Voyages to the House of Diversion 
Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Science

April 2019 - More Pots... and some Glass


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The month began not with digging but with some intense and productive museum time, specifically the Museum of London, disappointing because little on show and the labeling dimly lit and almost unreadable, the British Museum, impressive but limited because only the best is on display, and the V&A, astonishing! I had never visited their glass and ceramics galleries before, I think perhaps they were closed due to staff shortages on my previous visit. Anyway they have a great arrangement whereby their whole collection is organised on open glass sided shelves within a series of enclosures so everything is visible plus there is an arrangement to have any pieces of special interest removed to an adjacent handling room where they can be examined more closely. I will be back.


April     April
In the British Museum: bottles and wine glasses with a rather vulgar wine cooler in the background... imagine finding one of those plus a spectacular slipware dish.




April     April
The V&A, a selection of George Ravenscroft glasses and bowls some are crizzled, see below



It was in the V&A that I first got to grips with the key point in English glass making when George Ravenscroft in the 1670s made the transition to lead crystal. His early efforts were disappointing because of crizzling - a new word for me too - the development of many small cracks resulting in a milky white finish
. I don't normally copy from Wikipedia but here in outline is an intriguing connection with Plot, could this in some way be reflected in the glassware we are unearthing at Hanwell?


"At this point the circumstances concerning Ravenscroft’s role in lead crystal manufacture becomes less clear. This is partly because records from the mid-17th century are incomplete, but is also largely because Ravenscroft was secretive about his ingredients and processes. There is proof that he was helped by Sir Robert Plot FRS, who suggested using flints from Oxfordshire river beds in place of dark grey London flints to the very expensive white flints from the river bed of the River Po in Italy as used in Murano. It is now believed that Dr Plot requested a sample of his powder which was described as being "fine and white". If he added lead oxide (in a red lead powder form), the powder would appear pale pink, so he may have deliberately have misled Dr Plot and his assistant sent to visit in Henley on Thames. He was probably careful to prevent competitors from copying him and also wished to agree a deal with the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers of London Glass Sellers’ Company, to which he gave exclusive rights to buy his creations at pre-determined prices in return for a grant to finance his Henley-on-Thames workshop, with two teams of glass blowers."




April     April
Here is the foot of the wine glass excavated last year and I'm pretty sure that it bears the Ravenscroft seal (enlarged view of another example on the right). This is important firstly because such vessels are very rare but secondly of it is both crizzled and stamped it may give us a very precise date of manufacture... more to follow on this.




April     April
I was interested in their comparative wine bottle display but also in this glass handled cutlery from the period reminding us of Sir Anthony's knives and forks with polished stone handles.




April
More useful displays, this time Chinese porcelain from the early seventeenth century above European tin-glazed copies from the same period




April     April
... and here we have the amazing reserve stock galleries where everything is on show in rotundas....




April
... and endless racks of shelving.




April
... and the final discovery of the visit to the V&A, something I had never seen before, I guess they are not terribly common survivors, a seventeenth century wooden pipe case within which one could place one's clay tobacco pipe and smoke it!



Once back from London the digging resumed on the new southern extension whilst we continued to wait for the waters to go down... with a little help from our pump. Thanks to Ian and Peter P. for a lot of rather thankless dirt shifting. Another plus was the return of the next two pot reconstructions from Peter S.'s home laboratory.



April     April
Ian and Peter P. turn their backs on the new extension, and who can blame them, as the pump labours on.





April     April
More amazing achievements from Peter S.'s wonderful workshop.




April
Ian starts work on uncovering a spread of rubble which may mark the line of the perimeter wall on the south side.




The weather continued fine  through to a magnificently sunny Easter weekend with a terrific tea at Hanwell on Good Friday. Leading up to that work had continued on the southern extension with the first facing stone of the perimeter wall appearing. Also as the weather stayed dry I was able to completely pump out the northern and north western sectors and shovel away loads of rotten leaves and sticky mud. This meant the whole area including the stones which had been under water over winter could be polished up.




April     April
Ian makes a break through as a void appears above what looks to be one of the facing stones and Peter S. explores the newly extended area for signals for buried metalwork to watch out for.



April     April
Part way through shoveling the  sludge away with the finished result... looking good enough to eat... well maybe not.




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Not quite a before and after: pot 10 in pieces and pot 11 held aloft by a justifiably proud Peter S.