While I enjoy looking round old properties it is often the more mundane areas which provide most interest, as this is where real people lived or worked.
I was very taken by Hanbury Hall near Droitwich last summer, in particular the old dairy, which is tucked away down some stone stairs on a corner of the main house complex. The house was completed around 1706 and the dairy appears almost as when it was last used, but behind this appearance lurks some clever restoration work. The room’s main attraction are the primitive tiles, a rare survival from the second half of the Eighteenth century. Although they look as if they are just very worn, it turns out that they have all been carefully removed, the walls repaired, and the tiles placed back where possible. Even the broken ones were taken off and then put back as they were, rather than trying to hide the breaks.
The tiles were made by a Liverpool firm, Sadler and Green, which was in business between 1756 and 1780 and these survivors are rare because most early tiles were later replaced by more robust Victorian tiles in the kitchen and utility areas of old houses. This is the main reason the decision was taken to try and preserve them in situ.
There is a big variety in the actual colour of the tiles, due to the early production techniques. The green was painted by hand on top of a guide transfer, and this would often react differently with the background glaze when fired. Today of course modern producers are able to produce large batches of tiles with very little colour variation.
I rescued some great 1930s tiles from an old Sheffield cinema years ago prior to demolition, and will try and blog these another time.
An article detailing the restoration is on the Google Books site: