The manufacture and utilisation of architectural terracotta and faience.

  • Michael J. Stratton

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The revival of terracotta and faience in British architecture was widespread, dramatic in its results and, for two decades, the subject of intense debate. However the materials have been frequently denigrated and more generally disregarded by both architects and historians. This study sets out to record and explain the rise and fall of interest in terracotta and faience, the extent and nature of the industry and the range of architectural usage in the Victorian, Edwardian and inter-war periods. The first two chapters record the faltering use of terracotta as an 'artificial stone', until the material gained its own identity, largely through the appreciation of Italian architecture. In the mid-Victorian period, terracotta will be seen to have become symbolic of the philosophy of the Victoria and Albert Museum and its Art School in attempting to reform both architecture and the decorative arts. The adoption of terracotta was furthered as much by industrial as aesthetic factors; three chapters examine how the exploitation of coal-measure clays, developments in the processes of manufacture, the changing motivation of industrialists and differing economics of production served to promote and then to hinder expansion and adaptation. The practical values of economy, durability and fire-resistance and the aesthetic potential, seen in terms of colour and decorative and sculptural modelling, became inter-related in the work of the architects who made extensive use of architectural ceramics. A correlation emerges between the free Gothic style, exemplified by the designs of Alfred Waterhouse and the use of red terracotta supplied from Ruabon, and between the eclectic Renaissance style and a buff material produced by different manufacturers.These patterns were modified as a result of the adoption of faience for facing external walls as well as interiors, and because of the new architectural requirements and tastes of the twentieth century. The general timidity in exploiting the scope for polychromatic decoration and the increasing opposition to architectural ceramics is contrasted with the most successful schemes produced for cinemas, chain-stores and factories. In the last chapter, those undertaken by the Hathern Station Brick and Terracotta Company between 1896 and 1939 are used as a case study; they confirm that manufacturers, architects and clients were all committed to creating a modern and yet decorative architecture, appropriate for new building types and that would appeal to and be comprehensible to the public.
Date of Award1983
Original languageEnglish


  • manufacture
  • utilisation
  • architectural terracotta
  • faience

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