Medieval Inlaid(Encaustic)Floor Tiles

Medieval Tiles (Shire Album) by Hans Van Lemmen (2004)

Inlaid tiles, or ‘encaustic’ tiles as they are also known, are fired clay tiles with a simple pattern such as an heraldic motif picked out in a clay inlay of a contrasting colour, usually in white on a red ground. The tiles are glazed and were originally fired in a wood burning kiln. They depend entirely upon the raw clays and glazes for their colours, and not pigments, paint or enamels. The tiles developed from about 1220 to about 1550, probably earliest on continental Europe, although the basic technique is likely of earlier Middle-eastern origin. They represent a significant development over earlier mosaic tile designs. They were probably inspired, at least in part, by the Italian marble mosaic floors, and attempts to achieve patterned floors with local materials.

Encaustic or inlaid tiles enjoyed two periods of great popularity. The first lasted until Henry the Eighth’s reformation in the 16th century, and the second came when the tiles caught the attention of craftsmen during the Victorian Gothic Revival era, who after much trial and error mass-produced these tiles, made them available to the general public. During both periods tiles were made across Western Europe though the centre of tile production was in England. Companies in the United States also made encaustic tile during the Gothic Revival architecture style’s period.

The use of the word ‘encaustic’ to describe an inlaid tile of two or more colours is technically incorrect. The word ‘encaustic’ literally means “burning in”. The term originally described a process of painting with a beeswax-based paint that was then fixed with heat. It was also applied to a process of medieval enamelling. The term did not come into use when describing tile until the 19th century. Supposedly, Victorians thought that the two-colour tiles strongly resembled enamel work and so called them encaustic. Despite the error, the term has now been in common use for so long that it is an accepted name for inlaid tile work.

In both medieval times and in the 19th and 20th Century Gothic Revival, these tiles were most often made for and laid in churches. Even tiles that were laid in secular buildings appear to be copies of those found in religious settings. Encaustic tile floors exist all over Europe but are most prevalent in England where the greatest numbers of inlaid tiles were made..

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Will Crystal Palace rise again?

Back when plans were submitted for a building to commemorate the Millennium, which of course materialized as the Millennium Dome, I thought a full sized replica of Crystal Palace would be ideal. This story caught my attention:

“Plans for a replica of the original Crystal Palace are being worked on by architects and developers. The original building was built by Sir Joseph Paxton in Hyde Park for the Great Exhibition of 1851, 160 years ago.

After being moved to a location in Sydenham, now known as Crystal Palace Park, it was destroyed by fire in 1936. The plans for a new building, estimated to cost £220million, incorporate galleries, a snow slope, music auditorium, leisure facilities and a hotel.

They have been drawn up by the New Crystal Palace company, a consortium of local businessmen. It expects to submit the plans to Bromley council “in the next six to eight months”. Company spokesman Patrick Goff said: “We want to put the Crystal Palace back and give the park a heart again. Our plan could be entirely funded through the commercial elements, with no money needed from the public purse.”

However, a rival scheme for the park has been put forward by the Mayor’s London Development Agency. It is proposing the construction of 180 private houses in the park, despite local objections. The new homes would be built on the site of a caravan park. The £67.5million scheme also includes student accommodation, landscaping and various improvements to the park itself as well as a new regional sports centre that includes an indoor swimming pool. Plans were approved after Public Inquiry in December 2010..

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Animal Farm

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story (1945) by George Orwell

Rating: ★★★★★

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”                                                   

George Orwell (1903- 1950) was keenly aware of the injustices and poverty in Britain during the 1930’s. He knew that the class system meant many of the upper and middle class viewed the working class in terms not unlike animals.  In The Road to Wigan Pier he observed:  “The train bore me away, through the monstrous scenery of slag-heaps, chimneys, scrap-iron, foul canals, paths of cindery mud criss-crossed by the prints of clogs. As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside, and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her- her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was near enough to catch her eye. She had a round, pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that ‘it isn’t the same for them as it would be for us’, and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her- understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum back-yard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.”

The book Animal Farm’ is subtitled:  ‘A fairy story’ and George Orwell uses the fable in extended form to create a world at once unreal yet recognizable as an allegorical warning to contemporaries. Orwell draws a pessimistic picture of a Stalinist dictatorship sustained by an apathetic, ignorant, or a frightened populace with little choice but to support the rebellion. The satirical novel Nineteen Eighty-four , published in 1949, likewise painted a picture of dehumanized society under totalitarian rule..

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