Copies of Spanish Tiles

Figures 1-5

Figures 6-9

Garrard’s earliest tiles appear to be copies of Spanish cuenca style designs similar to those made in Seville and other places around 1500-1700. The copies are faithful to the original designs but can be distinguished by not having the ‘pips’ on the surface where the original tiles were stacked on small balls of clay for firing. Comparatively large numbers of these tiles were made, mainly for churches, including a number of churches restored or newly built to designs by G E Street and Richard Norman Shaw. The tiles are extremely well made from plastic clay, usually red bodied, but occasionally pinkish or buff (the buff bodied tiles are generally the earlier examples.) They would have been pressed onto a plaster or carved wooden mould which had been incised with the outline of the design, in much the same way as the original Spanish tiles. Coloured lead-based glazes were then applied within the depressions formed. The general palette is very much that of the original Spanish tiles, utilising tin for white, cobalt for blue, copper for green, manganese for brown and iron for amber. Most tiles are between 4 and 6 inches square but he also seems to have made some rectangular tiles, copies of ceiling tiles made to fit between joists (see fig 3). The only two known examples of this design are both on buff clay indicating an early date. Garrard also made some copies of Spanish maiolica tiles with hand-painted designs, similar in technique to his copies of Dutch delftwares (see fig 10 below left.)

Copies of Dutch Tiles

Left to right: Figures 10-12 (top row). Figures 13-14 (bottom row).

Garrard’s most prolific tile designs are those that copy early Dutch polychrome delftware tiles. One of his first commissions is likely to have been for the renovation of Charlton House, just across the Thames from Millwall. This major restoration was carried out in 1877 by Richard Norman Shaw who utilised seven different Garrard designs based on Dutch delftware tiles for large open fireplaces in the main rooms. These designs appear to be unique to Charlton House and do not always have exact Dutch exemplars (see figs 11-14). There is also one fireplace with Garrard’s Spanish cuenca tiles (see fig 15), one with green delftware tiles supplied by van Hulst in Harlingen, one with original 17th century Dutch tiles and a whole corridor dado of French stencilled blue and white tiles. This commission seems to have provided the impetus for Garrard to manufacture a standard range of polychrome tiles as well as supplying bespoke designs.

Left to right: Figures 16-17.

Garrard’s most popular “Dutch” tiles were copies of an early seventeenth-century polychrome Pomegranate design which he made in 4”, 5” and 6” versions (see fig 16 above left). This is often mistaken for its Dutch counterpart, but has cross-hatched seed compartments rather than the individual semicircular compartments of the original (see fig 18). He also made many copies of floral and bird designs, with fleur de lys corners as well as a version of the ox-head corner so popular in the Netherlands. Garrard’s fleur de lys corners are rather more pointed than their Dutch exemplars and are a decisive method of identification. Some small three inch tiles are also known to exist (see fig 40).

Other Designs

Left to right: Figures 18-21.

Whilst most of Garrard’s tiles are copies of Spanish and Dutch tile designs, he is also known to have made a small number of floor tiles, notably the mosaic designs seen at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin which incorporates circular and cruciform impressed line tiles (see Fig 22 below left). This building also has two panels of his cuenca tiles set into the walls. He also made copies of late medieval impressed line tiles, generally with a green translucent glaze (see fig 23 below middle). This glaze was also used on large plain tiles up to ten inches square (see fig 24 below right), used in fireplaces, copying late medieval Flemish tiles.

Left to right: Figures 22-24.

More unique are the tiles made at the pottery, probably after the death of Garrard by J L James. These appear to form two series: a set of designs featuring typical British landscapes and water scenes, often with Arts and Crafts houses, and a set depicting cricket caricatures. These designs are very naively drawn, but have a charm all their own (see figs 25-2). One of the Cricket designs is known with a back-mark of J L James.

Left to right: Figures 25, 29-29.


Most of Garrard’s tiles are unmarked, however one example appeared on eBay some years ago which had a small impressed mark “F GARRARD”. This has yet to be confirmed with an actual sighting. A number of both delftware and cuenca tiles have been found with an incised “H” mark (see fig 30), the significance of which has yet to be discovered. A number also have an incised cross (see fig 31) and a few have an approximately five millimetre diameter hole, about 5 mm deep. (see fig 32)

Left to right: Figures 30-32.

Quite a few tiles have painted marks consisting of numbers and letters painted on the edges and occasionally on the backs (see fig 33) – these appear to be positioning marks for the tile fixer. One tile which was formerly in the collection of Kenneth Beaulah has a bold painted back mark which could just be the initials FG, I have been unable to ascertain the whereabouts of this tile to check, but the poor image in his catalogue does look like a possible Garrard tile. I would be grateful if anyone can tell me the current location of this tile (see fig 34).

Left to right: Figures 33-35.

A rubber stamp mark for J L James is sometimes found on later examples (see fig 35). Conclusions

Frederick Garrard was, I believe, an opportunist, cashing in on the demand from architects and the public for tiles that had the Arts and Crafts feel. Many tiles were being imported from the Netherlands, both antique and new manufacture, but the demand outstripped supply. Agents for Dutch companies in the UK such as Thomas Elsley (see Meyers) and Marten van Straaten (who also seems to have imported Spanish tiles)1 appear to have had difficulty supplying the number of tiles needed to keep up with architects’ demands. Did Street, Nesfield or Shaw persuade Garrard that there was a ready market for copies of such tiles, or did he simply have the same impulse to make hand-made tiles that was also experienced by William Morris?

Many of Garrard’s tiles have in the past been wrongly catalogued as being of Dutch or Spanish origin. It is to be hoped that the information in this article and future research will enable them to be appreciated in their own right as superb examples of the Arts and Crafts tradition of hand-making fine products.


1. Incomplete letter from the architect to the builder regarding tiles for the Knowle Hotel, Sidmouth, Devon (now headquarters of East Devon District Council, building to be closed shortly - at risk - no tiles remain), dated 2nd September 1895: “…Also a very fine Spanish tile which would look much better in the lavatories than white…….. so please ask Van Straaten how long he takes to execute an order.”


Myers, Richard. "Murray Marks and Thomas Elsley, Importers of Dutch tiles." TACS Journal 2 (1987): 3-9.

Last modified 9 April 2013