This nearly complete vessel with its distinctive baluster shape is one of the most common storage jar forms found at James Fort. The vessels are glazed only on the interior, and are made with plain earthenware clay or clay with calcareous tempering. Balustar jars were made in the North Devon region of England, and were most likely exported to Virginia containing fish or butter from the port cities of Barnstaple and Bideford. Both towns engaged heavily in trade with the Americas, and it is likely that goods inside baluster jars were shipped to Virginia in exchange for tobacco, shipped back to England in a mutually beneficial exchange. Both towns also traded with the Newfoundland fishing industry, so it is possible that cod caught in Newfoundland were salted and packed into North Devon baluster jars to be shipped to the New World.
The earliest known North Devon plain baluster jars in America crossed the ocean in 1585 and were discarded at Fort Raleigh, on the North Carolina Coast. This form is the most commonly identified form of all North Devon wares found on early American settlements.
The town of Bideford has a possibly significant connection to the Americas through the influence of one particular individual, Richard Grenville. Cousin to Sir Walter Raleigh, Grenville was admiral of the 7-ship fleet that arrived on Roanoke Island in 1585. Already influential in developing Bideford into Britain’s third largest port and later specializing in the import of tobacco, Grenville returned home from Virginia in 1586. Raleigh, credited with the first introduction of clay pipes for smoking tobacco to England, may have supported the export of North Devon ceramics, including balustar jars, and the goods they contained to the Americas, recognizing their usefulness as a reusable container to import tobacco back to England.