We at Target Tiles are pleased to introduce Olde English Victorian-style geometric tiles to our customers because their story is interwoven with the history from the length and breath of the United Kingdom and further a field .
Clay floor tiles were originally produced by Cistercian monks in the twelfth century and in medieval Britain no self-respecting abbey, monastery or royal palace would have been without a tiled floor. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s floor tiles fell out of fashion, demand diminished and the monks’ amazing skills might have been lost forever.
However, at the beginning of the nineteenth century archaeological excavations of medieval sites around Britain and an increasing interest in medieval architecture led to the Gothic Revival – and with this pivotal change in architectural fashion came an increasing interest in, and demand for, all things medieval – including floor tiles.
But it wasn’t until the porcelain manufacturer Herbert Minton of Stoke revived the lost art of making encaustic tiles (patterned tiles where the pattern is created by layering different colours of clay rather than being painted on the surface glaze) that the Victorians’ enthusiasm for floor tiles really took off.
Minton began experimenting in 1828 and in 1830 bought a half share in Samuel Wright’s patent for the production of encaustic tiles. By 1842 he was ready to supply his first major commission, for the Temple Church in London. He collaborated on this project with his friend, the architect Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, who was a leading force in the Gothic Revival movement. Pugin was also working on the Houses of Parliament in London and soon he was specifying Minton tiles for the Parliament buildings as well as his many other prestigious projects at home and overseas.
Minton’s success was assured when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert commissioned him to make an encaustic pavement for Osborne House, their home on the Isle of Wight. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before a number of other manufacturers started to produce geometric and encaustic tiles, including Maw & Co, Daniel Platts and Minton Hollins (now part of H &R Johnson), all based in and around Stoke-on-Trent.
From the 1860s geometric and encaustic tiled floors became more and more popular as they appeared in an ever-growing number of churches, grand Victorian villas and public buildings, including the hugely popular Victoria and Albert Museum. By the 1890s, tiled floors and pathways had become an essential feature in even the most ordinary Victorian houses from the west country to the outer borders of Scotland.