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Black Delft at Drayton Hall

Archaeology, Fieldwork, Luke Pecoraro, Nicole Houck

Black Delft fragments found archaeologically at Drayton Hall

The tiny artifacts pictured above represent the only examples of black delft ever found archaeologically in the world.   Black delft, a tin-glazed earthenware with a black glaze and polychrome enamel decoration, aimed to resemble Japanese lacquerware.  This type of type of ceramic was extremely difficult to produce and only 67 intact examples of black delft are known today.

Six Black Delft fragments found at Drayton Hall in 2009. The fragments on the far left are mended.

Six of the black delft fragments were excavated in 2009, from a pre-Drayton occupation boundary ditch.  In December 2023, ongoing excavations at Drayton Hall’s North Flanker unearthed yet another fragment from the same pre-Drayton context. While this most recent base fragment does not mend with any of those previously excavated, it is evident it belongs to the same teapot vessel.

c. 1886 photo of Drayton Hall with existing flanker buildings.

These artifacts date to the pre-Drayton occupation of the property during the 1718-1734 ownership of Francis Younge.  Younge, an important political figure during the early years of the South Carolina colony, played an instrumental role in the transfer of the colony from Proprietary to Royal Government.  Younge first served as Surveyor General from 1716-1719.  In May of 1719, Younge was sent to England on a special 3-month long mission to try and salvage the relationship between the proprietary government and the colonists.  He later served as the Colonial Agent on and off for 12 years from 1721-1733. We believe that during his travels from Charleston to London, Younge had both the means and the opportunity to acquire rare and unique objects including a black delft teapot, the fragments of which were found archaeologically at Drayton Hall.

Intact Black Delft teapot courtesy of Mr. Joseph Gromacki.

Drayton Hall’s special exhibit at the 2023 Preview Party for The Charleston Show, titled: A Century of Ceramics, featured rare ceramics from its archaeological and decorative arts collections alongside intact examples on loan from private collectors. A very special thank you to Mr. Joseph Gromacki for loaning Drayton Hall a Black Delft teapot for the 2023 Preview Party for The Charleston Show.