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We are extremely proud and excited to announce that a priceless collection of Minton tiles made in Stoke-on-Trent more than 160 years ago have been returned to help promote The Potteries Tile Trail and Ceramic City Stories. The fourteen encaustic tiles have been an integral part of the Palace of Westminster in London since the 1850s. They were designed by Augustus Pugin and manufactured in Herbert Minton's London Road works in Stoke A high level delegation travelled to The Potteries to meet public artist and historian Danny Callaghan to hand over the tiles. Parliament's Head Archivist and Historian Dr Mark Collins and Senior Conservation Architects Tessa Blundy and Adam Watrobski were able to return the original encaustic tiles to their historic birthplace due to current restoration and conservation work being undertaken. A number of original tiles have had to be replaced with replicas made by Chris Cox of Craven Dunnill Jackfield who have sites in Burslem and Ironbridge.
The return of these valuable Minton-Pugin tiles from Westminster is a major coup for The Potteries Tile Trail as well as the city itself. It is interesting and inspiring to be able to turn them over and see the words 'Stoke-upon-Trent' stamped on the back along with 'Minton & Co' (and 'Patent'!). Each tile has played its own small part in Parliament's illustrious history and has 'bore witness' to intriguing stories and events that span three centuries. They have literally been beneath the feet of the greatest British monarchs and political leaders since 1852.
These tiles also represent one of the most prestigious ceramic commissions in the world. The Palace of Westminster certainly provided the single most important 'shop window' for tiles made in The Potteries. It generated phenomenal international interest, led to significant export opportunities and was also influential in the development of the 'made in Staffordshire' brand value that still supports the pottery industry and city today.
Finally, we would like to acknowledge the fantastic support of Tristram Hunt MP (Stoke Central) and his team - this simply would not have happened without their superb efforts. We would also like to offer sincere thanks to Parliamentary team who have also made this possible - Mark Collins (Head Archivist), Tessa Blundy and Adam Watrobski (Principal Conservation Architects). We cannot thank all of them enough for supporting The Potteries Tile Trail and offering this valuable contribution.
In the short term - the tiles will continue to be used to promote The Potteries Tile Trail and Ceramic City Stories projects. They have been on view at CoRE|Enson Works (National Heritage Open Days 2013 & 2014), Staffordshire University's Fringe Festival (Family Fun Day), Longton Christmas Lights Switch On 2013, Jackfield Tile Museum, Ironbridge (TACS AGM event), Burslem School of Art (AHRC Heritage Decisions, Pararchive & Ceramic City Stories workshops 2013-14), Connected Communities Conference 2014 (Cardiff)
The tiles will be looked after in partnership with a custodian collection based in the city. The long term plan is to put them on permanent public display but to continue to use them for future public engagement projects to help tell this important shared tile story for the benefit of local residents and visitors to The Potteries for years to come.
BBC Online article click here and BBC Radio Stoke news item please click here to listen: Radio Feature
Photo: Qasa Alom, BBC Radio Stoke
The Potteries Tile Trail hosted a high level delegation of senior archive and conservation professionals from Parliament. They came to get a flavour of the tile trail project and Stoke-on-Trent's historic cultural offer. During a busy day we explored Fenton, Longton and Burslem and visited Gladstone Pottery Museum, The Wedgwood Institute and Middleport Pottery. The photograph shows the Parliament team meeting representatives of The Prince's Regeneration Trust at Middleport Pottery. Many thanks to everyone who welcomed the team and offered such generous support on the day!
Here are some initial photographs of the collection. The first image is a fireplace tile. The second image is apparently a rare tile that was found in a store room and believed to belong to part of the Houses of Parliament that no longer exist after being demolished following bomb damage. The third tile depicts a 'V' for Victoria and finally a photograph of the reverse side of one of the tiles showing the famous back stamp to be found on all fourteen tiles.
Photo: Qasa Alom, BBC Radio Stoke