Ashland’s Old Privy Vault

In 2000, archaeologist Kim McBride discovered an old privy vault while conducting a comprehensive survey of the grounds. The vault was filled with ceramic pottery, dinnerware and cookware associated with the original home of Henry Clay, which was demolished shortly after his death in 1852. Over a period of three years, archaeologists recovered over 900 ceramic vessels; one of the largest ceramic collections in Kentucky from the Antebellum period. The collection is has been cataloged, identified and refit during analysis at the Anthropology Laboratory of The University of Kentucky.

The dishes recovered from the antebellum privy are exceptional for an archaeological collection since so many could be put back together. They include a diverse range of forms, such as many serving platters, compote dishes, and a wide range of stoneware and redware crocks for storage and food preparation. The collection contains many Chinese and European porcelain vessels, and is suggestive of many formal dinners held at Ashland. But locally made vessels are also represented, such as in the crockery, or a small redware salt dish. Many of these ceramics are on display today at Ashland.