The Medieval and Renaissance Potters Wheels 12th -16th C

There appear to be three variations of potters wheel use during the medieval period in Europe. These vary somewhat in provable location, period an application. Where there is no direct evidence for a particular type it can be theorised that a certain type may have been used based on ceramic finds.

Prior to the 12th century wheel thrown pottery in London is not common.

The Cartwheel type or tour au baton

Illustrations of this can be seen in the French ms 'Bible Morelisee' It can still be seen in the 15th century ( Agathocles a son tour a painting by Jean Fouquet)and was in use in Normandy and Brittany up to the beginning of this century. It is a Heavy wheel and once in motion, difficult to stop.

It is a single wheel, with a circular head where the pot is formed, it is rotated by means of a stick or baton until momentum is built up.

Ceramic evidence of this in archaeology is suggested by typical Rouen wares and the London types which follow this trend. Also the knife finish (by apprentice ?) of such items points towards removing the pots and re throwing rather than slowing and stopping the wheel between pots. Tall baluster jugs are particularly suited to manufacture on this type of wheel.

13th century pivot stones have been found at a workshop excavation in Limpsfield Surrey, but this does not help in the analysis of what type of wheel was used.

Two thirteenth century manuscript examples

The left one is from Bible Morelisee Codex Vindobonensis 2554 first half 13th century, the right one from Bible Moralisee B.M. 169 Late 13th Century.

A slightly more 'modern' version, photo I believe from the 1930s, from Quimper, Brittany, France. This is cited

in various write ups as a version of the above. The principle is the same, but the working position very different.

The Strutted wheel or double wheel

There is no evidence of this until the 15th century where it is seen mainly in Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

There is a central shaft, a head and flywheel, with a number of vertical struts joining the two wheels to form a cylindrical shape. It can be seen in a 15th C playing card and from potters signs from Czechoslovakia. Also another illustration from Germany. It appears to be turned by the foot on the lower wheel.

The Kick Wheel

There seems to be no evidence for this before the 16th century, appearing in Italy and Holland and later in Britain. It would be more difficult to do the tall vessels on this type.

This type has a wooden head, an axle and a flywheel. (Described in detail by Piccolpasso see bibliography) and is still in use, with various modifications by modern studio potters..


Jenner Anne The Potters wheel in London Arch 5 1985 p130-4

Jope M in C Singers A history of Technology II (1957)

Le Bible Morelissee Paris Bibliotheque National MS 11560 fol 174 (avaliable as facsimile, original c 1250)

Piccilpassoof Castel Durante , Cavaliere Cipriano Three books of the potter's art c1556-159 (1934 reprint)

Seen other links, info pics ???? Please Please EMAIL ME