A hundred and twenty photographs! That took some paring down. Expectation wasn’t particularly high when as we drove out to Jackfield to visit the tile museum. After all, how much is there to say about tiles?
Rather a lot as it happens. Jackfield, a small village on the banks of the River Severn is home to the Craven Dunnill Company, the only surviving purpose-built tile factory in the world. Where better to site a museum dedicated to the history of tile making? Consisting of a series of rooms, and showcasing not only their own tiles, but those of every major manufacturer, the tiles are displayed by era and show the changing tastes in both domestic and commercial settings.
The popularity of decorating with tiles was in its heyday during Victoria’s reign and designs were inspired by costume and rhyme, flora and fauna, literature, the architecture of the Romans and Greeks, and ancient Islamic ceramics.
These were some of my favourites…
Tiles were used to face the bars in Victorian pubs,
in public washrooms,
and the London tube stations like Covent Garden so magnificently recreated (and complete with authentic sounds) here in Jackfield.
The Dewhurst butchers chain provided the funding to relocate this original panel from a butcher’s shop in Yorkshire.
And then there were the floors. Back in 1983 when I moved into a Victorian townhouse, we pulled up some hideous 1970s Lino to find something very similar.
During Craven and Dunnill’s building works in 2000, a number of old lithograph stones used to make the transfer prints for tile decoration were unearthed.
By the beginning of the twentieth Century the Victorian preference for all things ornate was waning and the demand for cleaner lines in furniture and decor grew. Thousands of designs were deleted and plain tiles became the choice of many.
The Tile Museum was amazing and expectation very much exceeded!