Scientific analysis of decorated floor
tiles from the gateway chapel Bordesley and the abbeys of
Hailes and Bordesley
Michael J Hughes, Jennie Stopford
and Susan M Wright
A report on the grant received
in 2001 from the Royal Archaeological Institute: Tony Clark
Memorial Fund for Archaeological Science
A chemical composition
and provenance study was designed (by SMW and JS) to compare
floor tiles, dated to c 1300, from the gateway chapel, Bordesley
(Worcestershire), with tiles decorated with the same stamp/design
from the midlands abbeys of Hailes (Gloucestershire) and Bordesley.
Tiles were selected (by JS) to ask tightly focused questions
about the sources of specific tile types. Hailes tiles were
kindly made available by English Heritage.
Tiles and kiln furniture from
Bordesley Abbey have been the subject of a provenance study
by the British Museum using neutron activation analysis. The
more widely-available and economical analysis method of ICP-AES
(inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry)
is now being used routinely.
Powdered samples from 45 tiles
were analysed by ICP-AES at Royal Holloway College. The analysis
results were interpreted (by MJH) using the multivariate statistical
method of principal components, which produces a kind of chemical
'map' of the chemistry of the body fabrics.
The results showed one fairly
large group of tiles representing the Bordesley composition
(including all the Bordesley tiles, and nine of the Hailes),
and a small group of eight Hailes tiles which are clearly
different in chemistry. These differences imply two significantly
different clay types, and seem to correlate with different
geological settings at Bordesley and Hailes. The group of
eight Hailes tiles has a small composition spread, suggesting
a closely similar production; it includes all the tiles of
one design from Hailes. Tiles with this design are also found
at Bordesley and fit into the large Bordesley group.
This relatively small-scale
and tightly focused project has had a successful outcome.
It is concluded that the eight tiles from Hailes which show
a distinctly different chemistry from the rest were produced
locally at Hailes. All the rest of the tiles, including tiles
in a number of designs found at Hailes, were made locally