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Examples of Tile Arrangements for Fireplaces 

 

Most people are familiar with the three most often found tile arrangements for cast iron fireplaces, five 6x6 similar tiles per side, five 6x6 tiles making a panel per side and three 6x6 and four 6x3 borders per side. These were the most popular and easiest requiring least thought and imagination, whilst often very appealling and the easy of choice in itself is also appealling and there is no doubt effective and aesthetically pleasing. However there are many other tile arrangements suited for fireplaces giving greater scope for individual taste the most significant being having feature middle tiles that stand out compared to the others.

Whilst it is widely assumed that five tile panels were the most desirable it is not born out by the price, the epitome of good design and good taste was having double size 6" x 12" tiles as the centrepiece. These tiles were typically four times the price of an equvialent single 6" x 6" tile, or double the price of the same design but spread over two 6" x 6' tiles so 6" x 12" tiles are cvonsiderably rarer. Having a larger canvas afforded more scope for artistic interpretation and the proportions are better suited to many designs than five tile panels. Figural designs fit perfectly on 6" x 12" tiles, landscapes both natural and built also work well, such subject matter rarely looks good on 6" x 30" panels appearing rather too stretched. Panels for fireplaces with a double tile in the middle, print & tint double the rest in moulded majolica, were more expensive than print & tint full five tile panels, quite a bit more expensive at around 30% more.

Fireplaces with tiles from the popular picture series were most often found with ten different pictures or six pictures with majolica borders especially tiles from the well known series such as Moyr Smith's Shakespeare. Rarely, and I can recall at most a dozen original examples, fireplaces were fitted with all different floral tiles or five different tiles per side both sides matching. So the scope for the imagination is wide but selecting such an arrangement is far more demanding than opting for a standard arrangement but the visual reward and pleasure of expressing individiuality can be well worth it. Much more often there would be hand painted centrpiece picture tiles with majolica borders and print & tint floral or floral-geometric tiles.

So to the pictures, the first is a fireplace, one of very few found in catalogues with coloured tiles fitted in a fireplace, the cost of colour printing being prohibitive the vast majority of illustrations of fireplaces with tiles were line art. It is a prestigious tile arrangement with bold 6" x 12" arts & crafts style foral tiles amidst complimentary but subordinate majolica tiles. Following are tile panels from catalogues dating from 1889 - 1905 and from manufacturers including Mintons, The Decorative Art Tile Company, Godwin & Hewitt, Marsden, Henry Richards, Pilkington and others, a specturm of the mid to higher quality tile makers of the times.

All the catalogues were lithoprinted line drawings, with no colour photography and the limited range of colours available for printing they were but an approximation of the tiles. Catalogues were not freely distributed as they are nowadays, a decent catalogue was approaching a week's wages for the working man, a skimpy catalogue one or two day's wages. Customers mostly made their choices from shop stocks and samples, catalogues were held by the shops and used in conjunction with samples to assist customers in their decision.

Tile sets for sale | Pairs of tiles for sale

6/9

(81 pennies)

6/9

(81 pennies)

8/6

(102 pennies)

11/-

(132 pennies)

The four above panels are by the same maker, The Decorative Art Tile Company, and from the same advert. Prices are for a pair of panels.

Image credit: The Blanchett Collection

Image credit: The Blanchett Collection

Image credit: The Blanchett Collection

Image credit: The Blanchett Collection
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