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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1450-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Mould thrown clay, slip and glazing

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the Science Museum, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 9, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Gallery, case 1

In grand houses, whether noble or religious, there would be tiled floors decorated with the badges or arms of the individual or institution. Different countries and regions would use different methods and styles of decoration. In England and France, tiles were generally inlaid with a contrasting pale clay, having first impressed the pattern into the surface. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, tiles were painted in brilliantly coloured glazes and pigments.

Physical description

Tile of red earthenware decorated with the Arms of England. The design is inlaid with white slip and consists of a quartered shield bearing lions and fleur-de-lis within an octagonal framework. Traces of yellow glaze remain.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1450-1500 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Mould thrown clay, slip and glazing


Height: 13.6 cm, Width: 13.6 cm, Depth: 3 cm, Weight: 1.14 kg

Object history note

Transferred from the Science Museum 27th February 1923.

Historical context note

Pavements of decorated ceramic tiles were usually employed in an ecclesiastical context, although eamples exist from secular contexts such as Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire. The use of arms suggests an establishment under royal patronage. With the dissolution of the monasteries the market for decorative tiles waned and royal patronage of ecclesiastical sites became a lot less common.

Three lions placed one above another, a front paw raised (Passant) and the head turned to face out (Guardant) is an heraldic motif which has been assigned to Henry II. However the three lions first appear upon the second great seal of Richard I in 1194 AD. This shield has continued since the reign of Richard to represent the Arms of England.
As Britain acquired territory the arms were quartered with those of other nations. In 1340, King Edward III laid claim to the throne of France and quartered the English arms with those of the France, the "France Ancient", a blue shield with a tight pattern of small golden fleur de lis of the French royal house. In about 1405, the French quarterings were updated to the modern French arms, three fleurs-de-lis on a blue field and the present tile shows the Arms of England in this state.
On the death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603, King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne, becoming King James I of England. The arms of England were quartered with those of Scotland. A quarter for the Kingdom of Ireland was also added, as the English monarch was also King of Ireland. The French arms were dropped from the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom in 1801 when King George III renounced the claim to the French throne. From that point, the heraldic representation of England reverted to the version used between 1198 and 1340, three golden lions on a red field.

Descriptive line

E, NP, 16

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Graves, A. Tiles and Tilework (V&A Publications, 2002)

Production Note

This tile may be associated with the Malvern tilers, or a related later group. It is therefore unlikely to date before the 1450s. The heraldry indicates a date after 1405.





Subjects depicted



Ceramics; Earthenware; Tiles


Ceramics Collection

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