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Splendid example of Victoriana unearthed at the V & A

By Original Features (Restorations) Ltd

BeforeA magnificent Victorian tiled floor has been restored to its former glory after lying under a linoleum cover for many years.

The floor is situated in Galleries 32 & 33 on the ground floor of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The floor is over 45 metres long and serves as access to the special exhibition area where the popular Art Deco exhibition took place earlier this year. The floor was laid at the time of construction of this section of the museum in the 1860s.

Some of the original tiling had been taken up and replaced by plain quarry tiling, and other areas of missing, loose and damaged tiling had been made level with mortar, before being covered with lino during the 1950s.

Following a previous contract by others to remove the lino, the craftsmen of Original Features (Restorations) Ltd took up loose tiling, cut out areas of mortar infill and removed the large area of quarry tiles. They then used over 13,000 new tiles - all sawn to exactly the same dimensions as the original tiles - to restore the floor. Tile stock for the new tiles was sourced from 4 different manufacturers, with 8 different colours (plus 2 shades of red). Copies of the existing Minton Hollins encaustic (patterned) tiles were specially made by Maw & Co in Stoke on Trent.

Geometric floors did not become truly fashionable or common until the 1880s. Consequently this early floor is made up of tiles from several manufacturers, with many different thicknesses of tile, ranging from 9mm to 25mm thick. To avoid damaging the existing tile bedding, which is very brittle, many of the new tiles had to be thinned down on the back using a diamond grinding machine, to allow tiling to be laid to existing finished levels.

AfterUnusually, some of the existing green triangles in the floor were actually a thin layer of fine green clay on a coarse clay biscuit - a sort of plain encaustic tile!

Work extended over a 10 week period, with most work being carried out during the evenings. The gallery is an important route through the museum, so it was vital that it could be fully opened, and the floor ready to walk on, each morning. This required close co-ordination and careful programming of work between Original Features staff and Mick Figg of V & A Projects & Estates. Work could not start until the Art Deco Exhibition had been cleared and had to be completed on time to accommodate the opening of the Gothic Exhibition. It is proposed that a programme of intensive cleaning and sealing of the floor will be undertaken next year.

Original Features (Restorations) Ltd has been restoring geometric and encaustic tiled floors for over 15 years. During that time the company has restored over 2,000 floors, dating from the 1850s up to the 1930s. Although the Gallery 33 project involved a much larger floor area, the techniques and skills used were exactly the same as those used on more modest floors in Victorian and Edwardian houses.

Original Features also offers a Consultancy Service for these floors.

For further information contact: Peter Thompson Original Features (Restorations) Ltd
Tel: 020 8348 5155
Fax: 020 8341 4744

Original Features Ltd 2003


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