Tiles and Terracotta

The process employed to make bricks - baking clay in a kiln - can also be used to manufacture a range of other building products. Some are common constructional elements which almost every building needs to have, such as floor tiles, chimney pots and ridge tiles. Without a ridge tile the ends of the pieces of slate on a roof would be exposed and would let rain in. Ridge pieces could be carved out of stone but by the middle of the eighteenth century they were usually made as tiles.

Victorian designers enjoyed decoration, almost to a fault, and so what began as necessary elements of a building's construction could be elaborated in an extraordinary way. The ridge tile was given cresting, a zig-zag edge or a rope moulding to make it more fancy. Sometimes the tiles were glazed and given a red, brown, blue or greenish colour. Chimney pots were treated in the same way and could end up more like huge chess pieces with spiked crowns round the top and elaborate base mouldings.

Tiles were sometimes used on a roof in place of slates. They might be flat in form - like a slate though smaller - or take on a wave shape, known as a 'Pantile'. This type was common in the seventeenth century. In the late Victorian period tiles were appreciated for their colour and could also be used as a vertical finish hanging on a gable wall or the front of a bay window to add variety.

Terracotta is an Italian term which means baked earth. In early Renaissance Italy many architects in the north made use of decorative panels of modelled clay in their buildings. Between 1870 and 1920 it became fashionable for Irish architects to copy these effects in public and private architecture.

previousPrevious - Brick
Next - Slatenext