AWN Pugin (1812-1852) was an architect of repute in the 19th century and is acclaimed today, particularly for his churches. His passion was decorative gothic architecture, which he believed was the Christian form, and his style influence can be seen today in many of our church buildings, including the ornate encaustic and geometric tiled floors.
The Church of St. Thomas in Fulham is one such church. Built in 1848 by Pugin, the main sanctuary and hallways featured gothic inspired encaustic designs originally made by Craven Dunnill & Co and Minton Ltd. Some 160 years later Craven Dunnill Jackfield was commissioned to make a new sanctuary tiled floor featuring an Opus Sectile pattern – the tiles were hand-made using similar techniques to 1848, to match the original colours and reflect the original decorative style.
Up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne the Cathedral Church of St. Mary’s, another Pugin creation, has undergone major restoration in recent years. The entire tiled floor, including sanctuary, main aisle and two chapels, has been replaced with a highly decorative Pugin styled encaustic and geometric design. The Cathedral’s Architects created the design using traditional encaustic patterns from Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s archive catalogue – a rich design source for many a church restoration project.
Jackfield then translated the Architect’s designs into detailed CAD floor plans, carefully positioning the repeating patterns and each tile in relation to pillars, steps and other architectural features. They then hand produced the 11,835 encaustics and 36,862 hand-cut geometric tiles, in 70 different designs. Each tile is therefore unique, which means they vary in size and thickness – just like the original Victorian tiles.
Today, Craven Dunnill Jackfield is the only remaining manufacturer in the UK capable of making traditional encaustic tiles and has won several awards for its work on church and historical building restoration projects.