27 Jul 2023
by Jennifer Frost-Volunteer

The task for this project is to review accessioned tiles collected from around Wales and compare them with images and provenance descriptions in the book, The Medieval Tiles of Wales by John M. Lewis, to confirm they were properly catalogued. Amgueddfa Cymru-Museum Wales’s medieval floor tile collection is extensive and ever growing so it’s been a while since the collection was reviewed as a group. Some tiles are whole, others are fragments no larger than a two pence coin; some have detailed designs still incredibly intact; others are “plain” tiles which are less distinct but no less beautiful for their simplicity and still vibrant colour. The trays are organized by excavation location. Some trays are quick to organize and fly by, others can take an hour or more to go through. Those are honestly the fun ones as it becomes a puzzle trying to match the piece in your hand with the illustration in the book and see what fragments fit where.

We begin to recognize textures, designs, and shapes and identify early on if a tile doesn’t belong with the others in the tray. Before long a familiarity with both the types of tiles found at specific locations and their images emerges and the tiles start to tell their story. Some are more worn than others and we start to think about the footfall and where these tiles were in relation to each other in their original setting. Whether there was a pattern about how they were placed and how or why certain designs were chosen over others. About 25 trays in we started to see similarities in the tiles excavated from one location. A series of very distinctive scoop marks on the back of some the tiles, possibly indicative of a specific craftsman. More tiles recently excavated from the same location also show this pattern, which leads us to imagine how busy this craftsman must have been.

This project really is like putting together a puzzle and the stories the individual tiles tell us are fascinating. As a volunteer who doesn’t often have access to pieces like this, it’s amazing to watch this unfold and I can’t wait to see what other tales these tiles will reveal as the project continues.


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Jennifer Frost-Volunteer

Amgueddfa Cymru-Museum Wales

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