Church of St Mary the Virgin, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

Opus Sectile AltarpieceSt Mary’s Church, St Mary’s Place, is a superb medieval church offers an insight into early Victorian encaustic tile design, with contrasting pavements by Minton’s, Godwin and Maw & Co, as well as a reredos of Powell’s opus sectile work. Beneath a roof in which timber angels hover, tiles occupy almost the whole of the floor area, the grid-patterned pavement in the nave (1864) being by Minton and the font dais by Godwin. The chancel and sanctuary tiling, also Godwin and dating from around 1868, has a wide variety of designs including symbols of St Mary and the four evangelists. To the south is the Trinity Chapel, where rebuilding was completed in 1888. Its tile pavement is by Maw while the reredos, with two delicate blue angels in opus sectile work and much subtly-patterned red glass tiling, was supplied by Powell’s in 1908.

There is still more: the most unusual pavement in the church is that of St Catherine’s Chapel, north of the choir. This tiny area, which functions as a foyer for the well-hidden café to the rear, has an excellent display of Minton tiling laid during the 1840s (relaid 1865), including many of the designs from the Earliest Pattern Book which just pre-dated the firm’s first printed catalogue of 1842. St Mary’s Church has been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust since 1987, and the entire floor of their ‘cathedral’ was cleaned and restored in 1998; this involved the replacement of around 120 tiles with copies produced by H. & R. Johnson’s. [1]


St Catherine’s Chapel – early Minton tiling


Godwin tiles in the sanctuary


Godwin tiles around the font


More Godwin, in the chancel


Minton tiles (1864-8) in the choir and nave


Maw tiles in the Trinity Chapel


The Powell’s reredos in the Trinity Chapel

Text from Lynn Pearson, Tile Gazetteer: A Guide to British Tile and Architectural Ceramic Locations (Richard Dennis, Shepton Beauchamp, 2005).

Web Site:

1. Peter Williams, ‘Floor tiling in Saint Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury’, TACS Journal, 8 (2000), pp16-25. Williams suggests (p16) that the floor tiles in St Catherine’s Chapel were donated by Herbert Minton, but this seems unlikely as there is no mention of such a gift in the list of Minton’s tile donations to churches which was published in the Annals of the Diocese of Lichfield in 1859, and reprinted in Glazed Expressions 32, Spring 1996, pp3-6. See Lynn F. Pearson, Minton Tiles in the Churches of Staffordshire (TACS, 2000) for further discussion of Minton’s donations.