Ryder Cup

Celtic Manor

Celtic Manor Golf Resort Archaeology


Celtic Manor Area 2a

Main features:

Abernant Kiln & working area

Abernant Pottery Kiln (1997)

A nearby source for Roman local pottery production had been known since the 1930s, when the Wheelers identified it and coined the term 'Legionary Ware' for the locally made pottery whilst undertaking excavation of the amphitheatre in Caerleon, but the actual location of the production sites for the wares, on the slopes of the hillside near Bulmore, was not discovered until the 1990s. The name 'Caerleon Ware' was generally adopted and used from the 1960s onwards when it was thought more likely that civilians rather than serving military personnel were engaged in its production.

The first kiln to be found was discovered in 1997 near New Wood on the shallower, upper part of the hillslope, on what is now the Montgomerie Course and near to hole 15 of the 2010 course, when soil stripping for the course initially exposed a dense scatter of pottery, much of it comprising poorly fired mortaria and other products typical of Caerleon Ware. The date range for the industry producing this type of mortarium in the vicinity of Caerleon was the period circa AD110-170.

An area of about 100 square metres was cleared, revealing the remains of a small sub-rectangular kiln in the northeast corner of the site. Traces of artificial terracing with parts of at least one retaining wall were evident in the southwest corner of the site, that perhaps represented part of a track leading from the kiln to a clay preparation area; alternatively, this may itself have been part of a working area containing one or more insubstantial sheds or workshops. In addition the remains of a small stone-lined drain at the east end of the retaining wall could have been connected with clay processing, thus reinforcing the latter interpretation, but would have been essential for any structures in this exposed position. Another possible drain ran northwards to the northeast of the kiln through part of the site apparently much affected by disturbance.

The kiln

The kiln chamber was cut into the sandstone bedrock, and was roughly rectangular in shape, measuring 1.15m by 0.70m. The end was straight and the long sides contained three pairs of rock-cut pilasters, although the pair nearest the entrance were less well-defined, to support a suspended clay floor. The fill of the chamber was only partly salvaged. It consisted principally of sandstone pieces, quantities of pottery and concentrations of burnt clay. It seems likely that the stone and clay together formed the superstructure and a clay floor may also be conjectured, although it has to be emphasised that this is based upon the quantity of fired clay recovered and the absence of any alternative flooring material rather than remains which could be positively identified. All clay recovered was oxidised and this, together with the pottery itself, leaves little doubt that this was a kiln producing oxidised ware.

The flue, which was also cut into the sandstone bedrock, measured 0.70m in length, tapering towards the stoke-pit from 0.45m to 0.40m. The upper walls, like those of the kiln chamber itself, were lined with flat pieces of stone. Immediately to the southwest a large sub-rectangular rock-cut pit, measuring 2.0m x 1.5m, presumably represented the stoke-pit. It was only partially excavated; the upper fill contained further quantities of pottery overlying a dump of substantial rubble in the western half of the pit, with a mixture of soil and clay to the east. The southern side of the pit was lined with sandstone slabs.

At the northwest corner of the stoke-pit, and close to its entrance into the flue was a narrow side-chamber which was also only part excavated. Its upper fill contained fired clay likely to represent structural material from the upper part of a kiln, overlying more collapsed stonework. The precise function of this chamber is not clear, although it could perhaps have served as a small kiln intended for specialised use. The upper part of at least one of the walls appears to have been exposed to direct heat under oxidising conditions. Like the other components of the kiln, it contained quantities (c 2.5kg) of the pottery forms and fabrics typical of the site.

The importance of this kiln was recognised early on in the development of the golf course and the layout of the course was adapted to secure its preservation; it is now a scheduled ancient monument.