What is stoneware?
The ceramics of the Low Countries in the 14th century consisted mainly of earthenware and stoneware. The red and grey earthenware could be manufactured from local Dutch clay but this earthenware was relatively porous and therefore not very fit to use in drinking vessels.
“Why not?” I hear you ask. Well, porous ceramics suck up moisture, and drinking from a jug that your lips get stuck to is not very nice. At all.
The clay that was abundant near the German Siegburg, on the other hand, was very well fit for the production of drinking vessels. It could withstand a very hot baking process making the clay into stone and therefore less porous. Consequently the potters of Siegburg conquered the Dutch market (and many other regions in Europe) with their superior drinking jugs (drinckannen), beakers (drincpotten) and bowls (drinkscalen) of stoneware. Hundreds of them are found on archaeological sites of castles and towns. Also in historical texts there are account entries telling about the purchase of hundreds of these at a time. For example the noble lord Jan van Blois had 400 drinking jugs bought at Dordrecht for a military campaign he was planning. During another campaign of the same Jan, he had jugs bought in Deventer.
Item ghecoft Todrecht ter voirscreven reyse 400 drinckanne 54 s. 8 d.
Item bi den selven om kannen te Deventer costen 8 s. 4 d. g.
The quest for good replica stoneware
In 2009 Bertus made a stoneware catalog for Deventer Burgerscap based on Dutch archaeological finds of Siegburg drinking vessels of mid to late 14th century. The first time we ordered stoneware as a group was in 2011. Since then we gained a lot of new members and some of our jugs broke. Time for a new order!
Our 2011 batch of stoneware was fired in a wood oven, but the type of oven could only make the orange flamed stoneware that became common in the 15th century. 14th-century stoneware is typically plain grey, with only very rarely subtle yellow/orange discolouring. This time we went to Elly from Atelier Jera for our stoneware. The new batch is fired in an electric oven, but it looks so much more like the 14th-century stoneware we know from museums. We discussed all the details of the jugs from the wavy feet to the shape of the ears and the surface texture with Elly, and compared the test results with original finds.
Another step closer to drinking our beer and wine from the right kind of jugs, beakers and bowls.