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Tiles have been around for millennia but it was the ever inventive Victorians (namely Herbert Minton) who revolutionised the way they were produced and consumed. In 1828 he started experimenting with techniques to mass manufacture encaustic tiles (the pattern is created from different colour clays not the glaze, making them exceptionally hard wearing) and in 1835 he published his first catalogue of products.
Now, this is all very technical but what did it mean for the average Victorian? Well, it meant that decorative designs that had previously only been seen in churches, public buildings and stately homes were now available to the middle-classes. And, wow, did they get on-board with the idea!
Just think about all the rich colours (red, green, blue, turquoise) favoured by the Victorians, and the neo-gothic style, which combined intricate filigree designs, geometric patterns and the odd heraldic symbol (well, there was a chivalry revival), all of which were used to create stunningly beautiful, and sometimes quite claustrophobic interiors.
As with any society obsessed with status and wealth the best tiles were used where everyone could see them, in the case of the middle class Victorian home, this was often in the hallway. To make budgets stretch further the more expensive encaustic tiles were mixed with plain or simple geometric pattern tiles; something we still do today. Unlike today, the plain tiles reserved for the kitchen and pantry or other areas frequented by servants.
If you like a more modern look on this style have a look at: