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|CONSPICUOUS LIQUID CONSUMPTION|
RE-EVALUATION EXERCISE OF
THE NEW BODLEIAN EXTENSION SITE, BROAD STREET, OXFORD 1937
What the data tells us
The late 12th - mid 13th century well assemblages show a marked trend towards regional imports of tablewares. Two are particularly prominent -- Nuneaton Ware (OXAH) from Warwickshire, a white fabric with a distinctive light yellow glaze; and Ashampstead Ware (OXAG) from Berkshire, a red iron-rich fabric that when coated with a colourless lead glaze fires to a clear orange glaze, with a white slip decoration. These must surely have stood out in striking contrast to the predominantly green glazed wares of the locally produced Brill/Boarstall tradition from central Buckinghamshire. Wells 2 and 14, where the Nuneaton Ware is the most common fabric, lie in adjacent tenements behind Buildings 41-2, and Acland House. This tradition dispays a variety of forms -- shoulder jug, tripod pitcher, baluster, rounded and ovoid jugs -- which, interestingly, are not reflected in these assemblages in the Brill/Boarstall tradition until the late 13th century -- although we know that Brill/Boarstall had a diverse range of forms available (Mellor 1994,114).
The occupants of these two tenements may indeed have made an individual choice in selecting light yellow glazed tablewares in a variety of forms -- perhaps to simply brighten their table in a dark room or to deliberately distinguish themselves from their neighbours (see Fig.6). In many parts of western Europe the major regional and long distance imports are whitewares where they are much sought after for finewares (Mellor 2004, pers.com). Such selective choice implies both a disposable income for such purchases and an available market from which to buy them. It is particularly apparent in Well 2, the earliest well group chronologically, where a diversity of jug capacity is also indicated -- a point discussed later.
Fig.6: Well 2 assemblage shows a large tripod pitcher (Oxford Medieval Ware), together with two ovoid jugs and the base of a second tripod pitcher -- all sport the same light yellow glaze.
Continental imported wares are absent from these assemblages, although the French influence can be seen by the late 13th century in the parrot beak bridge-spouted jugs of Well 9 (see Fig.7), a fashion which Hurst (1962/3, 151) argued may have originated through the wine trade.
Fig.7: From Well 9. Shows the detail of a parrot beak bridge-spouted jug, also with an applied face mask decoration below the rim.
From the mid 13th century the local Buckinghamshire Brill/Boarstall fineware takes over as the predominant fabric and regional imports become less apparent, which reflects a common trend across the county. The exception is the East Wiltshire coarseware (OXAQ), which produced principally cooking and storage vessels, and continues to appear in the early 14th century assemblages in Well 10 and Pit G when it was the only coarseware supplied in Oxford (Mellor 1994, 106). The glazes on finewares change from the monochrome light yellow and greens of the late 12th to mid 13th century seen in Wells 1,2, 14 and 23, to the highly decorated polychrome jugs which appear in the Brill/Boarstall wares of Well 9.
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