[Click on images to enlarge them.]
The Introduction of a series of designs in the Art-Journal, showing the present condition of the manufacture of tiles in this country, as exemplified in the very beautiful productions of the firm of Minton & Co., to whom every praise is due for the liberal spirit with which they have sought to restore to us a very charming system of decoration, appear to afford an appropriate opportunity for instituting an examination into the history of this very ancient and interesting manufacture. Upon examining the productions of Mr. Minton, it will, we believe, be found that as specimens of pottery they will prove far superior to any of the mediaeval or ancient tiles; and certainly, in point of ornamentation, whether we consider colour or design, the examples before us mark a most decided improvement in the manufacture of encaustic tiles.
[The History of Paving from Biblical Times]
The history of paving is itself so connected with the progressive advance of man in the scale of civilisation, that it merits some brief notice, as introductory to the especial subject of this essay.
When first men congregated in cities, we can well understand that they may have been satisfied with a merely beaten pathway, but, as the wants of the community gave rise to the practices of trade, it appears, of necessity, they must have been compelled to pave the road-ways of their towns. It is stated, and the authority is good, that the inhabitants of Carthage were the first to pave their city. The Carthaginians were essentially a trading people, commerce was their Bupport, and the advantages of paved streets were great to them. Strabo, indeed, says that Semiramis paved the highways, and the appointment of the tetrarchs to keep in repair and cleanse the streets of Thebes, proves that the Assyrians and the Egyptians had, at a very early period, adopted the luxury of paving, which was unknown in Borne during the period of her kings. Whether the streets of the Athenians were laid with stone, or not, is uncertain; we learn, however, that Epaminondas was appointed an inspector of roads. The description of the building of Solomon's temple, has been referred to, as giving a description of paving. The passage in the twelfth verse of the seventh chapter of the First Book of Kings, is as follows: — "And the great court round about was with three rows of hewed stones, and a row of cedar beams, both for the inner court of the house of the Lord, and for the porch of the house." There is considerable obscurity in this description, and it is difficult to determine whether the hewed stones were employed for paving the courts, or, as columns, upon which the cedar beams rested.
In the description of the palace of Ahasuerus, we have a very explicit statement of an expensive pavement, then employed for internal decoration —"in the court of the garden of the king's palace, where were white, green, and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple, to silver rings, and pillars of marble; the beds were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble." We may infer from this, that although the highways were frequently left unpaved in the ancient cities, the courts of the palaces wore laid with marbles and tiles. Pliny informs us that Byses of Naxos introduced tiles of marble 620 years before the birth of Christ.
Even the streets of London were not paved at the end of the eleventh century—at that period they are stated to have consisted of soft earth, and Holborn was paved by the royal command, in the year 1417. In the order for this paving, it is stated that "the highway named Holborn, in London, is so deep and miry, that many perils and hazards were thereby occasioned, as well to the king's carriages passing that way, as to those of his subjects." Two vessels, each of twenty tons burthen, were employed at the king's expense, in bringing stones for paving and mending the same. This fact shows how a people, considerably advanced in civilisation, may neglect matters which are of the utmost importance to them, as matters of economy and comfort. Yet, at the same time as we find this utter want of attention to the great requirements of a city, we see the inhabitants expending much wealth upon the interior decoration of their buildings. Muller gives an account of the decorative hall pavements of the Greeks, and Father Secchi tells us that in the days of Alexander of Macedon, the luxury of pavements, formed of coloured marbles, prevailed through Greece, and that the ornamentation of the ground frequently excelled that of the walls and ceilings. These works appear, however, to have been Mosaic, or tessellated pavements, and to have been fornied of numerous small pieces of naturally coloured stones.
The best idea of this work will be obtained from an examination of the very beautiful tessellated pavements which have been found in Cirencester — the site of ancient Corinium. Professor Buckmon has lately published a treatise on these, and given some very accurate drawings of those choice relics of this Art among the Romans. As a work illustrating a very remarkable feature of Roman Art and manufacture, Professor Buckman's book should be found on the shelves of every library which pretends to contain books of reference.
