Westerwald base sherd
Westerwald stoneware base sherd
  • Material – Stoneware
  • Place of Origin – Germany
  • Date – 14th-18th century
  • Location– Collections

Manufacture of pottery for local distribution began as early as the 14th century east of the Rhine River in the south-west region of the Westerwald. Major expansion of the industry occurred when potting families from Raeren (in modern Belgium) and from Seigburg relocated chiefly to Höhr, Grenzau, and Grenhausen in the 1580s and 1590s. The move gave potters access to the abundant clay and wood resources in the area, and also helped them escape the political unrest and military conflict that had previously beleaguered them.

The Westerwald stoneware industry flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries.  A significant increase in the number of potters in the second quarter of the 17th century led to the production of new and different forms and types of decoration, making products from the area easily recognizable. In the late 17th century and throughout the 18th century, crowned initials of English monarchs were common on vessels made for British markets. Westerwald stoneware was traded up the Rhine River into the Low Countries, and distributed via Dutch merchants to the British Isles and beyond. The few Westerwald stoneware vessels recovered from James Fort were brought from England with their wealthy owners. Objects of a later date, however, may have been obtained directly from Dutch trading vessels.


Fabric: Dense stoneware fabric with few inclusions, generally ranging in color from pale to dark gray from a reduction kiln firing. 

Glaze: Salt-glazed producing a glossy exterior surface.

Decoration: The sophisticated production techniques and carved molds used by the immigrant potters in the late 16th and early 17th centuries make early Westerwald vessels difficult to distinguish from those made in Raeren and Seiburg. However, those made in Westerwald remain gray on the interior because they were not washed with iron oxide as were Raeren vessels.

The early 17th century baluster jugs found in fort period contexts at Jamestown are decorated with cobalt blue and sprig-molded figural friezes and medallions, stamped motifs, cordoning, and fluting. The frieze designs were inspired by contemporary prints and drawings. One panel jug from James Fort depicts the New Testament story of the Prodigal Son. Sherds of others jugs portray scenes from engravings known as the Peasant Festival, which were published in 1546-1547 by Hans Sebald Beham in Frankfurt.

Post fort-period Westerwald vessels are ornamented with relief, stamped, and incised motifs. The addition of manganese purple decoration occurred sometime after the middle of the 17th century.

Form: Although few in number, sprig-molded baluster and biconic jugs have been found in James Fort period contexts. Forms from post fort contexts include ovoid jugs in the second quarter of the 17th century, globular jugs and chamber pots after 1650, and cylindrical mugs after 1675. Jugs, tankards, and chamber pots are found in the material record of Jamestown until ca. 1775.  

selected artifacts

related images


Gaimster, David R.M. (1997) German Stoneware 1200-1900: Archaeology and Cultural History. British Museum Press, London.

Hurst, John G., David S. Neal, and H.J.E. van Beuningen (1986) Pottery Produced and Traded in North-West Europe 1350-1650. Rotterdam Papers VI. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam.

Straube, Beverly A. (2003) The Prodigal Son Returns Home. In Ceramics in America, Robert Hunter, editor. University Press of New England for the Chipstone Foundation, Hanover, NH.