WHITE CERAMIC TILES – Alan Comber
Hallaton Field Work Group have recently excavated a Georgian summer house in the grounds of Deene Park, a stately home in Northamptonshire. Large quantities of white ceramic tiles fragments were found, initially thought to be Victorian. However, as they were mixed in with the demolition rubble from the house, this date did not seem quite right and further investigation found that they were in fact delftware type tiles manufactured in the 18th century and contemporary with the summer house.
The holes in the front of the tiles are from the manufacturing process. Clay is rolled flat on a bench and a wooden template with 2 or 4 copper nails in the corners to stop the template from slipping, is placed on the clay and cut round it. The glazing is tin glaze, prepared from a clear lead glaze with added tin oxide, the more tin oxide used, the whiter the tiles.
White tiles such as these would typically be used in dairies or bath houses. We believe the tiles were used in a cold plunge pool which was fashionable in the 18th century. Nearby Grimsthorpe Castle also had a summer house ( which still exists and is used as a holiday let ) and a plunge pool for that was proposed but never built.
The tiles would most likely have been made in London, Bristol or Liverpool. English tile makers in these cities at this time were probably immigrants fleeing religious persecution in the Low Countries. If the tiles were not made in England they would probably have been imported from Holland.
Unfortunately the only sure way of finding out the origin of the tiles is by scientific analysis (Inductively Coupled Plasma- Mass Spectrometry). This is very expensive and needs an expert to interpret results.