History of tessellated tiles in Australia

Tessellated tile floors have a long and interesting tradition stretching back to the Middle Ages. Their use in commercial and domestic architecture in the 19th century was due to their strength, durability, diversity of design, and their suitability for use in a wide variety of situations.

While a great many tessellated tiles patterns are common to Victorian and Federation houses, there are some subtle differences.

The use of tessellated floors in Victorian architecture was the result of technological developments from the middle of the 19th century, and the revival of interest in Gothic architecture which had originally employed tessellated floors.

Despite the variety of architectural styles during the Victorian era, the appeal of these floors was almost universal. By the end of the century however, certain things had begun to change.

Apart from new architectural trends emerging in England, America and the Continent that were slowly making their presence felt in Australia, something catastrophic occurred that altered the look of Australia forever. In the mid 1890's the country was hit by a major depression that lasted for three years and brought all construction to a halt. Once building resumed, attitudes to what was fashionable had shifted dramatically.

The economic crisis seemed to unleash a crisis of confidence in the values - aesthetic and cultural, that had underpinned the Victorian world. A new spirit of the age was born, expressed through different motifs, colours, and a turning away from certain products that were seen to too emphatically embody the values of the Victorian industrial age. Machine-made was out, hand-made was in. The more rustic the better. As the 19th gave way to the 20th century and Victoriana gave way to the spirit of 'Federation', there was also a gradual decline in the use of encaustic tiles. Gone too were the blues, greens and pinks of late Victorian tessellated floors, to be replaced by earthier floor colour schemes.

Even the carnage of the Great War and the coming of the motor car couldn't break the appeal of tessellated floors. The radically modern California Bungalow style of architecture took it's inspiration, as the name suggests, from America instead of England. It embodied the new spirit of 'democracy', and a return to nature. As with the wallpaper and fabric patterns of the era, tessellated floors became even more subdued in colouring, with simpler patterns employed. It hadn't helped that a large number of skilled tradesmen had been killed or incapacitated during the war, or by the Spanish Flu which followed in it's wake.

The final blow in the slow decline of the use of tessellated floors in the 20th century was the Great Depression. This was the flood that swept everything before it. It took another half a century for the pendulum to swing back again.

In the 1970's, as we approached the bi-centenary of Capt. Cook's landing at Botany Bay, Australians began to refocus our collective attention on our 19th century history, to stop the wholesale destruction of our architectural heritage and to undo the neglect and misunderstanding of decades. In 1982 The Olde English Tile Factory was established."

Olde English Tiles Tessellated Floors

Olde English Tiles™ is renowned as the first tile company in Australia commissioned to restore many of our historic, heritage listed buildings, using tessellated tiles. We've has set the standard for this traditional craft-art form of tiling, recognized throughout Australia and internationally.

Inspired by floor designs of the 18th & 19th centuries, these patterns can transform any floor space, whether traditional or modern, commercial or domestic

Our range of tessellated floor and borders are available from our showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne only. Olde English Tiles™ uses the World renowned Winckelmans tiles. Winckelmans fully vitrified porcelain tiles and mosaics are extremely durable, resistant to frost, scratching, moisture absorption, acid and impact. They are rated well above the recommended professional standards and norms. The tiles in this collection are suitable for wet and dry environments, inside and out.

N.B. Images are computer generated, colours should not be taken as exact, see "Range Colours" image for true colours. Computer colour settings can change the look of colours in the colour chart. Reference should always be made to actual tiles. Diagrams are not to scale.

Purchase from our showrooms only.