Brandiers Farm: what lies beneath?

An imbrex tile with a tiler's 'signature' – curving strokes drawn with the fingers
An Roman tile with a tiler’s ‘signature’ – curving strokes drawn with the fingers

The Brandiers tile kiln excavation is an irresistible opportunity to investigate the manufacture of ceramic building material (CBM) in Roman Britain. Brandiers Farm is unique because it’s located in a region – encompassing Gloucestershire and parts of Wiltshire – where large numbers of civic and private ’tile stamps’ are found. Stamped tiles provide valuable evidence for identifying their manufacturer and, if they are found at kiln sites, they can also be used to provenance matching stamps found at consumer sites (such as Roman baths). This linking of stamps can help to identify CBM distribution networks, and provide evidence for how these networks were structured.

Roman tile with pawprint, found at the potential kiln site
Roman tile with pawprint, found at the potential kiln site

If stamps are found at Brandiers this will help us to understand both who was producing the tiles at the site and when they were producing them. For example, is the kiln being used only by private tile makers? If so, is there evidence for one or multiple manufacturers?

Another reason that Brandiers is intriguing is its close proximity to the large Roman tile kilns at Minety, which lie approximately 2km to the west. Minety was excavated in 1974 by Anthony Scammel, who found the standing structural remains of two tile kilns. Several other kilns may also have been present at the site, but these were not excavated. Minety is significant both because it likely represents a large tile production complex and also because it is thought to be where ‘TPF’ and ‘LHS’ stamped tiles were made.

Example of a TPF stamp
Example of a TPF stamp

TPF perhaps stands for Tegularia Publica Fecerunt, translated as “made by the public-tile works”. TPF stamps are commonly found in the area of our site, particularly within and around Roman Cirencester (Corinium) and they have been suggested to be connected to Corinium’s civic tile production. The TPF stamps were produced in a series that includes TPF, TPFA, TPFB, TPFC, and TPFP, and these are found in 21 different dies. The meaning of the variable final letter is so far unknown but it’s possibly connected to how tile production was organised, perhaps referring to a specific kiln at a manufacturing site or even to a specific tiler. However, the dating evidence for Minety still remains unclear, and the Brandiers site may prove to be instrumental in better understanding where TPF tiles were produced.

If the Brandiers dig does reveal a tile kiln, its proximity to Minety raises interesting questions about the relationship between the two sites – were they in contemporaneous production? Will TPF or LHS tiles be found at Brandiers, and what significance will this have? Does it mean that Brandiers was also involved in TPF tile manufacture, and how does that help us to better understand the timelines and production networks of CBM in Roman Britain?

Joe Locke

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