Tiles Tell The Tale
“Tiles Tell The Tale” is an account
of the five tile panels commissioned by Liverpool Museum from Pilkington’s
Tile and Pottery Company in 1914. It also deals with the panels
that were not installed, two of which depicted the role of Liverpool
in ceramic history. The others panels featured Italian, English,
Egyptian and pre-historic ceramic ages.
The authors have sought to explain the allegorical meaning
of the panels and why the images and designs were chosen to represent
the potter’s art. However, there is more to the story than just a history
of ceramics. The panels were a celebration of two institutions at their
peak - The City of Liverpool and Pilkington’s Tile and Pottery Company.
The museum was determined that each panel should be historically correct
and the account details the efforts made by Pilkington’s to meet this
The panels also became part of a human drama. For Pilkington’s
the work was a prestigious commission and yet it was never finished.
Changes were happening at the factory, not least in the roles of Gordon
Forsyth, a brilliant teacher, and William Burton the charismatic
Manager. At the museum difficult decisions had to be made. Costs were
rising. At Pilkington’s the panels were a turning point and marked the
end of their glory years.
As all this came to a head war also affected unresolved decisions.
Ironically, the panels were the subject of another drama in the 2nd
World War. The story considers the impact of the Liverpool blitz and
has eye witness accounts of the damage to the museum and seeks to explain
why the panels were destroyed - not by bombing - but by the museum authorities
The authors have been researching and studying the early history
of Pilkington’s pottery production for 15 years. They have included
hitherto unseen images of the actual tile cartoons and brought together
a great deal of other material. The research on each panel seeks to
identify the design sources from works available at the time ranging
from “The Grammar of Ornament” to the Persian manuscripts of the
15th century to archaeological excavations near Chester.
The images, many of which are in full colour, have been digitally
re-created and help us to imagine the splendour of the tile panels
themselves and the impact they would have had. Rarely seen pre-sketches
are included as well as previously unknown prints only “discovered”
For those with a love of ceramics and an interest in the personal
effort involved in creating and saving these works so that they can
once again go on display - this book is a must.
|This work has been sponsored by Pilkington's Lancastrian Pottery Society.