earthenware chamber pot
West Somerset chamber pot or pipkin
  • Material – Earthenware
  • Place of Origin – England
  • Date – 16th-17th century
  • Location – Collections

Earthenware production was widespread throughout the western Somerset, England, in the 16th and 17th centuries. Most potteries supplied local areas, however Donyatt, the largest manufacture center, widely distributed its wares to market towns and ports in South West England. Only two ceramics items in the James Fort period ceramic assemblage have been identified as West Somerset earthenware. Donyatt in southwest Somerset is the likely source of one object, a large storage jar; the second, a chamber pot, may have been made in northwest Somerset in Nether Stowey. Petrological and chemical analyses may provide positive identification for the manufacture. Both vessels probably arrived at Jamestown on a “Third Supply” ship that left Portsmouth in Devon, England in 1609. They were recovered from fill dating to the clean-up of the fort ordered by Lord De La Warr upon his arrival in June, 1610.


Fabric: The Donyatt storage jar fabric contains chunks of red hematite and fine quartz sand. Notable on the surface of the fabric are small black pepper-like dots. The Nether Stowey fabric is pinkish-buff, and it contains fine, glistening sand grains, occasional hematite, and clay chunks.

Glaze and Decoration: The Donyatt storage jar is glazed on the interior with lead oxide that appears dark olive-green. It is glazed on the upper third of the exterior and decorated with a thin brushed slip decoration of arcs. A thumb-impressed horizontal band both reinforces and decorates the exterior rim. Wheel thrown in two sections and luted together, a finger-impressed band around the exterior center both seals and decorates the sections.   

The Nether Stowey chamber pot is glazed on the interior with lead oxide that appears olive green, and displays streaks of brown from hematite inclusions in the fabric. 

Form: The Donyatt vessel is a large storage jar with an upturned rim. The Nether Stowey vessel is tentatively identified as a chamber pot but charring on the exterior suggests it may have been used as a pipkin. Future residue analysis may determine its use. It is ovoid-shaped, has an upturned rim, and a vertical strap handle applied at the top to the rim exterior and at the bottom to the middle. The base is flared and v-tooled on the exterior edge.

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Allan, John P. (1984) Medieval and Post-Medieval Finds from Exeter, 1971–1980. Exeter City Council and the University of Exeter, Exeter. 

Coleman-Smith, Richard and Terry Pearson (1988) Excavations in the Donyatt Potteries. Phillimore, Chichester. 

Kiser, Taft (2001) Seventeenth-century Donyatt Pottery in the Chesapeake. In Ceramics in America, Robert Hunter, editor, pp. 220-22. University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, Hanover, NH. 

Straube, Bly (2017) Jamestown, Virginia: Virginia Company Period. In Ceramics in America, Robert Hunter and Angelika Kuettner, editors. University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, Hanover, NH.