Images from the published Tile Gazetteer

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Bethnal Green

Inside the former Unitarian Church (1871, now Chalice Foundation), at the south end of Mansford Street, is a 1903 opus sectile panel symbolising charity. It was designed by Henry Holiday (1839-1927) and made in his own workshop, which he set up in 1891 soon after leaving Powell’s of Whitefriars, where he had been the principal designer. Just across Mansford Street from the church, on the outer wall of Lawdale Junior School, is a jolly Millennium tile panel (2000) with a lively depiction of the Dome (Fig 181).

On the outside of the little chapel (1904) attached to St Margaret’s House (originally a women’s settlement), Old Ford Road, is a colourful semicircular majolica relief of the Annunciation, a memorial to P. R. Buchanan; it was probably imported from one of the Italian factories which made copies of della Robbia ware.

St Matthew’s Church, St Matthew’s Row, was built in 1743-6 but its interior was destroyed by fire in 1859; although reopened in 1861, bombing during 1940 left the church as a roofless shell. The present church was rebuilt in 1958-61 by architect Antony Lewis, who commissioned several young artists to produce work for its interior. The ash-glazed stoneware Stations of the Cross were made by the sculptor Donald Potter (1902-2004) using a wood-burning kiln he built at Bryanston School, Blandford, Dorset, where he taught art during 1940-84 while continuing with his own commissions.[1]


Behind the bar of the George Tavern, 373 Commercial Road, is a complete tiled wall including three pictorial panels painted by W. B. Simpson & Sons, the largest of which shows the tavern in 1654.

Mile End

Carter’s of Poole produced the interior tilework for the foyer of the new Engineering Building at Queen Mary College (part of the University of London), Mile End Road, in 1958 (Fig 182). Although some of the stairwell tiling has disappeared, two tube-lined murals remain beside a lecture theatre entrance: a coat of arms and Forces of Nature, an engineering-inspired design by A. B. Read which incorporates letters from the Greek alphabet.[2] In 1960-1 Carter’s made six large pictorial panels on highly technical themes for the exterior of the Physics Building, just east of Engineering; the firm described these attractive and still-extant works as part of ‘a particularly interesting contract for us’ (Fig 183).[3]

Not far from the College is the Three Crowns (now L’Oasis), 237 Mile End Road, with good interior tiling by W. B. Simpson & Sons including a panel of the Field of the Cloth of Gold just inside the front door.


Screen-printed tiles designed by Peggy Angus and made by Carter’s of Poole were used as mural decoration inside the Susan Lawrence School (1951), Cordelia Street, and the adjoining Elizabeth Lansbury Nursery School (1952). The schools (no public access), now merged, were designed by architects YRM, the earlier building being part of the Festival of Britain ‘Live Architecture Exhibition’ in Poplar’s Lansbury Neighbourhood. Specially-commissioned pattern-making tiles line the rear wall of the double-height hall at the Susan Lawrence School, where only three different tiles, including the well-known Wave and Circle motifs, appear in repeats of eighteen; other Angus tiles were used in the school’s dining hall. Critics approved of the school and it was published widely, and influentially, in the architectural press; the tiles were considered to combine practicality with a craft-based appearance which added texture to the relatively severe lines of the modern buildings.[4]


Between the Thames and The Highway is the King Edward VII Memorial Park; towards its south-west corner is the Navigators’ Memorial (1922), a tablet and three-tiled Carter’s semicircular polychrome plaque showing galleons in full sail. It was erected by London County Council to commemorate a group of merchant adventurers who set sail from Shadwell in 1553.


The facade of the former Jewish Soup Kitchen (1902, architect Lewis Solomon, now apartments), Brune Street, is largely of buff terracotta by Edwards of Ruabon; lettering in curling script includes English and Hebrew dates, and a relief of a soup tureen hovers above the entrance.

Inside the Ten Bells, 84 Commercial Street, is lavish late Victorian tiling by W. B. Simpson & Sons including a large pictorial panel entitled ‘Spitalfields in ye Olden Time - Visiting a Weaver’s shop’. The pub, which stands near Christ Church Spitalfields, is famed for its connections with Jack the Ripper.

On the chancel beam inside Christ Church Spitalfields, Fournier Street, is an unusually highly detailed Coade stone representation of the royal arms as it appeared during 1816-37. It is dated 1822 and signed by William Croggon, who bought the business after Mrs Coade’s death in 1821.[5]


Stretching along the front wall of Stepney Green School, Ben Jonson Road, is a fabulous tile mural designed by Jean Powell with the school’s pupils and made around 2002 by Powell’s firm, Craig Bragdy Design (Fig 184). Individual tiles by the schoolchildren form the central section but above and below are the brilliant swirls of colour so characteristic of Powell’s own work, which is rarely seen on this scale in Britain as most of Craig Bragdy’s murals are now commissioned by foreign clients.

Faience for the massive, faintly art deco cream facade of the former Troxy Cinema (1931-3, architect George Coles, now Mecca Bingo), Commercial Road, was supplied by the Hathern Station Brick and Terra Cotta Company.


Whitechapel Library (1891-2, architects Potts, Son & Hennings), 77 Whitechapel High Street, has dressings of buff Burmantofts terracotta; inside the lobby is a pictorial tile panel of ‘Whitechapel Hay Market 1788’ which was originally at the Horns, a nearby pub demolished in 1963. The panel dates from 1889 and was painted by Charles Evans & Co, the west London firm of art tile and glass designers. The Library was funded by the newspaper editor and philanthropist John Passmore Edwards (1823-1911), who was also responsible for its close neighbour the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1898-1901, architect Charles Harrison Townsend); the upper part of its unusual art nouveau facade is clad in buff terracotta by Gibbs & Canning of Tamworth.[6] The Gallery is undergoing redevelopment work which should be completed in 2007.


1.^.         Vivienne Light, 'An Inspiring Century', Ceramic Review, (2003) 199, pp22-3.
2.^         Carter Archive, Poole Museum Service, CP720.
3.^         Lynn Pearson, 'To Brighten the Environment: Ceramic Tile Murals in Britain, 1950-70', TACS Journal, 10 (2004), pp12-17.
4.^         Katie Arber, 'Peggy Angus, designer of modern tiles for a modern Britain', Decorative Arts Society Journal, 26 (2002), pp120-134.
5.^         Columns, Newsletter of the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields, 21, Autumn 2003, p1.
6.^         Architectural Review, vol 9, 1901, pp129-30.

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