Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fine Dining

While we take a break from the destruction of the dining room, we wanted to share a couple of little things we found near the house. We are surrounded by farmland, and since it has been farmland for the past 250 years or so, we do spot a lot of broken pottery dotting the neatly tilled rows following a harvest. It really comes to the surface after a good rain. When the fields are prepped for tobacco, the farmers dig trenches, really churning up all of those hidden little pieces buried deep in the soil. There are many different vessels represented, and they are all extremely informative when it comes to understanding what kind of life the Foremans lived.

Black transferware sherds
These two little black transferware sherds (in archaeology, ceramic fragments are referred to as sherds - this is not a typo) were found about a month apart, but in the same area of the field. At first we weren't positive that they belonged to the same vessel. We do find quite a lot of transferware, but mostly blue. The black color is a bit more unique, at least in relation to our house.

"T Mayer, Stoke"
We were very fortunate to find that the larger of the two sherds clearly displays the maker's mark, a T Mayer from Stoke. This rarely happens on an excavation. Delighted that it was so distinct, I undertook a quest to track down any information! Transferware was the first means to replicate and mass-produce the hand-painted porcelain favored by the upper classes. The process involved transferring a printed pattern onto porcelain, which meant that it was also more affordable. Much of it was produced in Staffordshire, England. T Mayer, as it turns out, was Thomas Mayer who operated a factory in Stoke from 1826-1835 before moving to Longport in 1836. Since our sherd is stamped Stoke, we were able to date it fairly precisely.

With an identified maker, we could then start looking at all of Mayer's patterns to narrow down our search. This took more time. We finally stumbled across an example of Thomas Mayer black transferware at the Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK. To our delight, we could make out the sails of two ships dead center in the middle of the plate that appeared much the same as ours, and the diamond pattern on our smaller sherd matched the rim pattern of the intact plate at the V&A. The pattern: Oriental Scenery.

While we were feeling quite victorious about the identification of the plate, we were determined to take it a step further. Could we actually find a piece of it? Garreth took to ebay and madly searched for any piece of Oriental Scenery. Once again, success!

T Mayer, Oriental Scenery. Courtesy of the Kenyon Museum at Greenwreath.

The two matching patterns
There are definitely concentrations of ceramic finds and bricks, leading us to believe that those are the spots where missing outbuildings may have been. We would love to know where the kitchen building stood. It would be great to get an archaeological crew out to do some surveying...

The value in collecting these remnants of the Foreman family littering the fields around us lies in what they can tell us about the house's past. We are invested in the Foremans' story, and these objects are a window into Greenwreath's history. As such, they will always remain with the house. They will be painstakingly cataloged and their find location will be referenced. Archaeology at work and at home! We look forward to all of the research to come!

*For more information on transferware, the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab has amazing resources online. Patricia Samford is quite the scholar on all manner of historic ceramics, so check out all of their very informative (and accessible) research.

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