British Tile Style
2000 years of inspiration
Are you tiling a wall or floor but crave something different? Look around you and you'll find inspiration in all sorts of places. Let's step back in time to find some tiling highlights from around the UK. We've given some examples of modern interpretation, but let your imagination flow and you'll be amazed what you can achieve.
Image: blurAZ, Shutterstock
Bignor Roman Villa
Discovered by a farmer in 1811, Bignor in West Sussex became a huge draw for Victorian tourists and remains so today. This mosaic of Medusa shows the original owners would have been magnificently wealthy and eager to impress. You can only imagine the society events that could have taken place on these tiles.
Medusa mosaic, Bignor. Image: L Gough, Shutterstock
These 800-year-old glazed tiles are as resplendent today as they were when first fired. Hand-made by master craftsmen, each unique tile has a tale to tell. And these are no museum pieces - you can still walk on them!
Winchester floor tiles. Image: Warren Pearce, Flickr
Delftware was a hugely influential style from its start in the Dutch city of Delft in the 1500s. It is tin-glazed and is usually associated with white porcelain with blue imagery (although other colours were made). Because of the origins, images of windmills and other Dutch iconography were common. Tiles played a big part.
Naval Delftware image. Image: Boston Museum
Arts & Crafts
William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement championed the idea that aesthetics and craftsmanship were important and risked being lost to industrialisation. The imagery draws heavily from folk art, particularly that of Japan, and the idea spread around the world. The designs were ironically often copied and mass-produced.
Fireplace. Image: Stocksolutions, Shutterstock
Tiled Victorian house fronts, porches, hallways. This was standard in many styles of Victorian house, from terraces with small front yards to more exclusive addresses. Often the chequerboard theme continued into the hallway, and there were usually more intricate border patterns.
Victorian Style Path. Image: Russel
Great Public Halls
Civic pride manifests itself in many ways. Halls like St George's in Liverpool are not just to instil pride in the local populace, but also to impress visitors, in much the same way as stately homes once would have. Intricate floor tiles were an integral part of the look.
St George's Hall, Liverpool. Image: Michael D Beckwith
Pubs from the turn of the century often featured extensive tilework inside and out. They served both a sanitary and an aesthetic purpose, perfect for attracting people for debauched evenings. Many towns and cities in the UK have remaining examples of "faience" tiled Victorian pubs.
Peveril of the Peak, Manchester. Image: PushON
London Underground's distinctive white tiles were originally a way of maximising reflective light in the days of gaslight. Each station has a unique pattern in the tiles so that passengers could recognise stations even when they couldn’t see a sign.
Camden Town Station, London. Image: Shutterstock
Shop Entrance Mosaics
A common sight on Britain’s high streets, usually showing the logo of the shop. Although shops would close down and change hands, the mosaics would often remain in place, an incongruous nod to the past. Many remain to this day and are treated as features.