Documentary evidence traces the tiling industry in Penn back to a tiler in 1222 and to 1296 when roof and ridge tiles were sold to a royal household in Berkhamsted. By 1332 there were three tilers in Penn whose combined wealth equalled that of the Lord of the Manor. In the 14th century Penn was home to England’s leading floor tilers and Penn floor tiles were the popular choice for major buildings including royal palaces, castles and cathedrals throughout London and the South East. Tilers laid more than 250,000 tiles at Windsor Castle over a period of eight years. There were some 200 designs. One complete floor survives – the Aerary (Treasury) in Windsor Castle, but evidence of tiled floors has been found in 190 different sites in 18 counties as well as 80 sites in London.
Eight of the ten tiles designs found on the Aerary floor, laid in 1355, have been found in three gardens at the top end of Beacon Hill, which all back on to a deep clay pit. The water supply would probably have come from Pistles Pond. Other tile finds show that tilers had kilns fronting the common from Beacon Hill down to Yonder Lodge. When petrol pumps were installed in (former) Winters Garage, Penn floor tiles were found. Documented royal orders show that at the height of this industry, the tilers were operating at least 15 kilns. This was a thriving industry, central to the local economy, which even altered the name of part of the parish from Garrett Green to Tyler End Green.
Visit the Lady Chapel in Holy Trinity Church to view an arrangement of 14th century floor tiles.
More recently, during the building of new houses at the entrance to the Sports Club in Elm Road, excavations uncovered a series of five kilns dated from the 15th to the 17th centuries. 14th century floor tiles were also found on the site.
Copyright: Miles Green