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The monumental domed pile of Harrods store, which occupies a site near the north end of Brompton Road, originated as a small grocery shop owned by Charles Henry Harrod in 1853. As the business grew, adjoining properties were purchased, and the architect C. W. Stephens was appointed in 1894 to oversee the complete rebuilding of the four and a half acre site. The first stage included the erection in 1902-3 of the elaborate salmon-pink Doulton block terracotta Brompton Road facade, which is topped by a high-relief figure of Britannia modelled by John Broad, along with the Harrods motto Omnia Omnibus Ubique - All things, for all people, everywhere. The same shade of terracotta continues on the south (Hans Road) elevation, also by Stephens and mostly dating from 1910-12, although the entrance to the flats which originally comprised four of the upper floors was built in 1895. Stephens was also responsible for the east (Basil Street) facade, but this was rebuilt in 1929-30 by Louis D. Blanc, who was the Harrods house architect during 1920-35. Blanc chose matching unglazed brown Doulton terracotta and the same firm’s stoneware in a new bronze finish for the neo-classical facade.[1] The north (Hans Crescent) side of the block was largely rebuilt in 1939 by the architect John L. Harvey.

The store’s original internal plan was cellular, with a series of separate units lit by light wells, which continued through to the flats above; the flats were replaced by sales floors in the early 1930s. One relatively unchanged - although restored - survivor is the ground floor Meat Hall (1902-3), which centres on its infilled lightwell and is decorated in Doulton’s Parian ware with a delightful scheme including twenty medallions of stylised images of farming and hunting scenes designed by W. J. Neatby. Further tiling was provided for the Meat Hall in 1911 by the Art Pavements & Decorations Co, a London firm founded by Conrad Dressler.[2] Next door to the Meat Hall is the Tea, Coffee and Chocolate Hall (originally the Bakery) of 1902-3, where the wall tiling, with its floral frieze and flowered dado, was supplied by Malkin Tile Works.[3] The two adjoining halls, Floral and Charcuterie, were built in 1925 and have some (restored) Doulton tile decoration. Other minor pieces of ceramic decoration inside Harrods include a modern panel showing polo players; this can be found in the fifth floor Riding Department.

The open porch of 1 Cadogan Gardens (built in the 1890s) has a tall and elaborate dado of mainly late nineteenth century Spanish cuerda seca tiles whose designs are mostly copies of fifteenth to sixteenth century Spanish motifs. There are also some earlier Spanish tiles, a four-tile group of Moorish design and a few small painted tiles. Set into the wall are two tile plaques bearing crowns and lettering; they were made in Seville around 1700 and were originally fixed to a property which belonged to the city’s Royal Hospital.[4]

At 52 Cadogan Square (1885) is an example of the typically flamboyant use made of terracotta by the architect Ernest George (1839-1922) of George & Peto; its buff Doulton terracotta ornament includes a group of three grotesque figures above the main window, the central one being a jester playing a violin.


The large hand-painted, tin-glazed tile installation depicting Chelsea scenes completed for the interior of the Waitrose store at 196 King’s Road in 1999 was designed and made by Reptile (Edward Dunn and Carlo Briscoe of Carmarthen); it was Reptile’s thirty-third commission from the supermarket chain, which has their tiling in about 40% of its branches.

The former dairy, at the rear of the house now known as the Old Dairy, 46 Old Church Street, was rebuilt in 1908 and has a terracotta bull’s head protruding just below its pediment. Another such head ornaments the house itself, along with three tile panels, two on the front and a larger pastoral scene on the side; all seem likely to date from 1908. The front panels show a dairymaid and ‘The early mower whets his scythe’; in fact he is about to take a drink from his flask.


