Monday, 5 November 2012

Jackfield Tile Museum

Opulent decorative architectural ceramics define the Victorian architectural legacy – the voracious appetite for complex ornamentation sustained a large industry manufacturing fired clay terracotta and faience products. Companies involved include Doulton, Maw, Burmantofts and Craven Dunnill. In the form of cladding these products both protect and enhance and remain in use to the present. Some of the better known examples have been described here in the past (Michelin Building, Edward Everard in Bristol, Usine Menier and the County Arcade in Leeds) and this is a record of a visit to the Jackfield Tile Museum near Ironbridge that offers a spectacular display of tiling schemes in the Craven Dunnill factory. In the former Drawing Office and Trade Showroom an extraordinary range of mostly Victorian tiles reflects the global span of inspiration derived from Owen Jones’s Grammar of Ornament and the influence of Victorian illustrated books. Elsewhere there are recreations of a 1920s butcher’s shop and an Edwardian pub interior plus examples from London Underground. I have an aversion to museums that insist on guiding the visitor along a didactic track but happily at Jackfield the sheer volume of exhibits allows the visitor to wander at will. 

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