The Archaeology of Trafford in 12 Objects Part 10: Ceramic Floor Tile from Timperley

The tenth item in our festive look at the archaeology of Trafford in 12 objects, is a fragment of a ceramic floor tile excavated from Timperley Old Hall in 2009. 119mm by 97mm, and 69mm thick, the tile is a buff-to-orange colour with a grey interior, and originally would have been square in shape.

The first manorial hall at Timperley was built during the 13th century and was surrounded by a water-filled moat, which, as noted in an earlier one of these festive blogs, is still there. The original timber-framed hall was partially demolished and rebuilt in brick in the mid-17th century. This rebuilding work was probably undertaken by the Meredith family who inherited the estate in 1634. It is this hall which was described in 1666 as a newly built brick structure, and ‘obviously a gentleman’s residence’. The fragment of ceramic tile described here came from the floor of the western wing of the newly built brick hall, which makes it mid-17th century in date.

Brick and ceramic tile were not new building materials. Both had been used by the Romans and brick was being used for hearths and chimneys in the houses of the better off in Cheshire and Lancashire from the 14th century. However, from the mid-17th century onwards brick became the normal building material in the lowlands of the region. Along with square ceramic floor tiles, they were used in the higher status parts of yeoman and gentry class buildings, as at Timperley Old Hall.

The surface of this tile fragment carries the impression of grass and other plant materials, whilst the sides are straight and even, indicating that it was made in a wooden moulded but pressed into place on the open ground. Fieldnames elsewhere in the manor of Timperley, such as ‘brick kiln’ and ‘kiln’ field, suggest that the tile and the brick manufactured for the new 17th century hall probably made use of local clays and temporary clamp kilns built specifically for the erection of the hall.

This brick hall was, in its turn, superseded by a more fashionable mid-18th century Georgian-style house, which lay immediately to the north. The old brick hall lingered on but was finally demolished around 1800, the rubble from the building being used to landscape the moated platform and turn it into a walled kitchen garden for the new house. This buried the floor tile, and the remains of the earlier hall, allowing the South Trafford Archaeological Group to excavate the site in the early 21st century.

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