Medieval Tiles




Chrystal Antink

These plain glazed floor tiles were recovered during excavations at Hylton Castle in Sunderland. They are Flemish and would have been imported in the 15th or 16th centuries. We can tell their provenance though telltale nail marks in the corner on their upper surface. This is a strictly Flemish feature that shows that the tiles were made by setting a template onto of a slab of clay and then cutting around it.

The floor tiles would have been arranged in a checkerboard pattern, likely set at a diagonal against an alternating border (as can be seen at Barley Hall in York or the Belfry of Bruges). While such flooring was indicative of the high status and international connections of Hylton Castle, the glaze itself is streaked and patchy, meaning the tiles were of the second quality.

While the floor tiles would have been impressive, they would only be seen by those who came into the hall. Green-glazed roof tiles were also imported for the castle and would have been visible to any passers-by. Anyone who saw the roof tiles would have been immediately aware of the status of the Hylton family, who were a local power from at least the 12th century.

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