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The elaborate encaustic tile pavement in the sanctuary and chancel of St Mary Magdalene Church (1881-3, William Butterfield), Windmill Hill, was made by Godwin’s and includes their ‘Green Man’ design.



The Jacobean mansion Charlton House (now a community centre), Charlton Road, was built around 1607-12 and contains many fireplaces, some of extremely elaborate design; most of them include hand-painted tin-glazed tiles with polychrome floral or geometric patterns. Two fireplaces have eighteenth century Spanish or seventeenth century Dutch tiles, but the majority of the fireplace tiles were produced in Millwall by Frederick Garrard, who made copies of Spanish cuenca tiles and early polychrome Delftware designs towards the end of the nineteenth century. The ground floor ‘Delft Corridor’ is lined with nineteenth century machine-made blue and white tiles.[1]


The luxurious mansion on Bexley Road rebuilt by the nitrate speculator Colonel John Thomas North in 1889-91 was mostly destroyed during the Second World War, but the remainder, with its splendid winter garden, is now part of the Avery Hill Campus of the University of Greenwich. The Colonel’s villa included a spectacular private three-roomed Turkish bath (lost in the war), with an octagonal frigidarium (cold room) featuring red and white Burmantofts faience arcading.[2] The same firm’s faience in shades of blue, green, grey and white was used for the walls and ceiling of the tepidarium (warm room), and on the walls of the calidarium (hot room).[3] Still surviving in the entrance hall is a fireplace with tiling which bears the W. B. Simpson & Sons ‘WBS’ mongram; the tiles show allegorical female figures and the matching hearth tiles depict a pair of heads. The room (of around 1890) which now serves as the women’s staff locker room and toilet is a Burmantofts tour-de-force with relief patterned floral wall tiles in yellow ochre, a patterned faience dado, cream faience panelled ceiling and an elaborate olive-green faience mirror fitment.[4]


The most southerly of the structures on the Royal Observatory site (now part of the National Maritime Museum) on Blackheath Avenue in Greenwich Park are the Altazimuth Pavilion and the South Building, both put up in 1894-9 to the designs of the eighth Astronomer Royal, William Christie, and the London architect William Crisp. The Altazimuth Pavilion, which held a small telescope, is mainly brick with a terracotta porch and entrance. The larger South Building, originally the New Physical Observatory, currently houses a Planetarium and has much external terracotta ornament including the names of famous astronomers and instrument makers, and a bust of the astronomer John Flamsteed above the entrance. There are also allegorical figures with symbols of the Zodiac; these were modelled by W. J. Neatby for Doulton’s of Lambeth, their marks appearing on the buff terracotta.

On Croom’s Hill, which runs along the western edge of Greenwich Park, is the R. C. Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea (1851, architect W. W. Wardell), with a mildly decorative Minton encaustic tiled chancel pavement. Its lay-out was planned by A. W. N. Pugin, whose detailed drawing survives, complete with identification of the tile designs and the quantities required.[5]

In the middle of Greenwich on Romney Road is the former Royal Hospital for Seamen, now largely the Maritime Greenwich Campus of the University of Greenwich. Its construction began in 1696, and the Queen Mary Building (now Queen Mary Court), which included the Chapel, was completed in 1751. The Chapel was gutted by fire on the 2nd January 1779; its refitting and redecoration carried on until 1789, and included the use of a significant amount of Coade stone: 32 pilaster capitals and bases, 32 cherub heads, the Hospital arms, 6 angels supporting the communion table, 4 oval medallions of prophets and 6 circular medallions of apostles. The medallion designs were provided by the artist Benjamin West, who also designed the four Coade stone statues in the Chapel’s entrance vestibule. Following the death of Lord Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805, his body lay in state in the Hospital’s Painted Hall in early January 1806. Soon afterwards, Benjamin West produced several paintings and sketches on the theme of Nelson’s death, including The Immortality of Nelson, in which Neptune delivers the heroic figure of Nelson to Britannia; he chose this image for the Nelson pediment of the King William Building (now King William Court). This huge pediment sculpture, 40 feet wide and 10 feet high at its apex, was modelled in Coade stone by West and Coade’s Joseph Panzetta in 1810-12 (it is marked 1813), and was considered by the firm to be its finest achievement (Fig 162). The Nelson pediment was intended to be the first in a series of  Hospital pediment sculptures commemorating naval actions, but was the only one executed. West had seen and been much impressed by the Elgin Marbles when they were first displayed in London in 1807, and felt that in regard to the Nelson pediment, both his artistry and the sculptural qualities of Coade stone, particularly its durability, were at least the equal of the Greeks.[6] The final Hospital order from the Coade works (in 1814) was for a frieze of the Hospital arms for the west front of the Civic Offices or Trafalgar Quarters (1813-15), just east of the main site on Park Row; the building required suitable decoration as it terminated the eastward view through the grounds.

