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Roman Military Tilery
W. Yorkshire, SE 13031901
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Grimescar Tilery Pastscape Page

Visible Remains: None

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The earliest record of a kiln at Grimescar (sometimes written Grimscar) comes from the Dodsworth mss, in the Bodleian library in Oxford. The site is described as follows  “In the yeare of owre Lord 1590 certain Colyers working in Grymskar in Fekisbye [Fixby], in framynge a pitt to burne charcoles discovered a certain worke in the earthe of most fine bricke, yt resembled a Roundewell a 4 yeards depe or not so much, cunynglye walled with bricke and having upon the top a very broad brickstone coveringe the same with a round ledg wrought upon it whereon were written divers Roman carecterrs, as namelye these - COHIIIIBRE. Next adjoyning to yt had been an archid cave wherein great fyers had bene made, and there were four condithes [conduits] going from the sd place in the lower part of the grounde and coming forth some 8 or 9 yeards of it, wherein had runyd some kind of metal for the stones were all congealed together. There was about it both redd, and blewe, and yelowe brick verye curyous and good, a kind of hard sinders in many places wth some traces of very thin earthin pots curiouslye wrought….It was placid in the myddst of the wodd in a descending place neare unto a spring of water. The name of the wodd is called Grymeskarr [Grimscar], but the old name is Springer.” Whether this is the same kiln as was later excavated in the mid 20th century is not clear, and some authorities list two sites.

Whilst usually described as a tilery, the quantity and variety of pottery (including cooking pots, jars, bowls, flagons, mortaria, even cheese presses) makes it clear that the site was dual purpose. Whether there was more than one kiln is debateable, it being possible that all goods were produced from the same kiln. The tilery operated to provide building material for the two phases of reconstruction of the nearby fort at Slack in about AD 100 and 120, along with material for the fort at Castleshaw. Tile production was hypocaust elements, floor tiles and roofing tiles, and tegulae stamped COH IIII BRE (4th cohort of Breuci, stationed at Slack) have been found. The diagram to the bottom right shows the Roman method of roof tile construction, with each course of flat tiles (tegulae) overlapping the one below, the vertical joins being covered with curved tiles (imbreces), and the open end of the bottom imbrex finished off with a voussoir - all these elements were made here.

It is worth noting that the C16th record mentions that COHIIIIBRE was written on a ledge, not actually on tiles. This gives direct evidence that the kiln was operated by the cohort themselves, for their own use. This is no surprise, as the Roman army incorporated skilled men such as masons, carpenters, surveyors, blacksmiths and potters to enable it to not only fight, but also build the infrastructure necessary for it to function.

More technical details are given on the excellent website derived from the work of the late Vivien Swan. Site record 1  Site Record 2.

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