Jackfield Tile Museum Reveals Major Lottery-Funded Restoration

By Fiona Winward | 29 October 2004
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Shows a replica of a section of the tiled wall of Covent Garden underground station. There are people walking past the wall.

Copy of a section of Covent Garden underground station's tiled wall at Jackfield Tile Museum

Jackfield Tile Museum in Shropshire’s Ironbridge Gorge is reopening to the public on November 1 for the first time in two years to reveal a major £2 million restoration.

The work was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the museum has used some of the money to create a new suite of period settings that illustrate the diversity of Victorian ‘tile mania’.

Visitors can walk through replicas of a noisy Covent Garden underground station, the bar of a Sunderland public house, the grandiose bathroom of an Edwardian villa and a 1929 children’s ward from London’s Middlesex Hospital with intricately painted tiles depicting nursery rhymes.

“It’s an experience that appeals to all the senses,” curator and restoration project manager Michael Vanns told 24 Hour Museum. “It’s tactile, it’s colourful and not at all what you might expect from a standard museum.”

Shows two pairs of feet walking on a decorative tiled floor.

Encaustic tiled floor at Jackfield Tile Museum

The museum is housed in the UK’s best surviving example of a Victorian tile factory, originally built by Henry Dunnill in 1874.

Jackfield was the most prolific tile-making centre in the country until after the Second World War, but the museum also displays decorative glazed tiles from Victorian and Edwardian tile makers across Britain.

“What we are doing here is celebrating the huge industry that tiled the Empire,” said Mr Vanns. “Millions of British tiles decorated buildings all over the world, from banks and hotels in Australia to government halls in Canada and palaces in India.”

As well as displays explaining the history of tile making in the Severn Valley, the museum also contains a restored 19th century gas-lit Tile Trade Showroom, the equivalent of a walk-in colour catalogue where Victorian buyers would have chosen their tiles.

Shows a long room with a tile mural along the wall depicting what seems to be a hunting scene.

Long Gallery at Jackfield Tile Museum

There are hands-on workshops where visitors can decorate their own tiles and visits to the Craven Dunnill factory, which continues to craft intricate tiles for historic houses and public spaces.

In recent years the factory has been involved in the restoration of tiles across the country, from the Palace of Westminster in London to public toilets on the Isle of Bute.

“The museum is also a very good place to come if you want some inspiration for doing up your interiors,” added Mr Vanns.

Jackfield Tile Museum is one of the ten award-winning Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire, which also include the interactive technology centre Enginuity, Blists Hill Victorian Town and Coalport China Museum.

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