Louis De Cecco + TSP Mosaic

Mosaic | Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent
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HAVE WE SOLVED THE MOSAIC MYSTERY? CAN YOU HELP?
Thanks to wonderful support and publicity from BBC Radio Stoke, The Sentinel and Staffs Live - Tsp Cafe have been approached by a gentleman who believes that a Hanley based specialist called Louis De Cecco was responsible for this historical mosaic. We believe that his company would have been trading as Mattazoni & De Cecco at the time this mosaic was created in the very late 1800s or early 1900s. We can't be sure yet but it is certainly an interesting and plausible line of enquiry. The following communications offer the evolving story to date...
(*Communications ordered by most recent contributions first. Please also scroll to page bottom for very latest comments. Special thanks to Phil Rowley for his excellent contributions)
(Danny Callaghan): This is what I have been able to find out about Louis De Cecco so far albeit relating to his company activities slightly later than the estimated mosaic date of late 1800s - early 1900s:
1933 - THE Copartnership of MATTAZONI & DE CECCO. carrying on business at 101 Clyde Ferry Street, Glasgow, 107 Lichfield Street, Hanley, and 29 Fountain Street, Belfast, Manufacturers of Jointless Flooring and Mosaic Workers, and of which the Subscribers Argante Mattazoni, Alberto De Cecco and Louis De Cecco were the Partners, was DIS-SOLVED on 15th March 1933; of mutual consent. The Subscriber Alberto De Cecco will continue to carry on business at 101 Clyde Ferry Street, Anderston. Glasgow, in his own name and for his own behoof. He is authorised to receive all debts due to, and pay all debts by, the dissolved Firm. The Subscriber Louis De Cecco will continue to carry on business at 107 Lichfield Street, Hanley, in his own name and for his own behoof. The Subscriber Argante Mattazoni will continue to carry on business at 29 Fountain Street, Belfast, in his own name and for his own behoof. Dated at Glasgow, this fifteenth day of March nineteen hundred and thirty-three. A. DE CECCO, L. DE CECCO, A. MATTAZONI.
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1974 - LOUIS DE CECCO' LIMITED At an Extraordinary General Meeting of the above-named Company duly convened and held at Churchill House, Regent Road, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, on the 18th December 1974, the following Extraordinary Resolutions were duly passed: "That it has been proved to the satisfaction of the Company that this Company cannot by reason of its liabilities continue its business, and that it is advisable that the same should be wound up: and that the Company be wound up accordingly. That Jack Cheetham of Churchill House, Regent Road, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, be and he is hereby appointed the Liquidator of the Company for the purposes of such winding-up." (303) A. L. De Cecco, Chairman. Source: The London Gazette
(Danny Callaghan):Wow! De Cecco - that would be truly gold dust if it is right!! To be honest - I've never heard the name before [in relation to Stoke-on-Trent, however have in relation to Glasgow - still trading today]. This is fascinating - would be great to find out more... I'm (even more) excited!
(Tamsin Harrison): I don't suppose you've heard of an Lewis De Cecco? We've just had a caller who believes that the mosaic could be De Cecco's design. The caller said that his cousins were apprenticed to De Cecco. They worked from a premises on Botteslow St from 1920's to the 1960's & were known for their shop flooring designs/mosaics. It's just fantastic to have people calling us with little stories like that.
(Danny Callaghan): Many thanks Phil - this is intriguing stuff! The gable date-stone on the current TSP premises is 1907. Looking again at this photo - it looks as thought the upper storey has been remodeled (or possibly rebuilt?) at some point - logically in 1907. Your information regarding Harold Field Drapers would suggest this business occupied this building (and next door from 1896 until at least 1912 (i.e after the 'new' date stone/building changes). I wonder if we can identify how long the Drapers occupied the building. If Harold Field occupied it much after 1914 then this clearly Art Nouveau design would not have been commissioned. Art Nouveau styles were elaborate and expensive to produce and were soon superceded by a more minimal and resourceful approach. This resulted in a more streamlined and 'modern' style which evolved into the Art Deco aesthetic.
