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14 December 2012

Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Tiles of Portslade

Judy Middleton (2015)

When people think of Victorian tiles, they often envisage interior decoration in halls or around fireplaces and indeed the Victorian era was a rich time for such tiles. But there is another aspect too; those tiles used to enhance the exterior of a building or to make a decorative statement in the path leading up to a grand entrance. As Portslade enjoyed something of a building boom in Victorian times, it comes as no surprise that there should be a quantity of tiles about. What is surprising is how well some of those tiles have lasted, which must surely speak of superior quality as well as careful preparation of the surface. When you think that often there has been well over one hundred years’ worth of feet tramping across the surface, it is a marvel indeed.

The following is a sample of the treasures that can still be enjoyed in Portslade. Of course not every path is illustrated and some are in poor condition. But this is a large enough sample to illustrate the great variety of colour and design. Sometimes the design only differentiates from another by tiny details, but it is enough to make each pathway unique. Today appreciation of such tiles has come into its own and it is especially relevant when so many front gardens have been lost to hard standing for cars or the ubiquitous red brick driveway.

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This church also had some Victorian tiles in the chancel. They were photographed in 2003 shortly before the building was dramatically altered to accommodate community rooms plus a compact chapel. The tiles are no longer there.

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The ornate Brackenbury Chapel was built in 1869 at the north-west corner of the church. The tiles are to be found on the floor there and remain remarkably fresh and bright because they are rarely walked upon and are shielded from sunlight.

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 The Fire Station, Church Road, Portslade  
It is pleasant to reflect that even a municipal and utilitarian building could be decorated with such a flourish. The Fire Station was built in 1909 and operated until 1948. The building is now the commercial premise of an architectural business. The tiles were photographed in 2002.

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Station Road, Portslade
These tiles are next to the entrance to Dillon’s Newsagents. The green of the tiles is as vibrant as ever but it is a pity some of them are obscured by a rusty down-pipe.

DOMESTIC PATHS

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Franklin Road, Portslade
In the 1870s the land on which Franklin Road was later built was still in use as a brickfield. It was not until 1899 that the first house plans were approved. The beautiful path must surely be one with the most extensive length in the area.
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Gordon Road, Portslade
The first houses built in Gordon Road date from 1906. This unique path is composed of small mosaic pieces rather than the larger tiles more commonly used. The design can be compared to a patchwork quilt with random patterns rather then the precision of Victorian work. There are a few similar tiles in the path to the adjacent house.

copyright © J.Middleton
copyright © J.Middleton
St Andrew’s Road, Portslade
You certainly do not find many books extolling the outstanding architecture of Portslade but these wonderful paths surely deserve a special mention. Two of the examples shown here are of a familiar design but with different borders while two others make unique use of octagonal shaped tiles. Then there is the black and white path similar to the one in New Church Road but with a different border. They are at no great distance from each other. These tiles date from the 1890s.
It is interesting to note that although some houses had these resplendent paths at the front, there were cess pits in the back garden because some of them were built before this part of Portslade was connected to the main drainage.

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Until the 19th century this thoroughfare was known variously as Aldrington Drove or Red House Drove. These tiles are similar in style to some in nearby St Andrew’s Road and date from the late 1890s. But as ever the border is different.

See also  Victorian and Edwardian Decorative Tiles of Hove

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