Although the beautiful pavements which have been discovered at Cirencester are of the tessellated variety, we are disposed to include a succinct notice of one of those described by Professor Buckmon, as it shows the extent to which the decoration of floors was carried by the Roman settlers in this country. We cannot more satisfactorily introduce the subject, than by quoting from this work the remarks by Mr. Westmacott:
Interesting as these pavements are, as a monument of past time, they have a further claim upon our attention for the qualities of Art exhibited in them, in which respect they are superior, so far as my recollection serves me, to any that have been brought to light in this country. The execution, owing to the nature of the materials, and the mode of workmanship adopted in putting them together, is somewhat coarse, and the details and drawings rather rude; but passing over these mechanical and technical defects, there is a style of design in them which associates them, in my humble opinion, with the happiest examples of the best period of Art. There is grandeur of form, dignity of character, and great breadth of treatment, which strongly reminds me of the finest Greek schools. I do not mean to say that of Phidias, but of subsequent masters, even of Lysippus. This appears in all the three female heads of Flora, Ceres, and Pomona. The smallest figure of Actæon attacked by his dogs, abounds also in these fine characteristics of fine Greek examples. The proportions are good, the actions full of energy, and the composition of the figure is almost a close copy of statues and relics to be found in our own collection of Greek sculpture in the British Museum. Were I a painter, I would venture to enlarge upon another point of comparative excellence in these mosaics, and that is, the quality, and breadth, and distribution of colour, so far as the masses are concerned. The fine feeling of the picturesque confined within the limits of grand simplicity, is shown in the relief and contrast afforded by the head dresses of rich green foliage, corn, flowers, and fruit. As a whole, these interesting specimens satisfy me, as an artist, beyond the shadow of doubt, that such works were produced after examples of the very highest reach of Art.
Pliny informs us that in the construction of these works the Romans selected from all ports of the country the natural rocks, and that whoro these did not supply to the artist the required colours, that they subjected these stones to the notion of fire, or that they prepared terra cotto tessene and introduced these to the production of the best effects. Professor Buckmon has proved the truth of this in the pavements of the ancient Corinium; and the result of his examination of the tessene, in which he has been assisted by Dr. Voelcker's chemical skill, show that the various colours in them result from the following stones and artificial preparations. Chalk was used for the white!; the great oolite for the cream, colours; the same burnt in a smoky fire form the grey); the Wiltshire pebbles were selected for the yellowt; the old red sandstone for the chocolate browns, and the limestone bands of the lower liasic formations for the slate colours and blacks. Some of the varieties of red and the deep blacks are artificial formations, having the ordinary character of the terra cottas, formed from the clays of the vicinity, and a transparent ruby used for the richest colour of Bome of the flowers was a glass coloured by oxide of copper. These tesselated pavements ore also exceedingly interesting, from the cautious arrangements which it is evident were taken in their construction; and from the information which they give us of the manufacture of the bricks and tiles which ore used in their support. This arrangement is thus described by Professor Buckman:—
The pilæ are made of various materials, most of them bricks of eight inches square, surmounted by a larger brick twelve inches square, forming a cap. Some of the pilæ were constructed of rough hewn blocks of stone, others of part stone, and the rest of bricks of the required height. Upon each of the little columns so formed, rested flanged tiles with the flange placed downwards, thus forming a continuous floor of tiles, upon which the concrete, composed of a mixture of pounded bricks and lime, was evenly laid, about six inches thick, and this done, the whole preparations were complete for the designs of the artists in mosaics.
The designs found upon some of the tiles discovered, afford us an insight into the progress of their manufacture.
The outer row of pilæ were composed of hollow flue tiles, placed on end. In some of them was placed a mass of mortar to keep them steady, by increasing their weight; these measured sixteen and a half inches high, six and a half inches wide, and five inches deep, and had sometimes one, but more frequently two, square holes cut on either of their thinner sides, and were ornamented on their flat sides with various lines, some wared and some straight, scarcely two being alike; these, from their variety, and the sharp commencement of many of them, appear to have been made, in the more complicated examples, with an instrument for that purpose, perhaps of a comb-like form; whilst many of the waved lines were made with the fingers, but all of them as the will and fancy of the workman dictated.
