BRICK AND POTTERY KILNS AT TRIMONTIUM BY WALTER ELLIOT
‘Tis sixty years since I was first taken field-walking on the site of Trimontium.
During that time I have picked up a lot of Roman pottery, glass, coins, seal-stones together with the assorted debris of a former military fort and hopefully have written it up or passed on the information to those who could use it. I am of the belief that information, like manure, does most good if it is spread around.
Of less visual appeal but equally interesting were the broken pieces of brick or tiles lying in certain parts of the fields. These were not modern bricks which had only arrived in the Borders with the coming of the railway in the 1850s, but in fact were Roman bricks and tiles.
It became a special project to collect and study the finds from the site. I wrote short notes on a stamped Roman tile (P.S.A.S. 1986); animal footprints on Roman bricks (P.S.A.S 1991); the proposition that there was a Roman brickworks nearby together with the types of bricks/tiles produced (Selkirkshire and The Borders, p135) and a conjectural map of where buildings were located by the variety and volume of finds made on particular locations (A Roman Frontier Post and Its People. Newstead, 1911 -2011.)
These led to a search for the kiln which produced them and the first task was to find the primary source of clay. In the last million years, The Borders has been under ice three or four times. Melting ice gouging out the valleys showed that the glaciers moved from south-west to north-east. So it made sense to look for puddle clay to the north east of the Eildons where folklore had placed clay pits. This was found in the Earth House Field in the north-east corner of which were scooped hollows. That area had previously been wooded and used as a dump for the villagers of Newstead. Recently the farmer had cut the trees and removed most of the debris to even up his field.
So this was the obvious place to look for a kiln. A trawl over the site with divining rods indicated two 3metre square shapes with a 3metre passage in from the lower side.
South-west of the south-west corner of the fort, surface finds of distorted mortaria fragments and two pottery kiln spacers indicate a pottery kiln producing mortaria. It is argued that at least two potters Emius and Invomandus were working at Trimontium at some period. No other misshapen pottery was found so it is probable that the clay was not suitable for finer pieces.
On about the last day of the final Bradford excavation, part of a floor of a pottery kiln was uncovered on the top of the roadside bank at NT 56909 34096. It is presumed that these will be re-revealed when/if the Bradford report appears.