2

A section of the cornice of the Royal Albert
Hall, London, showing evidence of moss
growth in open joints, and discoloration of
blocks following grit blasting. Badly split
cornice blocks have been cut away prior to
replacement.


land were used to create the buff or
pale red blocks as found on Sutton
Place, Surrey, Hampton Court or the
church monuments in East Anglia. The
revival of terracotta in the late 18th
centurywas dominated by Coade stone
made in Lambeth, London, from 1769.
China clay was used to create a highly
durable stoneware, called artificial
stone and intended to be mistaken for
high quality limestone. Coade stone
can be identified by its maker’s stamp,
its smooth texture and through check-
ing the gazetteer, covering the whole
of Britain and the colonies, researched
and published by Alison Kelly.2 There
is far greater potential for confusion
with architectural dressings and gar-
den ornaments dating to the early 19th
century. Some of Coade’s competitors
produced artificial stones which were
moulded in clay while others were
based on cement, mixing ground lime-
stone and casting it to produce vases,
statues and rockeries. Just to add to the
complexity, a couple of firms, for ex-
ample James Putham of Broxbourne,
Hertfordshire, produced both ceramic
and cement based artificial stones.
True clay-based terracottas
dominated from the mid-l9th century,
partially due to outbursts against
‘dishonest’ sham materials from the
Ecciesiologists and, later, from
members of the Arts and Crafts
movement. Buff terracottas were
widely used in the cultural centre of
South Kensington during the 1860s,
for the Victoria and Albert Museum
and the Royal Albert Hall, and on the
Natural History Museum in the
following decade. Widespread
appreciation of these buildings resulted
in terracotta being adopted for many
provincial art schools. Close study of
the mouldings and sculptural
decoration shows that textures, colours
and modelling vary widely, influenced
as much by the manufacturer, whether
Blanchard of Bishops Waltham,
Blashlield of Stamford, or Doulton of
Lambeth, as the designers involved.
Each firm used different clays, different
types of kiln and highly individualist
modellers.
By the 1880s the bulk of British
terracotta was being made on the
coaffields of the Midlands and the North,
from clays brought out of mines and
fired with the coal with which theywere
geologically associated. Curiously, the
rapid growth of the industry and the
use of railways for delivery did not
result in any nationwide
standardisation, but more of a
vernacular relationship between
manufacturer and local architect. It is
always worth being aware of such
regional ties, partly so that one can also
appreciate the significance of the
prestigious exceptions where material
was transported by rail from many miles
away. The red terracotta used for
libraries and schools in Birmingham
came from Ruabon in north Wales. The
same firms also supplied many contracts
in Cheshire, though John Douglas
tended to buildup his designs in smaller
solid blocks. On the other side of the
Pennines, Leeds architects were more
likely to collaborate with the major
manufacturer in Leeds: Wilcocks (later
titled Burmantofts), which specialised
in producing an orangey buff material.
There are other more localised and
hence highly distinctive outbursts of
terracotta on other parts of England:
red Tudor style window mouldings and
chimney stacks in Norfolk made by
Gunton of Costessey, salmon-coloured
ware made by Doulton for apartments
in London, and grey dressings for villas
and terraces around Bournemouth
made by Jennings of Poole. Given that
the terracotta on a particular building
may have been discoloured and abraded
by soiling and cleaning it is always
worth looking out for comparable work
and checking surviving trade catalogues
before agreeing to a particular colour,
texture and type of modelling for any
replacement work.
This regional pattern was shaken up
by the introduction of faience for
external facades and the emergence
of new producers in the last years of
the 19th century. Frost-proof glazes
could be applied most readily to buff-
burning glazes. Doulton, Burmantofts
and Carter of Poole prospered while
the Ruabon firms, such asJ C Edwards,
drifted into decline. One might think
that glazes made for greater
uniformity, and hence make for easier
decisions concerning cleaning and
re-manufacture. In practice, firms
offered a multitude of finishes, such
as semi-clear vitreous glazes, matt
glazes, combed surfaces, and mottled
granite effects. It can be extremely
difficult to identify whether blocks
were initially glazed, or finished with
clay slips, once they have been
cleaned several times and even given
a shiny anti-graffiti coating.3
During the l93Os, faience was used
in bright jade green and orange colours
for cinemas and chain-stores. Historians
have tended to see the Odeon cinema
as the swansong of British terracotta,
but there was a further revival in the
1950s. Oversized tiles were given
abstract low relief patterns in pale blue
and lemon colours. In the following
decade architects followed the example
of Le Corbusier in applying plain white
tiles to structural concrete. Shaws of
Darwen dominated this market with its
Twintiles. The company supplied
several prestigious complexes designed
byYorke, Rosenberg and Mardall, most
notably St Thomas’ Hospital, London,
and most notoriously, given the area of
tiling that fell away after little more
than a year, the new campus for the
University of Warwick. Ingress of
moisture and differential shrinkage
CONTEXT 52
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