Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Carter's Hand-Painted Ceramic Tiles, Murals and Façades - Disappearing History

When I set out to write this blog article, I intended to put a few words to a photograph of the Poole Arms (in Poole, Dorset, UK,) with its striking green tile façade. Being interested in history, I decided to research some information on the building and its tiles.


Poole Arms
Photography by Joanne Bradley

The Poole Arms is perhaps the oldest pub on the quay. Parts of the building date from the 1600's, and it's been known to have been satisfying the thirst of sailors in 1826†.

As I dug into the history, I found myself asking when the tile façade was added to the building. My first break came when I learned of Jesse Carter and his purchase of a bankrupt tile and pottery business in Poole in 1873‡. Carter's Tiles, which eventually became Poole Pottery, had supplied the tile for the Poole Arms, as well as other public houses far and wide.

According to The Virtual Museum of Poole Pottery, breweries adopted the practice of ceramic tile façades in the early 1900's. Green was the livery of Portsmouth United Breweries, which was taken over by Brickwoods, which was then taken over by Whitbread.


The Swan Inn is an example of Carter's hand-painted tiles. As it was.

Carter's Tiles became known for hand-painted and themed tile panels. Hand-painted tile scenes graced the walls of butchers, fishmongers, and greengrocers. Scenes from fairy tales, and nursery rhymes decorated the walls of children's hospitals and schools. City councils, department stores and even shipping lines commissioned works of tile art from Carter's. While the hand-painted tile displays were appreciated for their decorative appeal, it was their hard-wearing, easy-to-clean and sanitize finish that made them an appealing choice. The walls of the London underground are graced by Carter's Tiles (more on that in a later post).


The Swan Inn viewed now by Google Street View.

Sadly, many of the hand-painted murals created by Carter & Company, and later Carter, Stabler & Adams, are being lost as structures are renovated to modern tastes, or demolished, and the value of the tiles is not appreciated. There are, occasionally, some happy discoveries. When Kent and Sussex Hospital in Royal Tunbridge Wells closed for renovations, tile animal panels were discovered, painted and boarded over. The panels were removed and, with the exception of a rare ark mural panel which was installed in a new hospital, restored and sold at auction.

†   Beamish, Derek, John Dockerill, and John Hillier. The Pride of Poole 1688-1851. Poole: Poole Historical Trust, 1988. Print.
‡   "Carters Tiles." Carters Tiles. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Aug. 2013. http://www.pooleimages.co.uk/Pages/CartersTiles.aspx
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