Bedford Garage ware rim sherd (vessel (sherd))


Bedford Garage ware is a class of high-quality wheel-thrown pottery made in Exeter. A kiln producing this ware was discovered when the Bedford Garage (so named after the nearby town-house of the Dukes of Bedford) was built in 1935. The site was re-excavated by Lady Aileen Fox in 1955. Initially the pottery was thought to be late medieval as it was so well made. It was only with the excavation of stratified late Saxon deposits in the 1970s that it became apparent how old it was, dating from around AD 950. This made it the first pottery produced in Exeter since Roman times. Quite a long period of production and use seems likely (around AD 950 to 1100), and this would explain the numerous Saxo-Norman pit groups containing this pottery.

The refined fabric, wheel-throwing, rich glazes and use of kiln technology mark Bedford Garage ware out as pottery in a completely different tradition from the coarse, hand-made, bonfire-fired and unglazed pottery seen throughout South-West England in the late Saxon period. The potter(s) must have come from somewhere outside the region. Traditions of making high-quality wheel-thrown wares are features of the ceramics of northern France and it is highly likely that Bedford Garage ware originated as the output of a potter from Normandy.

The Exeter: a Place in Time (EAPIT) project has recently carried out research on the Saxo-Norman and medieval pottery from Exeter.

This object is on display at RAMM in the Making History gallery.

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