Conserving Lacock's Medieval tiles

Volunteer cleaning one of Lacock's Tudor tiles

Over autumn 2019, our conservation team at Lacock Abbey have been working to clean and conserve over 1000 tiles dating back to the 1200s in front of visitors.

Our conservation team at Lacock Abbey have been working to clean and conserve over 1000 tiles dating back to the 1200s in front of visitors in autumn 2019.

Lacock’s collection of tiles contains both medieval tiles, dating from the 1200s to the 1400s, and Tudor tiles, dating from the 1500s. The medieval tiles would have been used to decorate the rooms of the abbey’s iconic cloister, now recognisable from its on-screen appearances in Harry Potter, Wolf Hall and the Hollow Crown. The Tudor tiles were custom-made for Sir William Sharington, who bought Lacock Abbey from King Henry VIII after the dissolution of the monasteries.

After hundreds of years of footfall, the British weather and poor storage arrangements (some of the tiles were found buried underground) the tiles were in desperate need of conservation to save them from being lost. A team of trained volunteers have been working to clean, process and catalogue the tiles using specialist conservation methods to ensure that the already fragile tiles are not damaged further. The conservation cleaning of the tiles took place over two weeks in September and October 2019 and visitors to the abbey got a chance to come and watch the project progress.

‘We really enjoyed sharing this process with our visitors,’ said the National Trust’s Senior House Steward, Emma Hitchings, ‘normally this kind of work is done behind closed doors so it’s really special to bring it out into the open. Visitors asked some great questions, handled replica tiles and got a real insight into the work that we do to look after Lacock for the future.’