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Roman Bird Bath? What's in your Garden!

Pensioner Ray Taylor found an old pottery bowl in his garden several years ago when he was planting rhubarb. He didn’t want it to go to waste and so he left it outside for the garden birds to use.

Ten Years’ Service

He didn’t give the bowl a second thought for the best part of a decade until his daughter, Rebecca, visited a Roman Museum where she saw similar items amongst the displays. She suggested that her father should take the bowl to the museum’s curators for them to examine. This he did and was stunned to discover that the bowl was a 2000 years old Roman artefact.

Herbs and Spices

The bowl was a rare piece. It was a mortarium which was a grinding bowl used in a similar way to a mortar and pestle. Roman cooks used this type of bowl to grind herbs and spices to use for flavouring their sauces.

Ray Taylor learnt that it was rare to find large bowls of this type which were almost complete. It is mostly pieces of broken pottery which are discovered by archaeologists, much of which is thrown away. Once Mr Taylor realised the historic significance of his bird bath, he donated it to the Warwickshire Museum Collections. It is now on display at Roman Alcester Heritage Centre.

The Star of the Show

Laurence Thatcher, chairman of the Alcester Heritage Trust, said: "We are absolutely delighted that Mr Taylor donated this rare Roman artefact. It is a welcome addition to our collection at the museum." He is hoping that the publicity surrounding the discovery of the bowl will encourage more people to visit the museum which relies on its visitors for funding.

It is believed that the rare bowl could have been made in Mancetter, near Atherstone in Warwickshire as there was a mortaria production site there in Roman Times.


Alcester is a market town which is situated 8 miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon and close to the Fosse Way, an important Roman thoroughfare. In Roman times the town was a walled fort. It isn’t uncommon for Roman artefacts to be found in the area but they do not usually end up being used as bird baths for a decade! Interestingly Mr Taylor lives in Roman Way!

Your Birdbaths

What unusual items have you used as bird baths? Have you ever discovered that you have been using an antique or valuable artefact in your garden?


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