Monday, 21 May 2012

Medieval Floor Tiles 13- 14th century

I’m reasonably certain about these finds, both found one day last week, jutting out among the stones and rocks of the Thames 'beach'. They are sections of thick medieval floor tiles -  amazingly  they could be 700 years old. 

Sections of Medieval Floor Tile Found Mudlarking on the Thames 

In the 13th century churches, monasteries, abbeys and later royal palaces and houses of the wealthy began to use large square, decorated tiles, to cover floors and walkways. ‘Westminster’ tiles were mass produced in London from the 1260s.  Penn tiles were also used, named after the Buckinghamshire village where they were made in large quantities.

The tiles are handmade using clay high in iron, hence the red colour. The clay was shaped in a wooden mould, one of over 160 designs was then stamped into the clay. The impressions were filled with fine white clay. They were left to dry. Most were glazed before they were fired.

Popular designs were geometric patterns, heraldry, animals, flowers, birds, monsters and stars. There were both individual tile designs and those which covered groups of four tiles.

Medieval Floor tile 13-14 Century from Museum of London 
At the beginning of the  14th century production in London had largely ceased as the initial demand for floor tiles  had been satisfied.

Many medieval tiles were taken up during 19th century restoration – perhaps some ending up in the Thames, or were they part of the 1666 fire of London debris dumped into the Thames?

Victorian tile manufacturers were drawn to medieval tile designs and replicated them. Our house is Victorian and has the original tiled hall way, pictured below, which we now know owes its origins to medieval artisans. 

Victorian tiles, based on medieval designs with evidence of teenagers descent en masse

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