The Debenham House (1904-7), 8 Addison Road, allowed the theories of its architect, Halsey Ricardo, their fullest expression. He was an enthusiast for colour in the townscape, for building materials which could resist the corrosive effects of city air, and rejected elaborate external ornament in favour of polychromy (Fig 164). The facade of his villa designed for Ernest Ridley Debenham, chairman of the department store Debenham & Freebody, combined cream Doulton Carraraware with glazed bricks by Burmantofts in shades of deep green, reflecting the colours of the garden, and light blue, to mirror the sky.[5] The brick backs carry the Leeds Fireclay Company mark. The house is approached through a covered walkway decorated with tiles by William De Morgan; Ricardo was the architect of De Morgan’s Sands End Pottery (1888) and was De Morgan’s business partner during 1888-98. De Morgan shared Ricardo’s views on colour and architecture, and the remaining stock of the Pottery, from which De Morgan retired in 1905, was used up in and around the Debenham House. The walkway has some of the best tiles, including trial runs for De Morgan’s P&O liner panels, which can also be seen to the rear of the house in the loggia and breakfast room, while a peacock design appears in the vestibule.

The focal point of the interior is the central domed hall, clad in richly coloured mosaics which were commissioned separately after completion of the house. The design, by George Jack (1855-1931), better known as principal furniture designer for Morris & Co, included mythical and legendary figures, signs of the Zodiac and small portraits of the Debenhams and their children; Gaetano Meo supervised the execution of the mosaic work.[6] The main rooms of the house contain a starry array of arts and crafts fittings, notably a series of De Morgan tile panels of wonderfully varied design; the strange beasts populating the lustre tiles of the several bathrooms are especially memorable. Whether or not De Morgan ever saw the house is unknown, although he did describe it as a ‘beautiful palace’ after having read an article about it sent to him by Ricardo.[7] It is certainly the most wide-ranging architectural use of De Morgan tiles in Britain. The tiling was restored in 2002-3 by conservator Clare Spicer, after Debenham House had reverted to private domestic use following its stint as an institutional base.

The Jacobean mansion Holland House, at the centre of Holland Park, was damaged during the Second World War and mostly demolished in the 1950s, leaving just a shell and some interesting outbuildings. Running in front of the house is an unusual pierced block wall, probably part of the 1839-46 alterations to the gardens, which uses an early form of buff terracotta from Broseley; terracotta was being made in the East Shropshire coalfield by the mid nineteenth century.[8] Connecting the house with the stables, to the south-west, is the covered arcaded Causeway (1890); its ground floor is decorated with panels of large tiles depicting grapes, while above are more tile panels and benches with brightly coloured heraldic tiles. The Causeway - now part of the tea garden - would look equally at home in Spain or southern Italy, which is where the tiles may have originated.[9]

Many pubs originally in the estate of the London brewers Charrington’s have white faience facades, most likely in Doulton’s Carraraware, but the Castle, on the corner of Holland Park Avenue and Clarendon Road, is an exception, with an interwar facade of olive green faience including good lettering. On the Clarendon Road side, above a doorway, is large, unsigned, pictorial panel of a castle on a hill.

Leighton House (1866, now a museum), 12 Holland Park Road, was designed for the artist Frederic Leighton (1830-96) by his friend George Aitchison, who later added the Arab Hall (1877-9), which was intended to house Leighton’s collection of Middle Eastern tiles brought back from his travels through Damascus, Cairo, Jerusalem and Rhodes in the 1860s and 1870s. He also bought tiles from others who visited the same areas, and the tiles became so popular with European collectors that large panels were often split up. Leighton commissioned Walter Crane to design a mosaic frieze for the Arab Hall, and asked William De Morgan to make additional tiles to fill gaps in panels where tiles were broken or missing. The majority of the tiles in the Arab Hall were produced in Damascus during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and De Morgan was able to create replacements which can only be distinguished from the originals by their slightly yellow ground and crackly glaze.[10] Leighton’s collection, with its De Morgan additions, extends elsewhere on the ground floor, but the centrepiece is the exotic Arab Hall with its marble pool.

The creation of the Arab Hall was the high point of the fashion for eastern-style interiors which followed the publication of Owen Jones’s books on the Alhambra during the 1840s. Home-produced versions of Moorish, Iznik, Persian or even Alhambra styles varied considerably in quality, and after initial adoption by the wealthy, often for smoking or billiard rooms, the style became watered down and appeared more frequently in Turkish baths and public houses. One of the more successful of these interiors, still extant in 1971, was at 12 Kensington Palace Gardens, which the architect Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-77) redecorated for its new owner, city merchant Alexander Collie, around 1866.[11] Digby Wyatt’s work included a Moroccan billiard room incorporating the fireplace he had designed for London’s International Exhibition of 1862. It was adapted from the ‘style of the Alhambra’ and set with Maw’s majolica tiles; the same firm supplied tiles in similar style for the billiard room dado.[12]

William Burges built the Tower House (no public access), 29 Melbury Road, for himself in 1876-8. Its ambitious interior decorative scheme - the architect’s own ‘Palace of Art’ - which mostly remains in place, included a tile frieze in the dining room showing scenes from fairy tales and folk stories; the style is very like that of the Nursery tile frieze at Cardiff Castle, which was executed around 1878-9 by Horatio Walter Lonsdale, who often worked with Burges.

Notting Hill

The Church of St John the Evangelist (1844), on the corner of Lansdowne Crescent and Ladbroke Grove, at the top of Notting Hill, has a Doulton terracotta reredos of 1890 designed by Aston Webb. It depicts the life of St John in a series of high relief (almost three dimensional) panels within a perpendicular gothic framework; the sculptor was Emmeline Halse (1853-1923).

The flat-iron shaped combined florists and public lavatories (1991-3) at 222 Westbourne Grove was designed by architects CZWG and clad in a specially produced shade of green glazed brick from Ibstock Brick.

South Kensington

The Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, occupies the south-easternmost portion of the estate purchased for educational purposes from the proceeds of the 1851 Great Exhibition, but it was not the first structure to be put up on the estate; this was the garden of the Horticultural Society. The notion of constructing a garden, surrounded by buildings, on the site had originally been promoted by Sir Henry Cole, one of the committee members of the 1851 exhibition and later Secretary of the Department of Science and Art (DSA). With the assistance of his architect, Captain Francis Fowke (1823-65) of the Royal Engineers, and the artist Richard Redgrave (1804-88), adviser to the DSA, Cole produced a site plan into which the Horticultural Society’s garden was incorporated. Sydney Smirke was appointed as architect although all the DSA planning team, which from 1859 also included the artist Godfrey Sykes (1824-66), contributed to the design. The garden, which included a series of brick and terracotta arcades designed by Fowke and decorated by Sykes, was opened in 1861; Sykes’s slender, twisted terracotta columns - inspired by Italian renaissance models - won much praise. The terracotta, which was supplied by Mark Henry Blanchard, the leading British manufacturer at the time, was carefully tested by the DSA for its load-bearing capacities. The Horticultural Society garden was largely demolished between 1889 and 1892, but its design had already established the essential characteristics of the later South Kensington style, and showed that terracotta was a structurally sound and cost-effective means of providing decoration.[13]

Work on Fowke’s designs for the South Kensington Museum, now the V&A, began with the construction of the North (1860-2) and South (1861-2) Courts, on the east side of what is now the central quadrangle. These inward-facing facades were decorated with Blanchard’s pale buff terracotta, its forms designed and modelled by Sykes; the frieze running between first and second floor windows was designed by James Gamble (1835-1911) of the DSA team. The more elaborate north range, intended as the main entrance, followed in 1864-6, although work on decorative details continued until 1872; its facade used glazed ceramics on a scale not seen before in Britain. Topping its prominent pediment is a terracotta putto designed by Gamble; the two other high-level sculptural groups were designed and modelled by Percival Ball of Doulton’s and made from their ‘best imperishable material’. Beneath the terracotta cornice is a ceramic mosaic commemorating the 1851 exhibition by Reuben Townroe (1835-1911), also of the DSA team, and above the lecture theatre entrance are two faience panels designed by Sykes and supplied by Minton Hollins. The Blanchard terracotta columns, which enclose iron stanchions, were designed and modelled by Sykes on the theme of the stages of human life; these 15’ high columns were probably Sykes’s last work. The identical columns on the outside of the Science Schools (1867-74, architect Henry Scott), now known as the Henry Cole Wing, were modelled by Gamble in terracotta supplied by A. Wilson of Dunfermline. Much of the terracotta used on the Science Schools, to the north-west, was supplied by Blanchard, but the second floor windows came from James Pulham & Son of Broxbourne, Hertfordshire (a firm better known for the artificial stone Pulhamite), and the street-level balustrading from Doulton’s. Minton’s and Gibbs & Canning supplied majolica tiling or panels. Finally, the south side of the quadrangle was built from 1874, with the terracotta contract being awarded to Doulton’s, but its facade was not finished until 1901, as part of Aston Webb’s 1899-1909 scheme to complete the main Cromwell Road frontage.

Inside this complex building are some of the finest products of British nineteenth century ceramic design, installed to display the possibilities of contemporary building materials. The decorative scheme of the Ceramic Staircase (on the north-west edge of the quadrangle) was designed by Frank Moody (1824-86) in 1866 and completed around 1877. Two of its three flights are clad with Minton Hollins majolica, the themes being arts on the first flight and science and manufacture on the second; much of the work was modelled by Moody, assisted by R. Lunn, Albert Gibbons and E. Wormleighton. Moody, with the assistance of William Wise and Owen Gibbons, also painted the ceilings and spandrels, using Colin Minton Campbell’s newly-developed vitrified ceramic painting process. The tiles of the stair risers are by Minton Hollins, and on the lower landing is a memorial to Henry Cole designed by Moody, a majolica panel with a mosaic portrait of Cole executed by Florence Cole.[14]

Leading off the Ceramic Staircase was the first floor Ceramic Gallery, where the original late 1860s decorative scheme included ten Minton Hollins majolica-clad columns in grey and white featuring the names of famous ceramicists lettered in the pictorial alphabet designed by Sykes. The columns were dismantled in 1914 but the tiles were stored, and two columns (including some new tiles faithfully copied by Charlotte Hubbard of the V&A) were reinstated when the rooms reopened as the Silver Galleries in 1996. Similar columns first appeared in the Centre Refreshment Room (Gamble Room), opened in 1868 but whose thoroughgoing ceramic decoration, possibly inspired by the Royal Dairy, was not completed for some years. The design was by James Gamble and includes Minton Hollins majolica-clad columns, a Sykes letter frieze (also Minton Hollins), Maw’s majolica panels above the doors, and mirror frames by Gibbs & Canning (Fig 165).

East of the Gamble Room is the Grill Room, where a series of large tile panels depicting the seasons and months, designed by Edward Poynter, is arranged above a dado of blue and white floral and landscape tiles painted in 1867-71 on Minton blanks by female students from the National Art Training School. Much else of ceramic interest remains in the frequently altered V&A, including - in the Henry Cole Wing - a grand staircase whose terracotta balustrade was designed by the London architect James William Wild (1814-92).[15]

Just west of the V&A on Cromwell Road is the Natural History Museum, built in 1873-81 on the site of the 1862 International Exhibition (Fig 166). The 1863 competition for its design was won by Francis Fowke, but following his death in 1865 the project was taken on by Alfred Waterhouse, who changed the appearance of the elevations from renaissance to romanesque whilst retaining the spirit of Fowke’s original plan. Waterhouse specified terracotta block construction for the whole of the interior and exterior walling, because of its resistance to atmospheric pollution and its relative cheapness, and was largely responsible for the appointment of Gibbs & Canning as the suppliers; he had been working with them since 1868 on the construction of Manchester Town Hall, completed 1877. Building work on the Museum began in 1873, but severe difficulties in obtaining sufficient quantities of the buff and pale blue terracotta led to delays, and Waterhouse never again used block terracotta as his main constructional material.[16]

Not only was the Natural History Museum the first major public building in Britain to be built with an entire facing of terracotta, the scale and richness of its decoration was unmatched (Fig 167). Beasts peer down from the parapet, clamber around windows and are entwined with foliage, while monkeys skitter up arches in the entrance hall and the ornament continues on a smaller scale throughout both wings. The driving force behind the use of ‘objects of natural history’ as decorative features was the Museum’s founder and first superintendent, Richard Owen (1804-92), who also suggested the division of species between living (west wing) and extinct (east wing). Owen, who in 1842 had been first to coin the term ‘dinosaur’, was a creationist at a time when this view was seen as somewhat old-fashioned following the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859. Waterhouse produced detailed drawings for all the ornamental features, which tread a path between scientific correctness and artistic freedom. They range from low relief to completely three-dimensional and comprise some 272 species. To model his designs, Waterhouse - having rejected sample models from three firms - turned to the architectural carvers Farmer & Brindley, who took on a young Frenchman, Monsieur Dujardin, to carry out the contract. Little is known about Dujardin, who appears to have returned to France after completing work on the Natural History Museum. Once the clay models were made, at one-twelfth over size, they were passed to Gibbs & Canning, who made plaster of Paris moulds and thence the final terracotta blocks.[17] The end result of this collaborative process was a magical architectural bestiary, which initially pleased the critics but was then generally ignored until cleaning in 1975 effected a transformation of the facade; this, however, was achieved with the use of hydrofluoric acid, which scored and bleached the surface of the terracotta. Replacements for some of the parapet sculptures, including a lion and a wolf, were made in 1998 by Hathernware.

The Michelin Building (1910), on the corner of Fulham Road and Sloane Avenue, was commissioned in 1909 as the British headquarters of the Michelin Tyre Company; this three-dimensional advertisement for the pneumatic tyre opened in 1911 (Fig 168). It was designed by Michelin’s own engineer-cum-architect, François Espinasse, probably with substantial input from the brothers André and Edouard Michelin, who both had artistic backgrounds. Hiding its reinforced concrete frame is mostly white Burmantofts Marmo cladding with blue, yellow and green highlights, and a series of high relief faience blocks with assorted tyre-related imagery from rubber plants to interlocking wheels. This eccentric structure is replete with decoration, including stained glass and mosaics depicting Bibendum (the Michelin man), glass cupolas in the form of piles of tyres, and thirty-four tile panels, most of which show motor racing scenes (Fig 169). These were replicas of a set originally made for the Michelin headquarters in Paris by the architectural tile painting firm Gilardoni Fils et Cie, also of Paris, with images largely taken from drawings by the poster artist Ernest Montaut. Gilardoni Fils et Cie went out of business shortly after making the second run of tile panels, which are of rather more mixed quality than the first set. One panel, made of smaller, more detailed tiles with a richer glaze, celebrates the royal warrant granted to the firm in 1908; it was made, probably in England, near the end of 1910.[18] Michelin left the building in 1985; following restoration, completed in 1987, the Michelin Building reopened as an office, shop and restaurant (Bibendum) complex.

The typically polychromatic interior of St Augustine’s Church (1870-7, William Butterfield), Queen’s Gate, was further decorated in 1889-91 with the addition of an astonishing series of pictorial tile paintings running around the entire nave and culminating in a large east wall mural (Fig 170). Towards the end of his career, Butterfield came to prefer the more permanent medium of tile paintings to mural decoration, and favoured the London stained glass firm Bell & Beckham, whose James Sinclair Beckham (1838-1930) would have prepared cartoons under Butterfield’s direction from the architect’s designs; Butterfield’s final two tile paintings at All Saints Church, Margaret Street, Westminster, were executed in 1888 and 1890-1 by the firm. The St Augustine series, which also includes three pairs of small murals in the spandrels of the nave arches, depicts scenes from Genesis to the Ascension. Amongst the north aisle murals are Adam and Eve, Noah and the Tower of Babel; the style is bold, with black lines delineating the figures, almost as if in stained glass. The more delicate south aisle murals begin with the baptism of Jesus and end with the Ascension. All the murals were designed by Butterfield, but only those in the south aisle are known to have been executed by Beckham; some of the north aisle murals have been fired unevenly.[19] The paintings have not always been popular - one turn-of-the-century critic thought their colours ‘puerile in the extreme’ - and they were whitewashed during the 1920s, when the reredos, which still hides the east wall mural, was added.[1=20] However, the other murals were revealed during a restoration programme which began in the mid 1970s.

1.^         Paul Atterbury and Louise Irvine, The Doulton Story (Royal Doulton Tableware, Stoke on Trent, 1979). However, the listed building description for Harrods, written in 1969, suggests that the stoneware or faience of the 1929-30 Basil Street facade was by Hathernware.
2.^         Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Della Robbia Pottery, Birkenhead, 1894-1906: An interim report (Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Department of Leisure Services, Birkenhead, 1980).
3.^         Tactile, Newsletter of the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics Society, June 2001, no 55, p4.
4.^         With thanks to Anthony Ray for information on these tiles.
5.^         Graham Scott, 'The Dream of City Architecture Expressed in Colourful Ceramics - the theories and architecture of Halsey Ralph Ricardo', TACS Journal, 7 (1998), pp11-17.
6.^         Amy Clarke, 'George Jack (1855-1931): Arts and Crafts architect and designer-craftsman', paper given at House of Falkland Study Day, 23rd October 2004, Falkland, Fife. Jack's mosaic designs for Debenham House, dated 1913, are held by the William Morris Gallery.
7.^         Mark Hamilton, Rare Spirit: A life of William De Morgan, 1839-1917 (Constable, London, 1997).
8.^         Michael Stratton, The Terracotta Revival (Victor Gollancz, London, 1993).
9.^         Personal communication, Tony Herbert, 24th July 1997.
10.^       Venetia Porter, 'William De Morgan and the Islamic Tiles of Leighton House', Decorative Arts Society Journal, 16 (1992), pp76-9.
11.^       Mark Girouard, 'Gilded preserves for the rich', Country Life, 150 (1971) 18th November, pp1360-4.
12.^       Tony Herbert and Kathryn Huggins, The Decorative Tile in Architecture and Interiors (Phaidon Press, London, 1995), pp143-6.
13.^       Alan Swale, Architectural terracotta - a critical appraisal of its development and deployment, 1998, MA dissertation, History of Ceramics, University of Staffordshire.
14.^       John Physick, The Victoria and Albert Museum: The history of its building (Phaidon - Christie's, Oxford, 1982).
15.^       Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner, London 3: North West. Buildings of England (Penguin Books, London, 1991).
16.^       Swale, Architectural Terracotta (1998).
17.^       Colin Cunningham, The Terracotta Designs of Alfred Waterhouse (Wiley-Academy, Chichester, 2001).
18.^       Wendy Hitchmough, The Michelin Building (Conran Octopus, London, 1995).
19.^       Michael Kerney, 'All Saints', Margaret Street: A Glazing History', Journal of Stained Glass, 25 (2001), pp27-52. However, Laura Trelford, A Discussion of the Figurative Tile Panels in the Nave of All Saints’, Margaret Street, designed by William Butterfield, 1873-91 (2004, MA dissertation, Courtauld Institute of Art), pp18, 56-65, states (without offering supporting evidence) that all the St Augustine tile panels date from 1871-6, with Bell & Beckham being responsible for the execution of those in the north aisle and Minton’s for the south aisle and west wall panels.
20.^20.       T. Francis Bumpus, London Churches Ancient and Modern (T. Werner Laurie, London, 1908).

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