(Phil Rowley): The coffee shop have confirmed that it is their shop in the 'tram' photo !I've had a rewarding look through trade directories :- In 1896 it was a draper's shop operated by Harold
Field :-
He was presumably doing well, as in the 1912 edition of Kelley's directory he was also using the next door premises :-
(Danny Callaghan): Many thanks Phil - this is intriguing stuff! The gable date-stone on the current TSP premises is 1907. Looking again at this photo - it looks as thought the upper storey has been remodeled (or possibly rebuilt?) at some point - logically in 1907. Your information regarding Harold Field Drapers would suggest this business occupied this building (and next door from 1896 until at least 1912 (i.e after the 'new' date stone/building changes). I wonder if we can identify how long the Drapers occupied the building. If Harold Field occupied it much after 1914 then this clearly Art Nouveau design would not have been commissioned. Art Nouveau styles were elaborate and expensive to produce and were soon superceded by a more minimal and resourceful approach. This resulted in a more streamlined and 'modern' style which evolved into the Art Deco aesthetic.
(Phil Rowley): Correction ! We are now sure that this IS what is now TSP coffee shop. Pall Mall and Piccadilly make an X-junction, so this can't be it. The coffee shop owners have compared the photo with the street as it now appears and have confirmed from the chimneys that this is the right place. They plan to take the same photo from the same viewpoint, but this isn't possible at the moment as the area is fenced off at the moment while new paving is being laid. It appears that the shop was a drapers and a search of local directories has confirmed this. Harold Field had a drapers at 84 Piccadilly in 1896 and it appears that it must have been a success as he is shown is having the same business in 84 and 82 Piccadilly in the 1912 edition.
(Phil Rowley): Here's a picture of the lower part of Piccadilly with an electric tram : date unfortunately not known. After careful thought I've come to the conclusion that the shop bottom left is not the TSP coffee shop, but is that on the corner of Piccadilly and Pall Mall.
(Danny Callaghan): The premises that house TSP Coffee Shop has an unusual and exquisite mosaic that defines the original recessed doorway threshold. Bespoke commercial and art mosaics were made by many prominent companies in Stoke-on-Trent including Richards, Minton & Hollins and Malkins amongst others. Individual ceramic tesserae (pieces) were made in their tens of millions in the city. It is notoriously difficult to identify the designers or makers of mosaics without historical records relating to the original building work or commission. Mosaics sometimes incorporate a decorative encaustic centrepiece tile. If possible the reverse backstamp can sometimes offer an answer but even that could be misleading if the tesserae are made by a different tileworks. The cafe premises has a 1908 date-stone. This would suggest that it was made and installed around the same date. The mosaic design reflects the artistic movement of the day - 'Art Nouveau'. It is understood that the premises could have previously housed a grocers shop belonging a man called George Mason. The central design or roundel does appear to incorporate a 'G' and 'M' - albeit very stylised. This is complimented by beautiful surrounding patterns of tesserae. This pattern flow within mosaics is known as 'andamento'. In this case it uses a combination of techniques: 'opus vermiculatum' (worm-like borders to emphasise the central motif) with 'opus palladianum' (random 'crazy paving') for the background areas.
More research is needed to see if it is possible to establish a manufacturer. Archive material that relates to construction of the building or specific commission is probably the only way that the original maker could be evidenced. However, there are many more general observations that can be made confidently about bespoke commercial or 'art mosaic' and about the history of the shop location. For example we can be almost certain that these ceramic pieces were fired in local bottle kilns. Many women were involved in creating and preparing mosaics (but not installing them) - perhaps this was the case with this design. People who walked on these mosaic tiles would have witnessed trams passing up and down Piccadilly in the early part of the 20th century.
According to the wonderful www.potteries.org (and the photograph below) the property was occupied by Harris 'Electrical Engineers' and the shop is called 'Electricity House'. Up until the 1950s - the dominant view from the shop's corner window looking towards Bethesda Street would have been dominated by the kilns of the Bell Pottery which were subsequently demolished to make way for a new Museum and Art Gallery which opened in 1956.
*Information and images thanks to www.thepotteries.org - one of the city's
most important cultural assets.
*Click on the links below for BBC Radio Stoke items. Many thanks to Stuart George, Charlotte Foster & Jodie Looker for this items:


*Click on the image link below to see the Tsp Coffee mosaic on The Potteries Tile Trail collection: