Sunday, December 04, 2005

Fictional tile: A Hollow Crown by Helen Hollick

An interesting case this one. Helen Hollick mentions tiles or brick at least five times in her 11th century set novel A Hollow Crown. Is she wrong? Evidence from some of the excavations I've reported on support her. So when she mentions red tile roof (page 269 and 497, Arrow paperback edition) she could arguably be referring to curved and flanged tile. The colours I've seen have are generally a light buff sort of brown, but never mind. The conventional dating for these tiles is 12th to early 13th century, but I have seen them from contexts dating as early as the 11th century. One day this may be published, but I'm not holding my breath!

More main-stream medieval sounding are green and red chequered tiles mentioned on page 224. This type didn't appear in England until something like the 14th century, and tended to be green and brown. There are specialised glazed mosaic tiles in the late 12th century, but not 11th century. The only colourfully glazed floor (and wall?) tiles which could be dates as early as the 11th (and sometimes the 10th) are the much-vaunted polychrome relief tiles, of which I have had recent experience. These are confined to a few select ecclesiastical sites in England, including York, Lincoln and London. Perhaps though, the ones mentioned in Hollick's novel are some sort of stone tiles ...?

Also mentioned are hearth bricks (pages 173 and 627). Bricks are currently a no-no until about the 12th century. I have heard some mutterings about Saxon bricks, but at present they haven't been substantiated by publication (much like my unconventionally early dating of the curved and flanged tiles). However, Roman bricks were reused in the Saxon era, so perhaps the author was thinking of these? They tended to be used in walls and around windows, but I'm not aware of use in hearths.

Tiles being mentioned at all verdict: arguably some correct usage

No comments: