Speaker is floored by stunning Parliament tiles

The final piece in a massive jigsaw puzzle - with links to Shropshire and the West Midlands - has been slotted into place in Parliament.

Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Pictures: Jessica Taylor
Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle. Pictures: Jessica Taylor

The last of almost 60,000 brightly coloured encaustic floor tiles, made by Craven Dunnill Jackfield, was laid in the middle of Central Lobby, one of the busiest and most recognisable locations in Westminster.

It was overseen by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and the Lord Speaker, Lord Fowler, and brings to an end nine years of work to replace the historic tiled pavements.

The final tile was laid by Wolverhampton stone mason Andy Midwinter, who has been lead foreman on the project since 2013. “It’s been years and years of hard work to get to this point, alongside a great team here in Parliament’, he said.

“But the final tile is now in place, so it really feels like the end of an era.

Stunning designs have been relaid in Parliament. Pictures: Jessica Taylor

“It’s a really special moment, because the tile is a one-off.

"A job like this comes with a real sense of pride, because you’re working in a historic place like the Palace of Westminster, and Speakers and Prime Ministers in decades to come are going to be walking over this floor that I’ve laid”.

Some of the original tiles had been in place since the Palace of Westminster was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1834 and were designed by Augustus Welby Pugin.

Many of them would have carried the footsteps of Churchill, Gladstone, Thatcher, and countless other political figures.

A worker preparing tiles. Pictures: Jessica Taylor

But after 150 years many of the unique tiles were deteriorating, so the decision was taken to conserve or replace the pavements, before the unique designs and vivid colours were lost forever.

The new encaustic tiles, which were made to match the original one inch-thick tiles, were produced at Craven Dunnill Jackfield, by impressing a pattern into unfired clay to a shallow depth using a hand carved mould.

The indentations were then filled with a liquid clay of contrasting colour.

All the encaustic tiles manufactured for the Palace of Westminster have been handmade, using some mechanisation in the process.

Tiles have been laid in the central lobby. Pictures: Jessica Taylor

They have been laid by specialist stone masons, and bedded in lime mortar to allow for the natural movement of the building.

Due to the historic nature of the Palace of Westminster, with its uneven floors, the skills required to lay encaustic tiles are closer to those of a stone mason than a tile layer.

They vary in style and include symbols like the shamrock, thistle, Tudor rose and dragon of St George, that represent different parts of the UK.

There are also letter tiles with wording in French, Latin and English to commemorate Queen Victoria, who was the monarch at the time the Palace of Westminster was constructed.

One of the intricate designs which were remade by Craven Dunnill. Pictures: Jessica Taylor

Central Lobby is at the very heart of Parliament, used by constituents to lobby their MPs and is one of the main thoroughfares between different areas of the building.

It is also used by major national broadcasters for daily parliamentary news coverage and interviews.

Due to the level of wear and tear, the central tile and its surrounding panels were removed back in 2015, to ensure the complex design could be replicated accurately before it wore away completely.

The original tile, that used to sit in the middle of Central Lobby, will be displayed at the Jackfield Tile Museum, which is part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums in Shropshire, from next year.

It will be exhibited from next year to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Craven Dunnill Jackfield – who manufactured the new tiles.

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