Historical Overview

Victorian tiles, historically called encaustic inlaid earthenware tiles, were originally crafted in England by 12th century Cistercian Order Monks. With the abolishment of the monasteries in the 16th century under the rule of Henry VIII, this remarkable skill was lost for several hundred years.

The Victorian age of the 19th century was for many a prosperous time and also one of renewed interest in medieval English architecture and design. The renowned English tile craftsman, Herbert Minton, took advantage of both these factors and rediscovered the lost technique of encaustic tile production.

Archaeological excavation of medieval sites aroused much interest in encaustic tile making. Herbert Minton began experimenting in 1828 and in 1830 bought a half share in Samuel Wright's patent for the production of encaustic tiles. It was several more years before their results where reliable and a catalogue was issues in 1835 containing designs based on medieval originals. Very soon Minton was receiving commissions from churches to lay encaustic tile pavements and his success grew when he won the patronage of Queen Victoria and Price Albert to make a pavement from Osborne House.

The fashion for encaustic tiles spread with the Gothic Revival lead by Agustus Pugin, a friend of Herbert Minton's. Encaustic tile making was the greatest stimulus to the development of the Staffordshire tile making industry in the 19th century. The district was a natural choice as clay and coal were readily available, plus the presence of an already skilled workforce thanks to the established pottery industry.