Although at a very early period tiles were made of baked, and of sun-dried earth, yet we learn from Pliny that the ancients sometimes employed the laminated stones. "On the further side of the Alps," he says, "there be found stones exceeding soft; and in the province of Belgica or Picordie, they have a certain white stone, which they split through with a saw, as they do timber, yea, and with much more facility, wherewith they make plates that serve to cover their houses in manner of slates or tyles, both on the sides and also in gutter and ridge; yea, and if they list, to make fine works upon roufes that may shine like unto peacock's feathers, which they call Pavonacea.
This stone would appear to be of a similar character to the Bath oolite, and from the latter portion of this passage we may infer that the surface was often ornamented either by painting, engraving, or inlaying; of each of these varieties we have examples in the specimens of Roman tiles preserved.
In this brief outline of the history and progress of paving with tiles, we cannot omit referring to Pliny's description of the Roman bricks and tiles, quoted in an article on "Artificial Stone," (Art-Journal, vol. xi., page 54); and from the same authority we learn, that a glazing was employed, into the composition of which metallic oxides entered as the colouring agents. He tells us— "The most famous workman of tlus kind was one Sosus, of Pergamus, who wrought that rich pavement in the common hall which they call Asaroton aecon, garnished with bricks or small tiles, annealed with sundry colours."
Although we find tesselated pavements, in every part of the world to which the Roman arms extended, employed as the favourite mode of decoration in the public buildings, and in the residences of the great, we have continued indications of the endeavour to substitute the less expensive flooring of tiles for these elaborate works. The extended use of tiles appears to have been associated with the progress of orientalism across Europe. When we examine the line pursued by the Saracenic invaders, we shall find as constantly remains of floorings, and even of wall decoration, in which tiles alone have been employed. In Spain, particularly, we find the "azuleijos" or painted tile marking every spot which was occupied by the Moors, and it is very rare to discover the remains of any Mosaic work. In the Moorish Palace of the Alhambra there is indeed one, and only one instance of a Mosaic pavement. Tho Alhambraic decoration consists of square tiles, the surface has been stamped with very intricate patterns, and these filled in with the composition of the required colour. Mr. Owen Jones, in his work on the Alhambra, has given numerous examples of the Moorish and Oriental tiles, which have been most admirably imitated by Mr. Minton.
The remarks of Mr. Oldham, on the Irish pavement tiles, apply with full force to all others. "We shall not stop at present," he says,
to enquire into the origin of this mode of pavement; probably an imitation of the much more costly and elaborate mosaics; or possibly, the result of successive improvements, from the first rude piece of baked clay, impressed with some uncouth figure, by the hand of the maker, subsequently improved by the use of a more carefully constructed mould, and then the impressed pattern, at first filled with some substance of a different colour, till at last we find the true encaustic tile, in which the coloured substance forming the pattern has been applied in the soft state, to the clay of the tile, and both then burnt together. For such an enquiry, it would be necessary to trace the history of pavements in general, to point out the successive alterations which the advance of civilisation or circumstances of each district, the abundance of one material in this country, and its absence or comparative scarcity in that; to follow the progress of luxury, and mark the effects mutually produced by and on domestic architecture, and still more than all, the changes consequent on the altered forms and ceremonies of religious worship.
[Three forms of paving tiles: impressed, encaustic, and pattern in relief]
Among pavement tiles we find three varieties: impressed, encaustic, and such as have the pattern in relief. In the hollow tiles found at Cirencester wo have examples of the rude patterns formed on the clay by the fingers of the brick-maker; or, as an improvement by a toothed piece of wood or metal. The impressed tiles appear to have been rarely employed for pavements, since it is obvious, owing to the unevenness of the surface, they would bo liable to injury, and also be unpleasant to walk upon. They were in all probability more frequently employed for the decoration of walls, the true encaustic tile being more generally adopted for pavements. Of course the character of the body of these tilos varies much with the geological character of the district in which they have been manufactured. Sometimes the body is of red clay, and sometimes of white or cream colour, but in all examples we shall find upon examination that the surface ornaments are of a different material. In future articles it is our intention to enter fully into the manufacture of encaustic tiles both in this country and on the continent; and, we hope, aided by the very beautiful illustrations of the works of Mr. Minton which wo are enabled to place before our readers, to completely elucidate the process of their formation, and to show at the same time the extent to which the designs of the ancient and medieval artists have boon followed, and the great improvements which have been made.
