Welcome to the history section of the Perranuthnoe website. These pages are to serve as an on-line reference to the history of Perranuthnoe to be added to and preserved for future generations.

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Perranuthnoe Potsherds

Next time you go for a walk along the many public footpaths around Perranuthnoe, or indeed just about anywhere else in Cornwall, enjoy the view of course but occasionally look at the path at you feet, or the edge of the ploughed field next to you, because it is there that you will often come across a little bit of history to pick up and ponder over..…a piece of broken ceramic otherwise known as a potsherd.
Potsherds are often found in fields because they were originally mixed up with midden waste ploughed in to fertilise the soil. They may have also arrived from the old local practice of using seaweed and sand from the beaches to fertilise the fields. They are particularly visible when a field has been ploughed and there have been a few days of rain followed by a dry spell.
As modern residents of Perranuthnoe we still use a variety of ceramics with which we cook, carry liquids, mix foodstuffs in and from which we eat and drink. A villager from just about any point in time over the last few thousand years would have had exactly the same needs. 
We also break our pots, plates and bowls occasionally just as they must have done and throw the remains in the bin. Their ‘bin’ was the midden heap at the back of their cottage. I think it is rather fun to consider that a small fragment of pot, hundreds of years old, could once have been a bowl that was thrown away by an ancestor of a family living in Perranuthnoe today.
Please bear in mind that you must seek the owner’s consent before you go walking all over their ploughed field hunting for potsherds. Also, from an archaeological point of view, I gather that finding potsherds in plough-soil, which, although the sherds themselves can often be reliably dated by appearance and type of fabric and construction, does not automatically prove the existence of, for example a Bronze Age dwelling, unless it was found in a recordable and correctly identifiable sequence of soil strata of the sort you would get from a proper archaeological dig.  I am in no way suggesting that anyone should dig a hole without the proper professional help and appropriate formal consents.


The most exciting recent find (2016) I have come across is a tiny piece of ceramic which looks a bit like a half chewed dog biscuit:


This fragment has oxidised orange clay on one side and burnt clay on the other. It has small pieces of white feldspar within the fabric and has been identified by Dr Imogen Wood of Exeter University as being Bronze Age and made from gabbroic clay, which is found on the Lizard Peninsula. The original pot, size or shape unknown, would most likely have been made by the coiled clay method and may well have arrived in Perranuthnoe having been traded.
It may not seem much, and it cannot prove that there was a Bronze Age settlement in Perranuthnoe because it was found in plough-soil, but it may hint at the likelihood of Bronze Age settlement and is another small piece of evidence to suggest that there may have been people living in our village up to 4500 years ago.

Late Mediaeval

Another type of potsherd found around Perranuthnoe are fragments of Mediaeval Coarseware.

These ceramic fragments have oxidised orange clay on both sides and a marked grey interior. They are quite thin. They also sparkle slightly because they have mica within the fabric of the clay. Some may have been thrown pots, ie made on a potters’ wheel. These have been reliably dated by Anna Tyacke at Truro Museum (finds specialist at the Portable Antiquities Scheme  https://finds.org.uk/ )  as being 14th to 16th century in date and examples of Lostwithiel Type Ware.
This does not necessarily mean they were made in Lostwithiel, it is just the means of identification and in fact these pots, bowls and such were probably made and brought to the villagers at local fairs and markets such as were held at Goldsithney and Marazion.


The next most frequent pieces found locally are fragments of Lead Glazed Earthenware.

These are noticeably more chunky than the Lostwithiel type and have the remains of a greeny or browny lead glaze adhering to them.
These would once have been the heavier pieces of practical homeware used by our Perran housewives such as a pitcher, a salting bath or a pancheon bowl.



Occasionally I come across nice pieces of cream and brown glazed Staffordshire Slipware.
These date I believe from the late 17th to 18th centuries and their presence within the village’s ceramic timeline may demonstrate that the local villagers could afford ceramics that were more than just practical, but decorative too thus indicating a change in the economic fortunes of the locality. Again, perhaps not much to look at compared to what we have today but how proud would an ordinary 17th century housewife be   of a large patterned plate used daily but also displayed for all your visiting friends and neighbours to see on you kitchen dresser. It would have made a quite a statement since it wasn’t earthenware and it wasn’t local and more importantly wasn’t just brown!


Lastly, are the potsherds found in larger quantities.  Again, this is still before dustbins and rubbish collection so everyone still throws their rubbish away in the midden and that gets ploughed into the fields as fertiliser along with the household waste not given to the pigs.

These are by far the most common finds and perhaps a clear indication that the local villagers had more disposable income to spend on such things and points to the common availability of cheaply made mass produced ceramics.
The fabric of these ceramics is largely much finer and shows that most people were buying crockery that had been made in potteries that were several hundred miles away in places like Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent.
Local potteries such as Lakes of Truro still made much of the domestic ware locally in the late 19th to 20th centuries. Pancheon bowls and pitchers, probably made by Lakes, feature heavily in Walter Langley paintings of Cornish people about their daily lives (1852-1922) and give an excellent flavour of not only what the average household looked like in the 19th century but what would have been recognisable household scene to someone from two or three hundred years previously.
Furthermore, although Lakes of Truro was set up in the 1870’s it is believed that the pottery was on a former mediaeval pottery site which may hint at large scale production even at that time.
In the 19th century the average Perranuthnoe village housewife could now have a Blue and White transfer ware tea set which fashionably aped the ceramic styles of far away places, such as China, and hinted at a more colourful and genteel existence with pictures of people idyllically wandering the formal gardens of a stately home. A life which they could only dream of.
A fragment of ceramic, broken and thrown away, which once was a valued or useful item made by a potter many hundreds of years ago, picked up by someone going for walk one day and providing so many clues to the way that the villagers of Perranuthnoe lived their lives in days gone by.

Possible Worked Chert

My latest find is a worked chert. It hasn't been formally identified beyond the fact that it is almost certainly worked by human hands a very long time ago indeed. It would be really exciting if it is a Mesolithic arrow head ????? Few finds like this are attributed to this area as far as I am aware.


Submitted by - Jean Douglas-Wood


  1. arpearce@hotmail.com6 March 2017 at 08:56

    I have complete jug as shown in the first picture , I have no idea of it's age or value could you please advice on it's

  2. I am not an expert, but the jugs were made at Lakes of Truro.
    I don't know how long that particular shape was in production but you often see them featured in the beautiful painting s by Walter Langley so we're very popular during the Victorian and Edwardian eras and possibly later. Hope that helps. Jean


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