The Greenwich Mural (1972), in Woolwich Road, was commissioned from Philippa Threlfall and Kennedy Collings by the architects of Greenwich District Hospital, which was completed in the late 1970s but closed in 2001; the 60’ long mural, however, remains in situ (Fig 163). The mural, whose theme is the maritime history of Greenwich, is made from glazed and unglazed ceramics and stone; it was one of the earliest large-scale murals to be produced by Threlfall and Collings.[7]


On the south platform of Woolwich Arsenal railway station, in the centre of Woolwich on Woolwich New Road, is a large high-relief terracotta mural entitled Workers of Woolwich (1993) by Martin Williams. Just west of the station at 15 Thomas Street is the Earl of Chatham PH (1903); the impressive floral tile panels on its facade were supplied by tile merchant Alfred Carter (a son of Jesse Carter of the Poole firm Carter’s) from his Brockley works, a few miles south-west of Woolwich. Slightly north in the main shopping area, Powis Street, is the massive former Central Store (rebuilt 1903, now offices) of the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society; the design was by the Society’s architect Frank Bethell. Its elaborate red brick and pale brown terracotta facade includes a statue of Alexander McLeod, one of the founders of the Society, by the well known sculptor Alfred Drury (1856-1944).[8]

At the west end of Powis Street is John Wilson Street and the former Odeon Cinema (1937, architect George Coles, now New Wine Church) with its sensational curved wall and fin of buff mottled Hathernware with black highlights.[9] Continue about a quarter mile west, crossing the main road; take Leda Road northward, then Venus Road which leads to the river and Resolution Walk to see the colourful Sealife tile mural (1987) by Charlie Pig, installed as part of the Elfrida Rathbone Society’s 1980s Riverside Walk Project. Just west in Defiance Walk (off Antelope Road) is the Clockhouse Community Centre, home to two large pictorial tile panels which were part of the decoration in the Clarence Arms PH in Plumstead Road, near Woolwich Arsenal, until its demolition in 1980. One shows sailors manning a machine gun, the other a muzzle-loading gun, and both are signed by W. Lambert, dated 1896 and marked ‘G. W. & S. Ltd’. William Lambert was a glass and tile painter who set up his own firm in the early 1890s but went bankrupt in 1895, after which he designed and painted tiles for George Wooliscroft & Sons of Stoke-on-Trent.


1.^         Personal communications, Chris Blanchett, 5th August 2004; and Ian Betts, Museum of London Specialist Services, 12th August and 2nd September 2004.
2.^         David Shorney, A Brief History of the Mansion at Avery Hill (Thames Polytechnic, London, 1990).
3.^         'Turkish Bath, Avery Hill', The Builder, 63, 26th November 1892, p420.
4.^         Burmantofts Pottery, (Bradford Art Galleries and Museum, Bradford, 1983).
5.^         Paul Atterbury and Clive Wainwright, Pugin: A Gothic Passion (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1994), pp147-8.
6.^         John Bold, Greenwich: An Architectural History of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen's House (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2000), pp176-9, 185.
7.^         Penny Beckett, 'The Ceramic Murals of Philippa Threlfall', Glazed Expressions, (1999) 39, pp2-4.
8.^         Michael Stratton, The Terracotta Revival (Victor Gollancz, London, 1993), p132-3.
9.^         Kevin Wheelan, The History of the Hathern Station Brick & Terra Cotta Company (Mercia Cinema Society, Birmingham, 1982).

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