The present very imporfect sketch of the history of this kind of pavement is intended merely to show the early period at which tiles were employed, how the work of the brickmaker or the potter was employed whero natural stone could not be obtained, and to indicate the progress of that ornamentation, which, in the hands of Mr. Minton, has been brought to such perfection in the encaustic tile. [One of a aeries of prints, to illustrate more clearly the manufacture, accompany this article: It will be followed in due course by others, so that the reader may have some idea of the beauty, interest, and utility of these works— upon which we shall dilate at greater length in a subsequent article. [145-146]
Tiles in Medieval England
We return to the consideration of ornamental pavements of artificial stone, with the view of yet further illustrating the history of the use of Encaustic Tiles, of which we give some further illustrations in this Journal. The very beautiful geometric figures which prevail in the works of Minton & Co., particularly recommend them to attention; and the choice variety which are displayed from the works of those spirited manufacturers, in the building of the Great Exhibition, are certain of enlisting the admiration of visitors. Last month we alluded particularly to the tiles and tesserae of the Romans, glancing very briefly at the Moorish tiles, and those of the middle ages.
It would appear that tiles began to be used in this country about the latter end of the twelfth, or the beginning of the thirteenth century, and many of this date exhibit a very elegant pattern of trefoil foliage. By ingenious arrangements this is made to form crosses and quatrefoils, and these are united, often with much intricacy, with heraldic arms, &c. Religious monograms are not uncommon, and often letters are arranged on tiles, sometimes singly, and sometimes in complete words; but often single letters are so disposed on the several tiles, that they form a legend when placed side by side. Figures in costume are more rare, but they are occasionally found; the encaustic pavement at Ely is of this character, and has many peculiarities. Tiles of various sizes and patterns are so constructed, that they form, when united, the figures required to be represented, such as trees, lions, Adam and Eve, &c., and another variety, found in the same cathedral, is composed of tiles which exactly correspond, in construction, to those of Minton & Co., as engraved in our last number. They fit into one another, and are arranged in geometrical patterns, thus producing the effect of a tessellated pavement. These tiles were of red, black, yellow, and green colours; the red and yellow being produced by different quantities of iron in the clays employed,—the black, by combining carbonaceous matter with the clay,—and the green, by the addition of oxide of copper. Many of these are stamped with ornaments, such as the rose, fleur-do-lys, and the like; and it is evident that they have been highly glazed, although the glaze is now nearly all worn off.
At Lynn a manufactory of tiles was discovered; another was also found at St. Mary Witton, and ono at Malvern. As tiles were still remaining in these kilns, an insight into the character of the manufacture was obtained. That at Malvern was discovered seven feet underground, in 1833, and was found to consist of two strongly-built semicircular arches, separated from each other by a massive pier; a horizontal flooring extended across each of the arches, about two feet above the level of the ground, and upon this the tiles were burned. The fire had evidently been kindled under this flooring, which was rendered intensely hard and slag-like by long-continued exposure to heat. Thus a well-formed oven was constructed; but no aperture for the escape of smoke could be discovered, and as a quantity of charcoal was still in the kiln, it is highly probable this material was used in the manufacture. The kiln at St. Mary Witton was of a similar description, and in this was found a considerable number of tiles which corresponded with those employed in the churches in the neighbourhood, and particularly with those in Worcester Cathedral. Those found at Lynn were generally embossed in relief, no second material being inserted to restore a smooth surface, as is the case in those generally found in other parts of the country.
The discovery of these kilns, and the tiles in them, is very instructive, as they lead us to a knowledge of the process of manufacture adopted at this early period. It would appear evident that some of the tiles on which the patterns are in relief, have been used to imprint intaglio patterns upon soft clay; this impressed pattern being sometimos, but not always, filled in with clay of another character, so as to produce a variety. After this a mineral glaze was passed over the whole, by which the red and white, or other colours in the inlaid tile, were rendered more evident, and the whole, being fixed, received the required amount of solidity.
Tiles of various colours, in one piece, do not appear to have been common, and many of those which have presented great varieties of colour in the same piece, have received those, it has been thought, from purely accidental causes. There is no sufficient reason, however, for supposing that the manufacturers of those days were not acquainted with the different colours given by iron and copper; they certainly knew that clays from different localities gave different tints on burning, and why may they not have availed themselves of this knowledge for the purpose of producing pleasing effects, when the production of them was comparatively so very easy!
