Through the Bow Porcelain project we have been in contact with Jacqui Pearce, who is Senior Specialist in Post Roman Pottery at MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology). Amazingly she has managed to find and share images of archeological evidence found on the actual site of the Bow Porcelain factory when it was excavated. During the dig archaeologists did not find any remains of factory buildings, but did uncover an amount of wasters from the time period when the factory was in operation.

At the moment all the information gained through the excavation is being edited and will soon be published. The finds (objects) themselves are held in the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre in Eagle Wharf Road, London N1. Anyone can have access to see these objects by making an appointment.


© Museum of London


© Museum of London


© Museum of London


© Museum of London

‘Wasters’ are the remains of ceramic objects that became damaged during firing. They give us direct information on how ceramics were being made in that location. Often, the small supports called ‘spurs’ on which a pot was fired have become stuck to the glazed surface.  Sometimes a whole stack of dishes is found which during firing in the oven have collapsed and fused together. When excavated in their original, workshop context, wasters also help us to link certain types or styles of ceramics to specific factories or manufacturers.

Wasters are not usually used again in the ceramic production process but instead are used as hardcore or ballast. Hardcore is the name used in the building industry for the infill of materials such as broken bricks, stone or concrete, which are hard and do not readily absorb water or deteriorate. Ballast is course gravel or similar material laid to form a bed for roads or railroads. Huge quantities of British pottery wasters were used to build the streets of New Delhi in the 1920s.

To find out more go to the V&A site W is for Wasters

The wasters above were found during archaeological excavations carried out in 2006. The site was on the north-west side of High Street, Stratford, next to the Bow Flyover and with the Bow Back River to the north-west. This is the exact location of the New Canton factory that was in operation from the late 1740s until its closure in 1776.

During the period of time the factory was producing ceramic objects it also produced large quantities of waste. Over 463 kg of waster material (see below) including over 36,000 sherds were recovered in the excavation. The archaeological team also collected almost 550 kg of kiln furniture (used for placing vessels in the kiln) as well as plaster of Paris moulds.

The porcelain retrieved was mostly biscuit ware (the first firing before decoration and glazing). There were also large quantities of finished blue- and- white and plain- white glazed objects, as well as enamelled objects. There was a small number of transfer-printed fragments and the parts of several figures.

The porcelain vessels made at this factory were either ‘useful wares’ (tea and dining wares) or figures. The Bow factory aimed to make fashionable and decorative wares that were cheaper than porcelains from other English factories (like the Chelsea factory) and the Far East. The figures were based on popular people or themes for ornamenting the home. The archaeological dig uncovered fragments of plaster moulds for these figures which the factory produced.

Earlier excavations on the site have provided important clues about the Bow porcelain works, but the 2006 dig has given a much fuller picture of what production, and life was like in the factory.

To find out more you can book onto a study day The archaeology of the Bow Porcelain Works: expert-led workshops arranged with Museum of London Archaeology on the afternoon of 6 July, by following this link www.mola.eventbrite.co.uk

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