Museum of… Jackfield Tile Museum, Shropshire - Museums Association

Museum of… Jackfield Tile Museum, Shropshire

Simon Stephens explores a world-class collection of tiles ranging from items designed by great artists to those rescued from public buildings
Museum Of
The museum features an extensive collection of rescued tiles


The Jackfield Tile Museum is part of the family of museums and heritage sites run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust in Shropshire. It is housed in buildings that were originally opened in 1872 as a factory for the Craven Dunnill Company, which specialised in decorative wall and floor tiles. The firm still operates at the site today.

The collection includes tiles from across the world, with examples from most British manufacturers


The museum, named after the small village of Jackfield where it is located, features tiles from all over the world, including items created by artists such as Salvador Dalí, William Morris and William De Morgan.

It first opened in 1985 and had a new gallery added in 2014 to display a world-class collection of tiles donated by collector John Scott.



“When the museum was set up, it was a period in the 1980s when an awful lot of public buildings were being altered or demolished,” says Kate Cadman, the collections curator at Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust.

“We rescued enormous numbers of tiles from places like hospitals and other public buildings. So, it ended up being a very extensive collection, which includes just about every British tile manufacturer.”

The museum has recovered enormous numbers of tiles from public buildings


Cadman says: “We have a tile panel that is nearly 10 metres long from Charing Cross Hospital in London, which is one of the longest I’ve come across. It’s by WB Simpson and Sons, a tiling company that still exists today. We have a wonderful tile panel from an old house in Battersea, which is possibly one of the most beautiful pieces of ceramics I’ve ever seen – it is just stunning.”



“Our building was constructed in the 1870s, so it is a continuous challenge to keep it going. Maintaining any old building is always a bit of a hard task and it’s a money pit, of course.”

The building was constructed in the 1870s

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“It’s all about people,” says Cadman. “However lovely your buildings and your collections are, if people don’t relate to them, then you’re on a hiding to nothing really. You need to bring out the human story. I’d also say, try and be a bit brave. People who work in museums tend to be passionate, so keep that passion in your work. But, on the other hand, you still need to be practical.”

Future plans

“We’re working towards a redisplay in one of our big galleries, but it’s still very much in planning, so I can’t describe it completely,” Cadman says.

“But one thing we haven’t done at Jackfield, which we’ve done at all our other museum sites, is to have volunteer guided tours, which brings everything to life. So that’s what I’m working on this year.”

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