Medieval Tile Pavement Conservation Project

Thanks to conservation work by English Heritage, the medieval pavement at Cleeve Abbey has been given a new lease of life and will be open to the public once more.

Unique heritage

These high quality tiles showing a number of heraldic designs were probably made in 1270 in the Gloucestershire tilery. The tile pavement was inside the old Refectory, where the monks of the Cistercian abbey ate. They were excavated initially in 1876 but subsequently reburied until 1951 when they were revealed again. Since then they have been exposed over the summer months for public display.

tile at cleeve abbey

Medieval Tile at Cleeve Abbey

Rare Heraldic Tiles

Still laid in their original position, the tiles show the footprint of a long lost medieval building and they also reflect the importance of the abbey attached to the royal patronage it enjoyed in the 13th century. The Heraldry of King Henry III, his brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, King of the Romans and the mighty earls of Gloucester all feature. 
External view of new protective structure

New protective structure over the medieval tiles pavement.

Monitoring and Research

Monitoring by English Heritage in the 1990's showed that the tiles were deteriorating due to their exposure to the elements. The principal causes were found to be thermal stress, microbiological growth and salt activity.

The research concluded that continued exposure to these causes would result in the irreversible loss of the inherent historic authenticity and significance of the pavement. To prevent this, a marquee was erected over the pavement to provide temporary protection whilst the suitability of a permanent shelter was explored.

Inside the new protective structure.

Inside the new protective structure over the medieval tiled pavement.

Protecting the Tiles for the Future

Now, a new state of the art timber shelter has been constructed in order to cover the medieval pavement - ensuring that the rare tiles are protected for years to come. Complete with seating and viewing platforms, the new structure has been carefully designed to create a stable environment which reduces future deterioration of the tiles.

Timber louvres control natural ventilation through the interior, and rooflights allow natural daylight, whilst ensuring that no direct sunlight falls onto the sensitve tiled pavement.

The new structure offers a simple, elegant design which complements the historic architecture - whilst importantly preserving the unique tiled pavement for years to come.

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