In the reign of Henry VIII. paving tiles of green and yellow were imported from Flanders, for Christchurch, Oxford and Hampton Court. It is interesting to learn what was paid at this time for those productions of the continent, and we learn this from the following items in preserved memoranda :—
"To Jo Norton for XXVI C. Paving Tiles ot yellow and green for the New Hall at iijs. viijrd. the hundred vjl. xvid."
Item, of MMMM Flemyshe pavynge tiles of greene and youllow at vs. the hundythe."
Pavynge tiles anneled for the kynges new hall at xxvis. viid. the M."
VI thousand and fourscore of pavynge tiles delivered at Hampton Court, for to pave the kinges new hall at xxvjs. viijd. the thousand.
That tiles were imported appears evident from the fact that the Mayor's Chapel, at Bristol, was, in part, paved with tiles having an ornamented superficial colouring, applied in a manner similar to enamelled earthenware, but with an incised or impressed outline. These appear to have been imported from Spain, as they correspond to the variety manufactured in that country, and known as azuleios. The earliest authentic specimens of coloured tiles, in which the chromatic arrangements were much varied, appear to have been those made for Sir Nicholas Bacon in 1577.
The various devices adopted in the decorative [176/177] tile pavements, it has been well observed,
May be classed amongst the most beautiful and appropriate decorations of the sacred edifices which the middle ages present. Harmonising, as they did, with the soft and mellow tints of the stained glass of the windows, with the elaborately-embroidered frontals and altar-cloths, and with the gorgeous copes, maniples, stoles and apparels of the priests, they imparted a feeling of spiritual awe and solemn grandeur to those holy edifices which they adorned.
With the decline of that taste which gave rise to the most beautiful specimens of our ecclesiastical architecture, the use and manufacture of encaustic tiles appears to have almost suddenly ceased. It is our intention to resume the subject, and, in our next, particularly to describe, from the best authorities, the various devices with which these decorative paving tiles have been impressed. The attention of our antiquarian societies have been of late directed towards this subject, and many valuable relics of this floor decoration have been discovered. The discovery of a beautiful floor of this kind in the Cathedral at Worcester, by Mr. Jewitt, in 1848, during the visit of the British Archaeological Association, is instructive, as showing the state in which many of our most important architectural illustrations are at the present moment. Mr. Jewitt says—
When I arrived in Worcester, to attend the recent congress, and examined the magnificent cathedral, I could barely find a score of tiles, with the exception of the justly-celebrated monumental cross in the Lady Chapel; but, having been told by a gentleman that he believed there were a few in the old singing-school attached to the cathedral, I proceeded thither, and, while examining it, I also carefully explored the adjoining rooms and passages, and had the extreme satisfaction of discovering, beneath the accumulation of ages, one of the best remaining examples of this species of fictile decoration. Without, for a moment, entering into the original intention and use of that portion of the cathedral known as the old singing-school, and Cromwell's Rooms, I will merely observe that they are approached by a flight of stone steps and a short passage, leading from the vestries at the west end of the south aisle of the choir. On emerging from this passage there is a small closet on the left, and a doorway and winding passage, leading to another closet, &c, from which the singing school is entered. These are all groined: but at the period of my visit were filled with such a motley assemblage of rubbish that it was next to impossible to examine them; here decayed matting, broken tin candlesticks, and rusty iron enough to stock the shop of a marine store-dealer, were mixed up with dust that would have made a scavenger's fortune, and, under this mass of filth and rubbish, after scraping the floors in many places, I had, as I have said, the extreme gratification of discovering one of the most interesting examples of tile paving which has ever come under my notice. It is much to be deplored that these valuable remains of ancient grandeur should have so long been shut out from examination, and have been totally unknown, even to those whose residence the cathedral may be said to be. The whole of the rooms, passages, and closets, have been paved with decorated tiles of the finest character, and they are, for the most part, remaining in their original arrangement, to the extent of, at least seventy square yards, of which the only portion previously known were those in the one room, the singing school. Many of the patterns are obliterated, and others partly so, but enough remains to show what their former magnificence must have been.
