British Collection Highlights:

Pre-Conquest Floor Tile from Christ Church, Oxford

This square floor tile was found at the site of Christ Church in Oxford in 1863. The tile has been dated to c. AD1000-1050, and is thought to be the earliest physical evidence for a major pre-Conquest church on the site of what later became the Augustinian priory of Saint Frideswide, which was founded in about 1120. The tile of a cream coloured ceramic fabric is decorated with a dark brown lead glaze. The raised relief pattern is made up of lines and a dot motif; when laid in multiples the tiles would have formed a pattern of ‘crosses pommy’ within concentric circles, separated by quatrefoils. To date, an exact parallel for the tile from Christ Church has not yet been identified.

Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle have identified it as a Style 1b, pre-Conquest, relief decorated floor-tile. This style of tile has also been found at Winchester, St Albans, Bury St Edmunds, Canterbury, York and Coventry. These early medieval tiles have all been found near or at the sites of major late-Saxon churches, and the Biddles have suggested that it is probable that these tiles were used to decorate the floor surfaces and steps around principal altars or shrines.

The tiles is on display in the ‘England 400-1600’ gallery on the second floor.

Click to enlarge

Tile from Christ Church (Click to enlarge)

The early medieval floor tile from Christ Church, Oxford, length 9.2mm (AN1970.552)

Further Information

Biddle, M. and Kjølbye-Biddle, B., ‘An early medieval floor-tile from St Frideswide’s Minster’, Oxoniensia, 53, (1988), 260-263. (Available online from the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society)

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Eleanor Standley
January 2012