I had a sense of life turning full circle when we were asked earlier this year to help Peter Ginn to make a Tudor Tile. The period that the BBC were filming had almost turned full circle too, back to when they started filming the ‘Farm’ series with ‘Tales of the Green Valley’, set on an early C17th experimental archaeology project.
Now we were both looking at the early 1500s, Henry VII’s reign and a little earlier than I was used to recreating. I first started making medieval tiles as a Living History participant at Kentwell Hall, in Suffolk, back in 1996. I found the Fleur de Lys pattern from Hailes Abbey in Gloucester dated from the early 1540s and this fitted well with the period we re-enacted that year of 1546. I carved the pattern block out of apple wood and together with my friend Pheobe, I made around 40 tiles that summer which we fired in the wood kiln at Kentwell.
Since then I have researched and reproduced many earlier medieval tile patterns, most dating from around the 1350s or earlier, but the Fleur de Lys is the only Tudor pattern I make. It was a really wonderful feeling to be able to take Peter’s finished, fired tile and have Charlie set it into a lime mortar bed, on a pressed earth floor in Hailes Church in Gloucestershire, for the final section of filming on the Tudor Monastery Farm series.
In all the years I have made tiles, and in all of our work demonstrating Medieval and Tudor building crafts, it was the first time we had ever been asked to set our tiles into mortar, traditionally, and it took some figuring out before we were confident that we were going to reproduce the method properly. The final proof was when we came to remove them all after we finished filming. What we found when we removed the tiles were the exact patterns that survive in archaeology where medieval tiles were robbed out of their original setting. A moment of proper experimental archaeology and one we were very happy to be able to share just with Peter, as the film crew had already left.
Karen Slade – waiting to see whether any of our film will have survived the cutting room floor!
BBC2 Wednesday 18th December 9pm Tudor Monastery Farm
Kentwell Hall – still the best & biggest Tudor Living History event – http://www.kentwell.co.uk/
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