The copies of the ancient examples of the tiles of various ages which have been made by Messrs. Minton and Co., promise to render this very interesting variety of decoration again common, not only in our churches and public buildings, but in the houses of the wealthy. The persevering industry which has distinguished the efforts of Mr. Minton in his endeavours to restore this ancient branch of manufacture is most praiseworthy. The examples furnished from the potteiy at Stoke-upon-Trent possess all the graceful freedom of the originals, involve all their intricate geometrical arrangements, and are superior to them in colour, and in the character of the material employed.
Mr. Albert Way has remarked—
The modern pavements have hitherto been less successful in regard to general arrangement than the close imitations of ancient designs, as exhibited on each tile severally; this defect has arisen chiefly from the very imperfect state of the ancient pavements, and the consequent difficulty of obtaining authentic and satisfactory authorities.
This remark by no means holds good as to the productions we illustrate. In these the general arrangement is most perfect, the utmost attention having been paid to the completion of each pattern where it has been extended over many tiles, and to the mode in which the pattern has been repeated. Many of the borders which have been introduced by Mr. Minton are of a very elegant kind; although many of these are based on the authority of the ancient works, they have been very judiciously varied. This is satisfactory, since we would desire to seo our manufacturers exerting the ingenuity of the artist in producing new designs, rather than linger on servilely copying the reliques, elegant though they be, of those who have been numbered with the dead for centuries. Robert Hunt.
[Modern Encaustic Tiles by Minton & Co.]
In the present number we are enabled to give another illustration of these very beautiful pavements which the enterprise and the taste of the producers, Messrs. Mintou & Co., have so successfully re-introduced.
Encaustic tiles, of similar designs to those now figured, are found in Westminster Abbey, and in the cathedral churches of Winchester, Salisbury, and Exeter. They are also to be seen in the pavements of St. Patrick's, Dublin; at Gloucester, Worcester, and several other cathedrals and churches.
Left: Not in original article: Floor, St. Patrick’s, Dublin. Photographed 2016. Right: Encaustic Tiles reproduced facing p. 220.
The modern manufacturers of these tiles have adhered with much fidelity to the designs of the best existing examples, and in the present case to the colour, red and yellow, of the originals. The black border, in one example, and the brown one in the other, is exceedingly effective, and docs not, in the slightest degree, interfere with, the general character of the pavement. A modern writer on the subject of the modern manufacture of tiles, has some severe remarks on the "oilcloth effect" on many pavements. He insists on the "importance of employing a variety of colours in pavements," which, he says,
was probably done in all ancient examples, though it has been often worn out. The colour most frequently employed, in addition to the red and yellow, is black. This is readily procured and has a good effect. Several examples of green also occur; these aro superior to the black in their effect, from the contrast of colour with the red tiles. Of course, both green and black may be employed, as at Salisbury, Ely, and Exeter.
These remarks require a considerable amount of qualification. In the times when the existing examples of pavement tiles, with which our churches were adorned, were manufactured, the [220/221] potter was limited to a few colours by necessity, and, certainly, being so limited, he made the most appropriate use of his material.
The power of appreciating a harmonious arrangement of colours is only to be acquired by education. Strong contrasts, which are positively displeasing to the eye of an artist, are by familiarity rendered agreeable to the uninstructed. In nature, where we have every variety of colour displayed, there is invariably a most harmonious interblending of tints; there are no sharp lines dividing black and green, or red and yellow; they pass, one into the other, by insensible gradations. This is not the case in the arrangement of tiles or tesserae, and it appears we are more in danger of producing the appearance of an oil-cloth, by employing many colours in them, than by the introduction of a few judiciously chosen.
The advance of chemical science has made us acquainted with a great variety of colours, which might be united most easily with the clays employed in the manufacture of tesserae; and with certain forms, there is no doubt, but many new colours might be introduced with a pleasing effect; but while the manufacturer is coufined to straight or angular lines the experiment is a dangerous one.
Our own impression is, that we best escape the oil-cloth character by strict attention to the design; for, certainly, the painter has the power of increasing the number of his colours far beyond that possessed by the potter.
Messrs. Minton & Co. have most judiciously avoided this, not merely in the present examples, but also in those given in former numbers of the journal.
