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The Delft tile project at Paycocke’s House

A fireplace tiled with Delft tiles in a room at Paycocke's House and Garden, Colchester, Essex
Fireplace tiled with Delft tiles at Paycokce's House in Colchester, Essex | © National Trust Images/David Levenson

The Delft tiles surrounding the fireplace in the parlour room are one of the most memorable aspects of any visit to Paycocke’s House, but recently some damage was discovered.

What are Delft tiles?

Delft tiles are considered to be pieces of art in their own right and the examples at Paycocke’s portray many different stories. As a result of time and wear and tear, some of the tiles have come loose form their fixings and urgent action is needed to save them.

Delftware is the term used for Dutch tin-glazed earthenware, and the city of Delft was the epicentre of its production. The style started in the 16th century, but by the 17th and 18th centuries Delftware was being distributed across Europe. The tiles at Paycocke’s are a style associated with the 18th century, but it is un-clear if they are originals, or 19th century.

The stages of repair

The work to repair the tiles was broken up into four stages. As it was unclear what was causing the tiles to come away from the wall, the first stage involved the commissioning of a report to identify which tiles were in danger.

Stage two saw the removal of the tiles most at risk to protect them from any further damage. The tiles were sent to a specialist ceramic care conservation studio to receive the expert care they needed.

A structural engineer then focused on what had been going on behind the tiles to determine if any more work on the building was needed.

Stage three focused on conservation. Some tiles were repaired in-situ to avoid any further damage, but others had to be removed and sent for treatment by specialists. The work on stage four – reinstatement – could only begin when all the tiles had been repaired.

Paycocke's Delft tile project

February 2022

Project complete

The repaired and restored tiles return from the conservation studio and are re-bedded into the fire surround by Paula Rosser from Cliveden Conservation. The work to repair the fire surround is now complete, the fireplace is once again stable and the Delft tiles have been restored to their former glory. 

Image showing the completed project to repair the Delft tiles on a fireplace at Paycocke's House in Essex
The completed Delft tiles project at Paycocke's House | © National Trust/Keith Ririe
Visitors on the stairs leading to the Parlour at Paycocke's House and Garden, Essex

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