Highgate Roman heritage project set to fire London’s imagination

The most complete Roman pottery kiln found in Greater London will be put on public display for the first time, thanks to a £243,550 grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to charity Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln.

In the 1960s and ‘70s, archaeologists excavated the kiln from Highgate Wood in Haringey, which is managed by the City of London Corporation as a registered charity.

The pieces of this unique find have been in store beneath Bruce Castle Museum, inaccessible to the public.

Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, a joint project between Friends of Highgate Kiln, the City Corporation and Bruce Castle Museum will return the kiln to Highgate Wood to be displayed in a visitor centre from September 2024.

The project is called Firing London’s Imagination: An Inclusive Approach to Highgate’s Roman Pottery Heritage.

Before the kiln is on display, Londoners of all ages will be able to take part in community and educational activities, including a visiting schools programme, Roman kiln reconstruction and firing, and the creation of a community mosaic in the Wood.

The kiln is one of the best-preserved Roman pottery kilns found in the UK, and thought to be the last one built by Roman potters who worked in Highgate Wood between 50CE-160CE to supply Londinium, the capital of Roman Britain, and southeast England with distinctive ‘Highgate Ware’ pottery. 

The Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln was formed in 2018 to work with Bruce Castle Museum and the City Corporation to conserve the kiln, restore it to public view, and allow everyone to learn about an important aspect of London’s Roman heritage.

Commenting on the award, FoHRK Chair Catherine West MP said: “This is fantastic news and a huge step forward in bringing this precious Roman kiln back to Highgate Wood where it belongs.  I want it to be on display in the Wood, inspiring community learning, crafts and heritage. Thanks to The National Lottery Heritage Fund this dream can become a reality” 

FOHRK’s patron, Hugh Dennis said, This is excellent news. Nearly 2000 years ago the Highgate Roman kiln was used by a thriving community of potters to serve the needs of London. Now, thanks to the support and efforts of a thriving modern community it is coming back to Highgate Wood!”

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee, William Upton KC, said: “This will be a great opportunity for local communities and visitors to Highgate Wood to see this unique slice of our heritage on display for the first time.”

The City Corporation manages over 11,000 acres of open space in London and southeast England, including Epping Forest and Hampstead Heath, and over 200 smaller sites in the Square Mile, investing over £38m a year.

The City Corporation’s green spaces, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve. They include important wildlife habitats, Special Areas of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves. They are protected from being built on by special legislation.

Councillor Zena Brabazon, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Families at the London Borough of Haringey, said: “I’m delighted to hear the news that the Highgate Roman Kiln will be going back to its original home at Highgate Wood where it was discovered over 50 years ago. As one of the jewels in the crown of our archaeological heritage here in Haringey, it’s wonderful that residents will soon be able to visit it in the location where it was once used during Roman times.

“This is a great example of the things we can achieve when the council works in close collaboration with residents. I’d like to thank the Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln and our staff at Bruce Castle Museum for all their hard work to make this happen, alongside colleagues from the City of London Corporation.”

Image captions

  1. Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln in Highgate Wood: Catherine West MP, Chair, Harvey Sheldon, who co-directed the dig that found the Highgate kilns, Nick Peacey, Secretary, Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis, patrons. Credit: Charlie Andrew.
  2. Peter Marsden, the distinguished City of London archaeologist, inspects the kiln soon after its discovery in 1967. Credit: Caroline Simpson.
  3. Roman ‘poppyhead’ beakers discovered in Highgate Wood. Credit: Horniman Museum.

Notes to editors


About The Friends of Highgate Roman kiln

The Friends of Highgate Roman Kiln is a registered charity (number 1177405) that was set up in 2018 to conserve and re-instate the kiln back to Highgate Wood and build exciting learning around it. The trustees include specialists in archaeology, heritage and public engagement, as well as members of the local Haringey community.

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future. www.heritagefund.org.uk.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £46billion for projects and more than 670,000 grants have been awarded across the UK - the equivalent of more than 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district. More than £30 million raised each week goes to good causes across the UK.

About the City of London Corporation

The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk