St Augustine’s tiles are being lined up alongside tiles for the Houses of Parliament (the Palace of Westminster) at Craven Dunnill Jackfield tile manufacturers. Last Thursday our Rector, Centre Manager, and Architect (Fr Marcus Holden, John Coverdale, and Paul Sharrock) travelled to Telford to meet the team making the tiles and to see the processes involved.
Craven Dunnill is a leader in specialist ceramics, and won the tender to produce the replacement tiles as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund restoration here at Pugin’s personal church in Ramsgate. Their factory near Telford was founded in 1872 and is the oldest purpose-built tile factory in the world. It is part of the World Heritage Site of Ironbridge Gorge, and is an active factory with a museum on site.
The team met with Chris Cox, head of encaustic tiles at Craven Dunnill, who spoke with them about the specific order at St Augustine’s, as well as showing the process of tile manufacturing.
Encaustic tiles are a very important part of St Augustine’s. Augustus Pugin revived encaustic tile manufacture alongside Herbert Minton, who went on to tile buildings including the Houses of Parliament in London and the Capitol Building in Washington. Alongside stonework, woodwork, metalwork, and stained glass, tiles were part of Pugin’s revolution of design and style in the Gothic Revival.
New tiles are being made for St Augustine’s to replace lost and damaged tiles for the floors of the Chancel and Lady Chapel. They will be made using the same processes rediscovered by Pugin and Minton, copying Pugin’s designs used in those areas of St Augustine’s.
The Visitor Centre will have a display of original Minton tiles which were originally laid in Parliament, given to St Augustine’s from the Palace of Westminster.