Wednesday 5 September 2007

Minton Tiles

One of the many delights in the Palace of Westminster are the Minton tiles. Herbert Minton was a friend of Pugin, and worked with him on the decoration of the Palace when it was rebuilt after the devastating fire of 1834. These floor tiles, are described by the British Museum -

"The inlaid technique (also misleadingly known as 'encaustic') can be traced back to the Middle Ages: a design is impressed into a clay blank and then filled with liquid clay (slip) of another colour. The colour scheme was usually buff and red.

Pugin worked in collaboration with the Minton factory to successfully revive the inlaid technique, introducing such new colours as blue, white and green. The motifs are taken from medieval sources but Pugin achieved remarkable originality in his clear designs. In the case of 'sandwich' tiles such as these, a layer of coarse clay is sandwiched between two layers of much finer clay, then used as the blank. This method reduced shrinkage in the firing, and was more economical."

Minton tiles can also be found in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell, when he was Majority Whip, placed on his website a description of the Majority Whip Office Suite - "Each room in the suite also features historic "Minton tile" used throughout the north and south extensions. The richly colored and patterned tiles were made by Minton, Hollins and Company of Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, England. The company made over 1,000 square feet of tile for the Capitol."

A History of Minton tiles - and some wonderful photographs can be found at http://www.tile-heaven.co.uk/mintons-01.htm.