A team from OA South completed the re-excavation of a 17th century stoneware kiln at Woolwich, with some of the kiln’s original excavators on hand to watch proceedings.

The kiln was originally excavated in 1974. The excavators revealed a brick-built structure and large quantities of bellarmine jugs and other stoneware forms. Apart from being a remarkably well preserved kiln of its type, it is potentially the earliest stoneware kiln in Britain, having been dated to the mid-17th century.
After the kiln was exposed and recorded, it was covered in protective foam and sealed in a wooden box. It was then lifted in bulk and stored in a number of locations before being moved to its current home next to the Greenwich Heritage Centre.

Forty-three years later, OA staff were on site to carefully re-excavate and record the kiln over a period of a week before it was removed completely by Berkeley Homes ahead of redevelopment. Some of the kiln’s original excavators were invited to view the work, and shared their experiences of the 1974 dig with the team. The work also generated a lot of interest among pottery specialists, some of whom were also present to observe the excavation.

Post-excavation work followed the fieldwork and addressed questions about the construction, date and duration of the kiln (apparently the kiln was short-lived, with a mass of fused pottery, cracks in the fire bars and firing chamber, and the slumping of the kiln floor hinting at structural failure). A digital 3D model of the kiln was created using data from a photogrammetric survey of the kiln.