bout 30 years ago, I bought a number of tiles from an antique shop in Henley-on-Thames. They had an unusual red clay body with steeply undercut sides and simple fleur-de-lys corner ornaments painted in blue, orange and yellow on a white tin glaze (fig 1). At first glance they appeared to be early Dutch delftware but the size was wrong, about 6” square and they had a rather soft feel to the glaze. It took a full ten years before I found any clue as to their origin. In 1991, Victoria Bergesen published her major work Encyclopaedia of British Art Pottery which included a cryptic entry for Frederick Garrard who produced “…tiles for walls, hearths and so on, in buff clay coloured with transparent glazes and opaque enamels; embossed tiles, stamped by hand with raised patterns and filled in with coloured glazes and enamels; and hand-made tiles, coated with stanniferous enamel, and painted while still in the raw state.” The wares had been exhibited at the Arts and Crafts Exhibitions of 1888, 1890 and 1891 and Garrard was listed in “Morris’s Business Directory of London from 1881 to 1890 as an “Art Potter” (Bergesen 135)
Figures 1, 2a, 2b
Were the Henley tiles a product of Frederick Garrard? The clay didn’t match the description in Bergesen – it was a bold pinky-red colour, rather than buff. Then I stumbled upon a couple more tiles on a similar body, but this time, they were copies of Spanish ‘cuenca’ tiles which seemed to fit in with the “raised pattern” tiles mentioned in Bergesen. The hunt was on! I managed to locate several more copies of Dutch and Spanish tiles, all with similar red bodies and then found a buff-bodied tile (fig 2 a & b) that matched the style and technique of the red-bodied tiles. Since then, I have found more than 30 tiles which were made by Frederick Garrard and located many sites which have examples of his tiles, both “Dutch” and “Spanish” still in situ. (see appendix.) Just why did he concentrate on making copies of these early tiles? They are extremely good copies and have even deceived a number of experts and museums in the UK, the Netherlands and as far afield as Japan! For example: see: Lane, Plate 35, Tegels, and Decorative Tiles of the World, p. 91 and 138-39.
Bergesen, Victoria. Encyclopaedia of British Art Pottery. London: Barrie & Jenkins, 1991.
Lane, Arthur. A Guide to the Collection of Tiles. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1939; 2nd edition 1960.
Anon. “Garrard “Dutch” bird.” Tegels. Leeuwarden: Het Princessehof Museum, c. 1970.
Unknown. Decorative Tiles of the World. Tokoname, Japan: Inax Tile Museum, c. 2005.
My appreciation to all the collectors and enthusiasts who have sent me images of Garrard tiles from their own collections and in situ, and particularly to the National Trust for allowing me to take photographs in their properties and to reproduce them in this article.
Last modified 5 April 2013