Paycocke's Delft Tile Project

Delft Fireplace

Anyone who has visited Paycocke's before will surely remember our beautiful fireplace surrounded by Delft tiles in the Parlour room. The Delft tiles are a never ending source of interest given the multitude of different stories told within them. However, time and wear and tear have meant that some have come loose from their fixings, and we need to act now to save them. 

Delft tiles are often considered to be pieces of artwork in their own right. Delftware is the general term used for Dutch tin-glazed earthenware, and the city of Delft was the epicentre of the production. The majority of the designs are blue and white, but there are other colours, and we have five sepia coloured tiles amongst our collection. The style started in the sixteenth century, but by the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Delftware was being distributed across Europe. Our particular tiles are certainly a style associated with the eighteenth century production, but it is un-clear whether they are eighteenth century originals, or nineteenth century replicas of an eighteenth century design.

This project will require four stages, as detailed below:

Stage One- Report

It is currently un-clear exactly why these tiles are starting to come away from the wall. To ascertain this, we will need to have the problematic tiles removed, to get a better idea of what is going on behind them. Therefore, we need to commission a report to decipher which tiles are in danger, using the conservation scale of recording. 

Close up, the cracks in the tiles are more visible
Damaged delft tiles
Close up, the cracks in the tiles are more visible

Stage Two- Removal & Investigation

Once we know which tiles are at risk, they need to be removed to protect them from any further damage. Once the tiles which need remedial conservation are removed, they will be sent off to a ceramic conservation studio for the expert care that they need. The National Trust has a large network of specialist conservators who we work with, given the wide range of pieces in our collection!

Once the tiles are removed, we will also be able to have a structural engineer come onto property to take a proper look at the structure (and what was behind the tiles). This will ascertain what additional work we may need to undertake, if there are any structural issues.

Stage Three- Conservation

Some tiles will be able to be repaired in-situ. Performing this process whilst they are still in place mitigates any risk of further damage, and if we don't think that there are any structural issues behind them, we don't want to disrupt them further. 

However, some tiles will need removing and will need specialist conservation attention, and we will need to wait for this work to be done before we move onto the next stage. Moving any piece of collection off site is a lengthy process, as we need to ensure that they are kept safe at all times whilst they are outside our care. 

Section Four- Reinstatement

Once all in-situ conservation has taken place, the other tiles will be able to be re-instated so that we can reveal the fireplace and revive it to its former glory! The tiles will be pointed with plaster, to secure them back in place.

Latest updates

17 Mar 20

Stage Two Begins- Removal

The day has arrived for the tile removal. Once the funds were raised, we were able to book the work in. The tiles were faced up with eltoline tissue and a Paraloid in Acetone solution to hold the loose tiles securely in place. Then, the tiles were able to be removed, in order to investigate the substrate/wall. The tiles going away for conservation were packed away securely, and the others are stored for safe keeping.

Delft tiles are prepared for removal

27 Jun 19

Stage One- The Report

The report is undertaken by a ceramic conservator. They record the status of each tile through detailed examination of their condition and stability, and this helps to determine which tiles remain sound, and which tiles will require removal or further conservation.

15 Jun 19

The report arrives!

Once the report arrives, we have a detailed and insightful understanding of the state of each tile. It is ascertained that 5 tiles need removal as soon as possible, and will require conservation of site in a specialist studio. Others need removal, but will be able to be conserved in situ and re-bedded when the time is appropriate. And finally, some of the tiles are in good condition and can remain in place! Our next step is to fund raise for the work, and then schedule it in.