Tiles for St. James Priory, Dudley – Original Tiles and Schools Work.

Our largest project to date is our creation and installation of 12 tiled pavements to interpret the ruins of St. James Priory, Dudley. This was a part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project to conserve the ruins, develop the community use of the Priory Park and to commission artists to create new artworks for installation in the Park.

We researched the original tile patterns which were found at Dudley and then we visited 15 other places where the same patterns were laid, mainly in Shropshire and Wales. We examined close to 9,000 tiles that we found in-situ – so that we could find the best quality examples to work from in order to make replica tiles. Once we had our research, we took this into two schools in Dudley to work with local school children and helped them to create their own versions of medieval tile patterns. All of the children kept the finished tiles that they made with us, but one of the hardest parts of the project was then to choose just 12 patterns from the 75 children’s designs for us to duplicate and install into 6 pavements around the Cloister area of the Priory.

The children from Year 4, Priory Primary School created line drawn tiles, in a smiliar style to the original ‘line impressed’ tiles found at Dudley which they later painted with colourful brush on glazes. Year 10 students from Castle High School made 4 copies of their encaustic, two colour tile designs and learnt about pattern repetition.

We chose a total of 12 original medieval tile patterns to recreate in the 6 large, 2 metre square areas within the ruins of the church. These included the heraldic coats of arms of Hugh De Spencer and the De Somery family, who had owned Dudley Priory and Castle for 200 years before the tiles were laid. While we were working on the project, we had a call to tell us that a community archaeology dig taking place at Polesworth Abbey had uncovered some original medieval tiles. When we visited the dig we found they had a perfect example of the circular ‘line impressed’ tile pattern which was also found at Dudley Priory within the Chancel area, so we were able to use their discovery to help us recreate and install this pattern back into the Chancel at St. James, 700 years after it was first laid there.

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Medieval tile research De Somery Arms tile. Medieval Griffin Tile Child drawing Griffin tile Student adds clay slip

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