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Twentieth century ceramic tablets erected by the Corporation of the City of London to mark sites of demolished buildings can be found throughout the City; the manufacturer is unknown, although Doulton of Lambeth produced very similar plaques. The twenty-one site description boards of the London Wall Walk, created in the 1980s to follow the route of the medieval wall between Tower Hill and the Museum of London, have blue ceramic surrounds and tile numbers by Maw & Co (then part of H. & R. Johnson).

In Postman’s Park, just west of Aldersgate Street, is an open lean-to sheltering the Memorial to Heroic Sacrifice, instigated by the artist George Frederic Watts, designed by the architect Ernest George and opened in 1899; the first memorial tablets, recording the name of the victim and details of their fate, were installed in 1900 (Fig 155).[1] In all there are 53 memorial tiles, the first 24 of which were made by William De Morgan at Sands End; the first four of these comprise just two large tiles, rather than the cheaper and smaller tiles used in all the other memorials. The tiles installed from 1908 onward (apart from the final tile) were manufactured by Doulton’s of Lambeth; the Doulton name appears at the bottom left of the lowest row of tiles. The last memorial, added in early 1931, was a replacement for a De Morgan tile bearing incorrect information. It was made by the tile painter Fred Passenger, one of De Morgan’s partners at Sands End, who in 1931 was working at the Bushey Heath Pottery. The De Morgan tiles can be identified by their slightly greenish glaze, flowing lettering and occasional ornament (including a ship motif), while the Doulton tiles are whiter and more regulated in appearance.[2]

The Bishopsgate Institute (1892-4), Bishopsgate (on the corner with Brushfield Street) was designed by the arts and crafts architect Charles Harrison Townsend, who produced a highly original design with twin towers and cupolas above an arched entrance. The facade is entirely constructed of Gibbs & Canning’s buff block terracotta, with some decoration including a Tree of Life motif stretching across the narrow frontage; this was modelled by William Aumonier. The Institute’s facade demonstrated terracotta’s great ability to provide naturalistic decoration combined with plain walling. The tiled dado in the entrance hall is by Maw & Co.[3] Just south at 178 Bishopsgate is the 1930s Sir Robert Peel PH, (opposite the entrance to Liverpool Street station) retains the upper part of its facade with blue and yellow Carter’s tiling including a large figure of the man himself.[4] The almost adjacent police station dates from the late 1930s.

The peculiar little glazed brick and terracotta structure protruding from Bishopsgate Churchyard was the entrance kiosk of Nevill’s New Turkish Baths, built in 1894-5 on a very cramped site, thus the tiny surface building through which bathers passed on their way to the complex of rooms below (Fig 156). The architect was the little-known Harold Elphick, who employed Craven Dunnill in 1894 to make several ranges of Islamic-style interlocking tiles to his own designs; these were used, along with other Craven Dunnill products, in an elaborate scheme which runs throughout the surviving rooms.[5] The building ceased to function as a Turkish baths in 1954 and was converted to its present restaurant use during the 1970s.

The pedestrian underpass at the south end of Blackfriars Bridge, still within the City of London, was decorated in 1995-6 with an overglazed mural showing a series of historical images from the Guildhall Library; the tiles were designed and supplied by Langley Architectural.[6]

Holland House (1914-16), 32 Bury Street, was designed by the Dutch architect Hendrick Petrus Berlage (1856-1934) for a Dutch shipping firm run by A. G. Kröller-Müller, who wanted a landmark commercial building to impress the City; most of the building materials were brought over from Holland in the company’s own ships, although some white glazed brickwork is by the Leeds Fireclay Company. Apart from its black granite plinth, Holland House was clad in semi-matt blue-green faience made by the Delft factory De Porceleyne Fles, which often worked with Berlage and specialised in ceramic cladding (Fig 157). Porceleyne Fles products were normally supplied in Britain through the agency A. Bell & Co of Northampton, and were used for facing commercial premises.[7] Berlage’s design for Holland House was slightly compromised by an argument with his client, resulting in the interior work (1916), by the Dutch artist Bart van der Leck, being completed under the supervision of the Belgian architect Henri van der Velde.[8] The walls of the entrance lobby are faced in white glazed brick with string courses made by De Porceleyne Fles, and the ceiling is mosaic work.

The windows of Holland House are set so closely that - when viewed at an angle - the outer wall becomes a flat plane. This use of faience as cladding for an overtly modern steel-framed structure inspired the design of Summit House (1925, see Camden) but little else, as faience became associated with external decoration, on interwar cinemas for instance, and modernist architects tended to prefer other facing materials. In 1931 the architectural critic Christopher Hussey picked out Summit House and Spicer Brothers’ warehouse (1913-17, see New Bridge Street, below) as examples of ‘outstanding experiments in the application of faience to modern designs’; Holland House was probably omitted as Hussey appears to have only considered the work of English architects.[9] Hussey’s vision of faience providing a route to increased colour in architecture had, however, become something of a curiosity just fifty years on, when a Building Centre exhibition on modernist building materials described these faience-clad structures as ‘the very last flowerings of a great tradition’.[10] The use of architectural faience in twentieth century Britain emphasised decorative mouldings rather than expression of structure.

The Law Society’s Hall in Chancery Lane was extended in 1902-4; the architect was Charles Holden (1875-1960), who was then chief assistant to Percy Adams and later became famous for his work with London Underground. Holden was always keen to collaborate with artists, and commissioned tiles from Conrad Dressler’s Medmenham Pottery for the Grand Staircase. The Persian-enamelled ceramic reliefs (1904) by Dressler in the first floor Common Room, however, were commissioned by the Law Society and installed against Holden’s wishes.[11] The polychrome frieze comprises two large panels, depicting Human Justice and Divine Justice, and eleven smaller panels representing various attributes including Truth and Prudence. The Common Room also has a fire surround with tiles by William De Morgan.

On the south side of Cornhill at 39-41 is the former Union Discount Company (1889-90, now part of Union plc), designed by the architect John Macvicar Anderson (1835-1915), which retains its banking hall with elegant cream and white tiles and faience, including the ceiling, by Burmantofts, the firm he normally used for such schemes; it was shown in their 1902 catalogue. Also on the south side at 54-55 Cornhill is a good salmon-pink Doulton terracotta facade of 1893 by architect Ernest Runtz; the sculptural details, including two devilish finials, are by W. J. Neatby.[12]

Bolton House (1907), 14-16 Cullum Street, has a white faience facade with green and turquoise decoration including the heraldic device of Prior Bolton, after whom the building was named; Bolton House was renovated in 1984.

On the Farringdon Street facade of the Fleet Building (1956-60, architect W. S. Frost for the Ministry of Works), a huge slab block which originally housed a telecommunications centre and telephone exchange, are nine 7’ by 5’ abstract stoneware tile panels (1960) with a ‘communications’ theme designed by the mural painter Dorothy Annan (Fig 158).[13] They were intended to ‘add interest at street level to Farringdon Street ‘ and may have been made by Hathernware, who were credited with the building’s decorative ceramic tiles.[14] The panels remain in good condition, although their future must be in doubt as the building is empty in 2004 and the site may be redeveloped. Nearby, the stairwell connecting Farringdon Street and Holborn Viaduct is lined with tiling (2002) depicting the construction of the viaduct, which was completed in 1869. The tiles were supplied by the London firm World’s End Tiles, and designed and made by July Ceramics of Newcastle under Lyme.

The Lamb Tavern in Leadenhall Market (1880-1), Gracechurch Street, has full height porch tiling with a pictorial panel by W. B. Simpson & Sons depicting Sir Christopher Wren and the construction of the Monument; the panel is faintly dated 12th March 1882 (possibly 1889). The Lamb’s cellar bar is also fully tiled, in cream and shades of green, and there is wall tiling on the stairway to the dining room.

