Colton Excavations 2010-2011

Author: Winston Hollins, Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society

The Colton History Society (CHS) commissioned a report, by John Hunt in 2009, on the medieval rural settlement of Colton. In his meetings with the CHS Mr. Hunt suggested two possible locations for the unlocated third manor of Colton.

The CHS contacted the Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeology Society, in 2010, with a view to having geophysical examination of the two sites. This was to be followed by an archaeological dig should the survey show any interesting anomalies.

The first of the possible sites was the field to the south of the church. This did show interesting features in the resistivity survey. The resultant excavation suggested that the field had once been part of the water meadows of the area, the anomalies showing the locations of two lines of sluice gates interspersed with deep clay plugs. There wasn’t any dating evidence of the building of these features. However it is clear that the network of channels to flood the field were backfilled in the early to mid 18th century, when the sluice gates would also have been removed.

The second site in a garden in Colton also showed an interesting resistivity anomaly and this was investigated this year (2011).

Colton resistivityThe anomaly discussed in the main text is at top right. The jagged edge from top right to bottom left is where the survey was restricted due to a boundary. The black blob on the left is due to a garden feature

The Ordnance Survey map records the site of a chapel to the South of the house. This reflects the information recorded by the Rev. F. Parker in 1879. The Rev. Parker is recording reports from perhaps 50 years earlier, when the chapel was located, but one piece of firm evidence exists in the form of a stone head (now stored in the church).

Our dig at the eastern end of the lawn did not locate the chapel or any other building. What we found were many fragments of pottery dateable to the late 13th to early 14th centuries.

The most exciting pottery finds were fragments of at least two green glazed “Midland White Ware” jugs. These are very high status pottery and highly decorated. The first is decorated with applied clay in the form of a large horse shoe.

Green glazed horseshoe decoration
Other decoration is by repeated pressing with a wooden mould, in the shape of a smaller horse shoe, within the loop of the applied one. The symbol of the horse shoe is almost certainly a clue to the family name of the De Ferrers, a name which is linked to the 3rd manor of Colton.

Two pieces of different green glazed pottery are in the form of the roof of a house or stable. We think this might be part of a reliquary although further investigation might bring up a different interpretation.


Even the domestic wares are special, the saggy bottomed cooking pots are decorated with ribbons of applied clay, again a sign of high status.

Applied decoration

Perhaps the metal objects found are even more important and include:
- An iron crossbow bolt;
- Copper alloy discs;
- A roman coin of Constantine I (306 to 377 A.D.);
- A copper alloy clasp, possibly from a book (some leather is preserved in the fold of the fastener);
- A tiny copper alloy stud; and
- A small copper alloy shield with multi coloured enamelled coat of arms, from horse regalia.

So what have we found? We are now sure that this house and garden site would have been the location of the 3rd manor house. We should also be able to date closely the period of occupation corresponding to the finds. The area we dug actually showed no buildings but we think it contained part of the gardens associated with the manor house.

Lots of work remains to be done on the pottery and other artefacts. The metal finds are currently with the York Archaeological Trust so that they can be stabilized for study and hopefully put on show for the people of Colton.

Finds Gallery

Click on a thumbnail to see a bigger picture.

Clasp Coin obv Coin rev
Copper alloy clasp Roman coin before conservation. Constantine I (obv) Roman coin before conservation (rev)
Crossbow bolt Shield Green glaze pottery group
Crossbow bolt (before conservation) Shield-shaped horse decoration (before conservation) Selection of green-glaze fragments
Thumb pressed edge Decorated green glazed white ware Applied decoration
Green glazed jug base with thumb-pressed edge Decorated green glazed white ware Brown coarse sandy fabric with applied decoration
Rim to base dish fragment Horseshoe decoration Pottery roof
Rim to base dish fragment, green glazed inside only Green glazed white ware with horseshoe decoration Roof-shaped green glazed pottery fragment
Strap handle Strap handle
A green glazed strap handle                         Another green glazed strap handle
Strap handle view 1 Strap handle view 2
  Two views of a third green glazed strap handle  

Dig Gallery

And finally, just a few views of this year's excavation.
The last picture of this set shows Dave Thomas, our photographer, at work.
All the photographs on this page are his, apart from this one which is mine.

Colton dig 2011 Colton dig 2011 Colton dig 2011
Colton dig 2011 Colton dig 2011 The Master Photographer at work

Stoke-on-Trent Museum Archaeological Society, November 2011

Home Page Fieldwork and Trips:          Colton 2010          Colton 2011