romano-British pottery site is situated here.
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