Tackley Local History Group

Pottery Days

About twenty men, women and children stand around tables working with clay.

In various parts of Tackley, blue-green clay lies just beneath the surface of the soil, as the Local History Group has found when doing archaeological work. This led us to wonder whether the first inhabitants of Tackley, in the Neolithic period and after, used this clay to make pots and other everyday objects.

The local potter Jane Bowen agreed to help us find out.

In October 2017 in the village hall, Jane helped us make our own pots without using a wheel, which only arrived here with the Romans. More than 40 people of all ages joined in, making a variety of pots and other objects, many of them decorated and with various materials added including shell, ground-up pottery (grog), chaff and dried grass.

At the end of the afternoon, Jane took them to her studio on The Green for drying, and a week later they were fired in pits in the ground, the earliest method of doing so.

Deb Ollman was among those who took part, and her writeup for the Tackley Newsletter is reproduced here.

Firing the Imagination

Deb Ollman & Family, November 2017

A huge thank-you to the Tackley Local History Group for organising the amazing Pottery Days. It was lovely to see the village hall filled with inquisitive friends and neighbours of all ages eager to see if they could fashion a pot, goblet, urn or ornament worthy of a Neolithic dwelling.

Jane Bowen shared her knowledge and enthusiasm as she explained and demonstrated the basic techniques that would have been used in pre-Roman times. She gave us tips and ideas before letting us loose with the locally dug lumps of clay. We all chose a work station and there was much fun and chatter as the creative juices flowed and masterpieces emerged.

A selection of natural material, such as dried poppy seed heads, broken oyster shell and feathers, was available for experimentation and created surprisingly effective marks and decorations that made each item truly unique.

After being carefully marked so that we could reclaim them later, our pieces were spirited away by the archaeologically-enthused pottery fairies to be dried and fired. The children’s works of art were to be fired in Jane’s kiln, ensuring that our younger historians would almost definitely have something to take home and treasure. The adults’ pots were pit-fired, which would allow us to determine whether our local environment was sufficient for creating useful – even essential – pottery in ancient times. The answer is yes! Many of us were able to collect actual pots.

Those who needed a tube or two of superglue should still be proud to have taken part in the experiment and shown how different sizes and shapes of pot fared in the early firing process. Let’s hope we get to have another go, and that this was just the first in a series of local community archaeological experiments.

Finally, another thank-you to all the volunteers who provided this experience for free. I was so inspired that I joined up there and then and am now looking forward to attending my first Local History Group talk to find out more about Tackley in the past. Please do show your support too. We are so lucky to have such knowledge and opportunity on our doorstep to share and enjoy.