The Time Cheam Project

The Time Cheam Project.

Interim Report to participants and supporting societies.
The project took place in the Europa Gallery of Sutton Central Library from 20–24th July 2010, following a one-day training session in St. Nicholas’ Church, Sutton, on 19th July. It was part of the Council for British Archaeology’s annual Festival of British Archaeology.

Seventeen volunteers, most from local archaeological societies, took part under the tuition of Professor Clive Orton of UCL Institute of Archaeology and supported by five student facilitators, also of UCL.

The main aim was to study, catalogue and prepare for storage the pottery from an excavation carried out from 1978 to 1980 in the garden of Whitehall, Cheam, under the direction of Norman Nail (site codes WH78–80).

The finds from this excavation are currently stored in the London Borough of Sutton Museum and Heritage Service’s museum store. A small working party had pre-sorted the find, and the pottery had then been washed and transferred to Sutton Central Library for this project. In the time available, it had been possible to sort about half of the finds; the rest remains in store and will be sorted and washed at a later date.

Over four days (Tuesday to Friday), all the pottery at Sutton Central Library was sorted by fabric and form, measured and weighed, catalogued and (if necessary) drawn. About 9000 sherds, with a total weight of about 115 kg, were sorted. On the final day (Saturday) a small exhibition was mounted to explain the project’s activities and discoveries to the public.

Most of the pottery consisted of Cheam white ware, the product of 14th-century kilns in the village of Cheam. Some examples were clearly wasters, showing signs of over-firing, distortion, adhering fragments of other vessels, or glaze dripping onto or flowing over broken surfaces. There were also fragments that appear to derive from a kiln structure, but the majority of such fragments had already been set aside for further study at the pre-sorting stage. There were also small amounts of other types of pottery: Roman, Saxon, other medieval wares, Cheam red ware, border ware, 17th-century stoneware and tin-glazed ware, as well as larger quantities of post-medieval red ware (including flower pots) and ‘modern’ pottery (i.e. 19th and 20th-century). The post-medieval pottery was catalogued in a more cursory fashion (sherd count and weight only), so that it could be located by future researchers.
Most of the Cheam white ware was what one would expect, based on evidence from previous sites (Parkside, High Street). A large majority of the pottery was from jugs, with biconical jugs predominating over the larger rounded jugs, and with rare examples of baluster jugs. There were few cooking pots and other forms. New discoveries which expanded the known range of forms were: small straight-sided bowls with narrow flat topped rims (three examples were drawn). rounded jugs, but with a sagging base instead of the usual (for Cheam)  flat or indented base. Such bases appear to be thumb-pressed, probably with groups of three impressions. Unusually, many were glazed on the underside