In Greystoke Place are the former offices (1961) of architects Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall, clad in the firm’s trademark white Twintiles. Eugene Rosenberg advocated tiles rather than exposed concrete as a modernist response to the British climate, and experimented with them on the Greystoke Place offices; the dimensions of the building were such that no tiles needed to be cut.[15]

The Temple Church, Inner Temple Lane, was consecrated in 1185. Early works carried out during the 1841-3 restoration by Sydney Smirke and Decimus Burton included the excavation of its floor, when traces of the original medieval tile pavement came to light.[16] It was decided to replace the floor with modern encaustic tiling, and to ascertain an appropriate layout, the architect and restorer Lewis N. Cottingham was asked to investigate the medieval pavement of the Chapter House at Westminster Abbey, which had lain unseen for many years beneath wooden boarding while the room was in use as a store; access was via one of two trapdoors let into the boards.[17] Cottingham made tracings of the tiles, and Herbert Minton agreed to undertake the manufacture of the new pavement, carrying out the work on this prestigious project at nominal cost.[18] This was the first significant encaustic tile commission carried out by Minton; the tiles for the encaustic pavement at Kilmory Castle, Argyll & Bute, had been supplied by Minton in 1837 out of stock taken over from Samuel Wright. The designs for the Temple pavement were mostly copies of those in the Chapter House, and the commission turned out to be a huge success; Smirke described the tiles as ‘a new manufacture of great beauty’. However, a century after its installation, the pavement was badly damaged in a bombing raid of 1941, and some of the remaining tiles were eventually taken up and relaid in the triforium of the circular nave (normally no public access) (Fig 159). Aside from the Chapter House designs, there are four-tile groups bearing the Agnus Dei (symbol of the Middle Temple) and Pegasus (for the Inner Temple).

Oriental figures sculpted by John Broad form part of the white Doulton Carraraware facade of Asia House (1912-13), 31-3 Lime Street.

The streamlined moderne Ibex House (1935-7, Fuller, Hall & Foulsham), 41-7 Minories, a six-storey office building, is faced in creamy-yellow and black faience, mostly standard slab blocks apart from those which curve around its pair of towers. Restoration in 1994-5 involved replacing the faience of its north tower, where many blocks had become crazed or suffered frost damage. New faience blocks were supplied by Gladding McBean of Lincoln, California.

On the west side of New Bridge Street is the former Spicer Brothers warehouse and office, Blackfriars House (1913-17, F. W. Troup), a proto-modernist eight-storey grid faced in white Doulton Carraraware. Across the street is 100 New Bridge Street; its rear facade - actually in Waithman Street, approached from the main street by Pilgrim Street - springs a surprise with a series of twenty-three large hand-made stoneware tile panels of 1992 by the potter Rupert Spira (b1960), all with different Escher-like patterns (Fig 160). The glazes are a mix of beautifully mottled reds, blues, turquoise, green and grey, and it is hard to believe the panels are flat rather than three-dimensional. In the early 1990s Spira was producing pots at Lower Froyle, Hampshire, when he was offered a commission for tiles.[19] At Swallow Tiles in Cranleigh he discovered how to produce tiles by hand, in interlocking shapes and with a full palette of glaze colours; he then made 18,000 tiles for a garden in Paris (1991) and carried out the 1992 commission from developers Rosehaugh Stanhope for 100 New Bridge Street. Financially secure from the tile making, Spira returned to making pots, experimenting with simpler forms and monochrome glazes, totally different from the New Bridge Street panels, his sole British tile commission.

The complex of former GPO offices just north of St Paul’s Cathedral takes in King Edward Buildings (1907-11), on Newgate Street and King Edward Street. The site (no public access) includes an older cellar with a large nineteenth century brick-built water tank lined with tin-glazed tiles of unusually varied design, including parts of four tile pictures, letter tiles and designs by Sadler & Green of Liverpool; they date from around the middle of the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries.[20]

The gentlemen’s cloakroom in the basement of the City Club (now City of London Club), Old Broad Street, has retained its floor-to-ceiling Burmantofts tile and faience decorative scheme of 1907.

The three walls above the central circular lightwell at No 1 Poultry, a complex of shops and offices completed in 1998 (architects James Stirling, Michael Wilford & Associates), are lined with startling blue faience cladding from Hathernware. The site was formerly occupied by assorted late-Victorian buildings, notably Mappin & Webb’s; one result of the bitter fight over its redevelopment was the retention of a few Victorian decorative elements, notably the red terracotta Reliefs of Royal Progresses of 1875, sculpted by Joseph C. Kremer, which can now be seen above the archway on Poultry. Each panel comprises up to ten separate terracotta sections.[21]

On the Primrose Street and Appold Street corner of Exchange House, part of the Broadgate development, is a recessed hand-painted tiled fountain (1990) several storeys in height. The artist was the Spanish ceramicist Joan Gardy Artigas (b1938), who worked with Joan Miró for many years, collaborating on works such as the ceramic mural at Barcelona airport. The fountain’s concave surface is pleasingly colourful but the waters appear to have ceased flowing some years ago, and the installation is looking increasingly shabby.