From the circumstance that tiles, of a similar design to those in our illustrations, are most frequently found in the southern and western counties, there is good reason for supposing that these encaustic tiles must have been largely manufactured in those districts. A manufactory of embossed tiles existed in the north of Devonshire, in the last century, and, in all probability, the ordinary encaustic tile was made at the same works. In classifying the encaustic tiles, Lord Alwyne Compton says: —
They are of all dates: a few, perhaps, Norman; a few early English; very many decorated; and a considerable number perpendicular. They represent every varioty of subjects; sometimes human heads, or figures; oftener armorial bearings; personal devices and initials; heraldic animals; scrolled iron-work; Gothic windows, buildings, aud tracery; fleurs-de-lis, roses, and other conventional ornaments common in mediaeval works. The popularity of some of the ancient manufactures is remarkable: thus we find identical tiles at Winchester, Exeter, Chichester, and Salisbury Cathedrals; and another kiln supplied the churches at Harrow, King's Langly, Bosham, Horsham, Mapledurham, Shottesbrook, Appledrum, Steventon, Crowmnreb, Gifford, Cholsey, Elstow, Ewelme, West Hendred, and Lewes; St. Alban's Abbey, and Oxford Cathedral.
The arrangements of the tiles which we figure this month are from Reading Abbey, and are very similar to many of the best examples now remaining. The Abbot Sebroke's pavement at Gloucester is of this variety, although differing in many points of the design. This pavement is thus described— "The whole space on each of the panels is divided into squares of sixteen tiles, which consist of a pattern occupying sixteen tiles and a pattern on four tiles with twelve black or green tiles round it." Abbot Sebroke's pavement is much richer. Down the centre from east to west is a row of squares of sixteen tiles, placed like all the others in the pavement, diagonally, and touching each other at east and west points. The squares are alternately of two patterns: on each side, uorth and south, they touch single tiles; between which, cast and west, are squares of nine tiles. These last, north and south, meet other squares of nine tiles similarly united by single tiles. In the intermediate spaces, the north and south of single tiles, are squares of four, of various designs; each row, east and west, of squares of nine is of one pattern only; the remaining tiles arc black, or rather green. This method of arrangement is more beautiful than the trellised, but ib only adapted to those cases where a considerable clear space is to be paved—as for instance, parts of a cathedral, and the chancels of some churches. Although in the pavement here described, colours are introduced which do not appear in our illustration, it is similar to it in the mode of fitting, and therefore the description of the old is equally applicable to the modern encaustic pavement of this variety.
The interest which has been created, and which appears to be increasing, towards the use of encaustic and tesselated pavements, promises to lead to the introduction of this style of flooring far more extensively than has hitherto been the case. Messrs. Mintons' are making most praiseworthy efforts to meet the demand, and to direct the public taste. In all their encaustic tiles they have been most careful in the selection of their designs. They have not been led into the error of regarding everything mediaeval as of correct taste. The misorable caricatures of humanity they have avoided repeating, and have confined their attention to tho restoration of those correct geometric figures which aro certainly evideuces of an educated taste, and which indicate a fine feeling for the symmetry of natural arrangements. The examples we have this month selected will, we think, fully justify our remarks. [no author indicated, but probably Robert Hunt]
An Example of Minton Pavement Tiles
We continue the series of illustrations devoted to the exemplification of our remarks on pavements, and proving the perfection of Mr. Minton's manufacture. In our previous notices we have indicated many of the sources from which the designs have been derivod; those have not however been servilely copied; the best features of the old pavements have been selected, and new designs have been compounded from them. We have very recently examined the encaustic pavements in Exeter cathedral, and some of the other specimens of tiles and tesseins in the west of England. This examination has confirmed still further the opinion we previously expressed, that a large manufactory must have existod in this district. A geological and chemical examination would yield much important information. We are satisfied that the clays have been selected from many different districts, since it is evident the tints have not, in many cases, been produced by the mixture of colours. In some this has been the case, and the native ochres have been united with the clays previously to the tiles being manufactured.
The illustrations which we have already given, and the specimen in the present number, will fully confirm all we have said in praise of that enterprising spirit which has led to the revival of this very beautiful manufacture. Too much praise cannot be given to Messrs. Minton & Co., for the zeal they have shown in improving every branch of fictile manufacture. [261[
“On Encaustic Tiles.” Art Journal (1851): 146-47, 176-77, 220-21, 261. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 28 July 2013.
Last modified 1 April 2019