The British A&C Experience: Tile Style
We are always excited when we receive emails from Elaine Hirschl Ellis, President of Arts & Crafts Tours. Especially when they’re chock full of all the details of their latest, incredibly curated tours centered around the Arts and Crafts Movement. Their 2016 schedule is no exception and, in keeping with our gift-giving theme this month, we’re pleased to bring you the first of three incredible tours they have on tap for the coming year: British Tiles and Ceramics of the Arts and Crafts Movement, May 8 -19, 2016!
Travel along with them and Vance Koehler as he, and a number of other tile experts take guests from London to Wales to the industrial north of England – all sites central to the design and production of some of the most spectacular, as well as functional, tiles and ceramics associated with the designers and makers of British Arts and Crafts ceramics. And of course, there will be marvelous collections to view. Vance, an Independent Curator and American Art Tile Scholar was for many years curator of Henry C. Mercer’s Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Pennsylvania.
Sunday and Monday, May 8th and 9th 2016 Montague on the Gardens, Russell Square
Your introduction to the wonders of 19th Century British tile making will begin at the Victoria and Albert Museum with an examination of their three dining rooms – the Poynter Room designed by Edward Poynter, the Green Room designed by William Morris and Company, and the Gamble Room. In addition to their own collection, there is a most unusual and spacious Ceramic Staircase. Just across the way is the Natural History Museum designed by Alfred Waterhouse who took advantage of all the possibilities of design that came about in the 19th Century.
It may not be easy to keep yourself from purchasing some of the wonderful foods in Harrods Food Hall, but the tour is really going there in order to see how they used a variety of tiles and ceramics in their design. Only somewhat over the top!
Dinner for the evening will be at the Art Workers Guild and the special guest speaker will be Tristram Hunt who is the MP for Stoke on Trent which you will be visiting later on your trip. Tristram will give guests an introduction to the production at Stoke and in the Midlands. It was a center for the design of tiles and ceramics at the height of the Industrial Age.
One of the major influences on the British Arts and Crafts Movement was the arts of Byzantium which can clearly be seen in the Arab Hall (bottom photo) at Leighton House. Lunch will be at Bibendum which was originally built for the Michelin tire company and since 1985 has housed one of London’s best seafood restaurants.
You’ll conclude your visit to London with a tour of the Houses of Parliament whose interiors were completely designed by A.W.N. Pugin. And then across the square to Westminster Abbey. After your tours with the group you may want to try one of the excellent restaurants in the neighborhood.
Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10th and 11th 2016 Cardiff, Wales
For this part of the journey, you will take the train from London to Cardiff where your first visit is to the fantastical Castell Coch where you will spend the afternoon. The first castle on this site was built by the Normans in the 11th century to protect the newly conquered town of Cardiff. It came into the possession of the Bute family and the 3rd Marquess of Bute engaged William Burges to reconstruct the castle “as a country residence.” It is now one of the most extraordinary of High Victorian interiors, filled with elaborate decoration and extensive use of symbolism.
In the evening, Matthew Williams, who has been curator at Cardiff Castle for over 20 years, will be speaking with guests at dinner and will then be your guide the next day to the wonders of the castle. It is perhaps William Burges’ most excessive and complete building and a major collaboration between the 3rd Marquess and Burges. That afternoon you will have an opportunity to see some ceramics designed by Burne-Jones at the Llandaff Cathedral where there is also a majestic work by Jacob Epstein.
Thursday and Friday, May 12th and 13th, 2016 Ironbridge
An early departure by luxury coach will take you first to Birmingham and its wealth of 19th century arts and crafts. The City Art Gallery, built on the profits of the municipal gas works, houses many treasures. And the Victorian Law Courts is one of the most impressive of any terra cotta building.
Ironbridge, a major center of the Industrial Age, has 10 museums and the tour will concentrate on three of them. The first is the Jackfield Tile Museum which offers demonstrations of various tile-making techniques as well as a chance to wander through the original gaslit trade showroom. It now houses one of the world’s most remarkable private collections, that of John Scott who recently gave them over 1,300 tiles and tile panels featuring work by Pugin, Christopher Dresser, William De Morgan and William Morris. One of the more representative is a 42 tile panel by De Morgan that was originally at Old Battersea House.
Another of the Ironbridge museums is the Coakbrookdale Museum of Iron and a chance to see what extraordinary and delicate work can be wrought in iron.
Saturday through Wednesday May 14th-18th, 2016 Hope Street Hotel, Liverpool
Not only is Liverpool itself a glorious and important city for friends of the Arts and Crafts Movement to visit, it is ideally situated for visits to several other sites. But before settling in to your cozy hotel, you have two essential stops. The first of these is to the potteries at Stoke on Trent. This city is officially recognized as the world capital of ceramics.
Although the Wedgwood Company went through bankruptcy recently, thanks to a major fund raising effort their collection has been saved and bought by the Victoria & Albert Museum who have given it on long term loan to Wedgwood in Stoke where tour guests will be able to see it. And there is also in the five towns the Moorcroft Museum, which offers a tour of their factory where you can see pieces being made and painted.
From here you will head to Cheadle, and St. Giles, which as someone has said, is a jaw-dropper. The Earl of Shrewsbury commissioned Pugin to design a new Catholic church. You enter through the west doors, which have the Shrewsbury rampant lions, to a lavish interior which has every available surface decorated.
On Sunday, your first day in Liverpool, the tour will begin at the Walker Art Gallery which has an extensive ceramic collection including a life-sized majolica peacock made by Minton. There is also a “Cinderella” tile panel by Morris & Co designed by Burne-Jones.
At St. George’s Hall, considered one of the greatest neo-Classical buildings in the world, its notable interior has a sumptuous Minton tile floor. As context, the tour will also visit Norton Priory. Originally built in the 12th Century, destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, it is the most excavated monastic site in England. In the 19th Century a mansion was built on the site and the entrance was paved with Victorian encaustic tiles.
One full day will be spent in Leeds with the expert guidance of Hans van Lemmen one of the world experts on tile and author of several books. He will introduce guests to the wealth of ceramics, terra cotta and tiles by such firms as Burmantofts, Doulton, Minton Hollins & Co, and De Morgan and designs by Pugin. There are buildings designed by Alfred Waterhouse, and Sir Gilbert Scott.
Another day will be spent in Manchester probably best known for Alfred Waterhouse’s resplendent Town Hall with extensive use of decorative tiling for which he worked closely with the Jackfield firm of Craven Dunnill. The Art Gallery, designed by Sir Charles Barry, who designed most of the exterior of the Houses of Parliament, has a considerable collection of work by the Pre-Raphaelites including tiles by De Morgan and Walter Crane along with work by Della Robbia Pottery and examples of Minton Majolica.
That evening enjoy a pub crawl in Liverpool beginning at the Philharmonic Pub (top photo), but do try to get back to the hotel for a decent night of sleep before your visit on the last day to Birkenhead.
Just across the Mersey is Birkenhead, a center for the Della Robbia Pottery Company and the tour will begin at the Williamson Art Gallery to study their varied collection of Della Robbia. Then you will view several of their large wall plaques at the Birkenhead Central Library. Also on the tour is the Wallasey Memorial Unitarian Church, an incredible Arts and Crafts interior, which is decorated with Della Robbia panels and reredos.
Your Farewell Dinner will be just down the street from your hotel and, though not on the tour, you may also want to visit the glorious Liverpool Anglican Cathedral before dinner.
We are so pleased to be sharing this latest Arts & Crafts Tours creation with you and hope you will join them on this once in a lifetime experience — the perfect gift for the Arts and Crafts enthusiast in your life!
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