The banking hall of the former British Linen Bank (1902-3, John Macvicar Anderson, now Bank of Scotland), Threadneedle Street, retains its striking pastel-coloured Burmantofts faience ceiling, which extends into a subsidiary hall.[22]

The bright red high-relief terracotta frieze (1887) on the exterior of Cutlers’ Hall (1886-7), Warwick Lane, realistically depicts late Victorian cutlery production; the sculptor was Benjamin Creswick (1853-1946) of Sheffield, Ruskin’s protégé and once a cutler himself (Fig 161). Creswick, who opened his London studio in 1884, was Master of Modelling and Modelled Design at Birmingham School of Art during 1889-1918, and carried out several terracotta commissions in Birmingham. The frieze was made by E. Goodall & Co of Manchester.[23]

On the exterior of the former Nordheim Model Bakery, Widegate Street, are four blue and white glazed faience reliefs (1926) of bakers in action, rare ceramic works designed by the London sculptor Philip Lindsey Clark (1889-1997) and made by Carter’s of Poole.[24]


1.^         Philip Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London Public Sculpture of Britain (Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2003).
2.^         John Price, ''Everyday heroes': The Memorial Tablets of Postman's Park', TACS Journal, 10 (2004), pp18-23.
3.^         The Builder, vol 67, 24th November 1894.
4.^         Carter Archive, Poole Museum Service, CP348.
5.^         The Builder, vol 68, 9th February 1895, p98. G. H. Elphick registered three interlocking tile designs (numbers 241167-9) on the 29th September 1894.
6.^         Tile UK, October 1996, vol 1, no 2, p17.
7.^         Tour Notes: Holland House and the City of London, (TACS, 1990).
8.^         Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner, London 1: The City of London. Buildings of England (Penguin, London, 1997).
9.^         Christopher Hussey, 'Faience as a Medium for Modern Architecture', Architectural Review, 70 (1931), pp101-4.
10.^       Russell Wright, Signs of the Times: a guide to the materials of modernism 1927-1933 (Building Centre, London, 1981).
11.^       Finch Allibone and Lynn Quiney, The Law Society's Hall: An architectural history 1823-1995 (The Law Society, London, 1995).
12.^       Paul Atterbury and Louise Irvine, The Doulton Story (Royal Doulton Tableware, Stoke on Trent, 1979).
13.^       'Two new telephone exchanges in London', Architects' Journal, 129 (1959) 12th February, p256.
14.^       'Office building, Holborn', Architect and Building News, 220, 16th August 1961, pp245-50.
15.^       Michael Stratton, Clad is bad? The relationship between structural and ceramic facing materials, in Structure and Style: Conserving Twentieth Century Buildings, ed Michael Stratton (E. & F. N. Spon, London, 1997), pp164-92.
16.^       Tony Herbert and Kathryn Huggins, The Decorative Tile in Architecture and Interiors (Phaidon Press, London, 1995), pp73-7.
17.^       Jane Cochrane, 'Medieval Tiled Floor Patterns', TACS Journal, 5 (1994), pp11-19.
18.^       Joan Jones, Minton: The first two hundred years of design and production (Swan Hill Press, Shrewsbury, 1993), p161.
19.^       Emmanuel Cooper, 'Signature Pieces', Ceramic Review, (2004) 208, pp18-21.
20.^       Personal communication, Ian Betts, Museum of London Specialist Services, 12th August 2004.
21.^       Ward-Jackson, City of London (2003).
22.^       Burmantofts Pottery, (Bradford Art Galleries and Museum, Bradford, 1983).
23.^       British Architect, 29, 6th April 1888, pp243-4.
24.^       'A Modern Bakery', Architect and Building News, 119, 10th February 1928, pp219-21, 230.

The Tile Gazetteer is Copyright © 2005 Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society and Lynn Pearson, Richard Dennis.