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The Collections:

The Parker-Hore Archive Collection of Watercolours of Paving-tiles
held in Worcester and in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford


The Study of architectural ceramics


Innovation, Communication and Interaction

Technological and artistic innovations are spread in various ways and at different speeds, specific factors often function as accelerators and others as suppressors, so some ideas spread rapidly while others are apparently shunned.

A motif derived from metalworkThere was considerable technical interaction between some clay workers: tilers and potters and some metalworkers. Both groups of craftworkers needed to heat silica to high temperatures to achieve a vitreous glassy deposit - the glaze to decorate tiles and pottery vessels or to smelt metals in ceramic crucibles to make jewellery and coins.

When decorated floor tiles were introduced to this country, the initial iconography was not English. However, these designs were rapidly assimilated and copied by the emerging new craftworker, the tiler.

Pictorial tile of St Edward (Edward the Confessor) giving his ring to a beggar (Westminster Abbey)Henry III's second wife came from sunny Provence in the south of France. She was fourteen years old when she married and may have found that the cold, damp, gloomy palaces and castles to which she was introduced needed some more home comforts. Pictorial images in northern Europe were still rare and decorated medieval paving tiles and decorated textiles for the hangings of state beds, curtains and cushion covers may have been used to educate and inform as much as to improve the living conditions. Eleanor of Provence's marriage to Henry III may have stimulated the introduction of decorated floor tiles and encouraged the rapid adoption of luxury pavements.

Beautifully executed pictorial tile from Westminster AbbeyNew ideas were also introduced to Britain through diplomatic gifts, such as patterned woven silks and by international trade, often associated with woollen textiles, which influenced craftsmen not attached to the court. By the twelfth century the re-introduction of portable antiquities from the near East from the crusades to the Holy Land and pilgrimages to other parts of Europe, such as the path to Santiago de Compostella in north western Spain, also stimulated local craftsmen.

The designs in the Parker-Hore Collection have been grouped broadly according to subject. Six categories were adopted:-

  • Animal or bird or fish designs
  • Fleur-de-lys, quatrefoils, rosettes, roses and knot designs
  • Geometric and architectural designs
  • Heraldry
  • Human figures

Inscriptions - this group includes alphabet tiles and initials

A hierarchy was adopted in recording these designs as many of the tiles have composite motifs. 1 Heraldry, 2 Inscriptions, 3 Human figures, 4 Animal or bird or fish designs, 5 Geometric and architectural and finally fleur-de-lys, quatrefoils, rosettes, roses and knots.

Top left: A motif derived from metalwork
Right: Pictorial tile of St Edward (Edward the Confessor) giving his ring to a beggar (Westminster Abbey)
Bottom left: Beautifully executed pictorial tile from Westminster Abbey

to ... Decoration Back to the Study of Architectual Ceramics to ... Heraldry
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Copyright of this digital resource will be held jointly by
the Ashmolean Museum, Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery and by the Worcestershire Archaeological Society.
Copyright of the original drawings is held by
the Ashmolean Museum and by the Worcestershire Archaeological Society respectively.

last updated: jcm/7-jun-2004

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