The Victorian use of the Tile

The Society's guest on January 17th was Anna Hallett who gave us a most interesting and lavishly illustrated talk on "The Victorian use of the Tile". By way of introduction she traced the history of the tile from the glazed brick of 4,000 BC through the geometric patterns from the Near East, trade with the Orient and the influence of Chinese blue and white glazes.

Anna Hallett's talk continued with an outline of European production from 12th century Holland, the popularity of Delft ware, the Moorish influence in Italy, Spain and Portugal and the early output from a variety of centres in Britain. This brought us closer to home with details of invention and enterprise in Birmingham, Ironbridge and Stoke-on-Trent.

We were told that the movements of early itinerant tile-makers have been traced through their unique products and the discovery of their kiln sites. Since then methods of production have changed and fashions in style and the use of tiles have reflected the introduction of new techniques. The Great Exhibition of 1851 stimulated great interest, especially among the 'upper classes', and the cultural, educational and ecclesiastical institutions of the Victorian era were inspired to utilise the increased production of the industrial age.

A fine range of slides and a collection of tile samples stimulated our interest and suggested a more careful observation of tile use in the future.

Ivor Mitchell
January 1991