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Duffield Castle
Lecture by William Bland
at the Temperance Hall, Wirksworth, Tuesday, January 11th 1887


The discovery of a potter's kiln of the Norman period was made in January, 1862, in a field then in the possession of the Right Honourable Lord Scarsdale, on Burley Hill, in the parish of Duffield, about a mile-and-a-half south of the Castle. Some workmen in the course of draining the field turned up some fragments of vessels belonging to the Norman period. These "finds" were brought to the notice of Mr. Llewellyn Jewitt, who visited the spot and made some excavations. He observed that there are two circular barrow-like mounds at opposite ends of the field raised some two feet above the surface. The mounds were examined and found to be composed of broken vessels, ashes, and burnt stones, the remains of a potter's kiln. This discovery was all the more interesting and valuable as being the only instance of the finding of a kiln either of the Anglo-Saxon or Norman periods. The vessels which were brought to light are what a potter would have called "wasters" i.e., vessels which are "fire-cracked," "run," or otherwise spoiled in the firing. They consisted of pitchers, small jugs, porringers or pippens, and dishes. A considerable number of fragments of highly and curiously ornamented pitchers were also found. Of the small jugs, ranging from four-and-a-half to 9 inches in height, and of other vessels included in these "finds," engravings are given in the Reliquary, pages 206-18, vol.II.- from which work most of the information respecting the Burley pots has been taken. The principle vessel discovered is a magnificent pitcher, sixteen inches in height, and is probably the most important and interesting early mediaeval relic of Norman pottery which has ever been exhumed. It is in the possession of the Right Honourable Lord Scarsdale, who kindly lent the vessel and several others found with it for exhibition at Derby, on the occasion of the Rev. Dr. Cox's lecture, in September last. It bears an heraldic decoration - a species of ornamentation which Mr Jewitt considers to be unique on vessels of that period - and the decoration is the badge of the ancient lords of the soil on which the vessel was made - and was probably made for castle use. The badge is that of the horse-shoe - the distinctive bearing of the family of Ferrars, who held Duffield Castle from the time of the conquest to the reign of Henry III - a period of 200 years. The pitcher bears five horse-shoes and two buckles - these ornaments being laid on in what is technically termed "slip," i.e., they are modelled on to the surface of the soft vessel in a finer kind of clay before baking or glazing. The horse shoes are remarkably well formed and have each six nails, three on either side. The buckles (also a badge of the Ferrars) are the circular ones of the Norman period. Below the horse-shoes are rudely-formed flowers, while within and between them the pitcher itself is ornamented with herring-bone pattern, incised into soft clay. The handle is polished and punctured. The pitcher appears to owe its preservation to a fire-crack on one side near to the bottom, for which defect it was probably thrown aside by the potter, and in course of time got buried.

It is to be hoped that the excavations in the Burley Hill field, now the property of Mr. T. W. Evans, of Allestree, may be resumed, when the results may become even more interesting and important than they have hitherto been.(f).

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First published 1887, Website copyright 2001 Jed Bland. 27.09.01