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In 1873 Jesse Carter, a builders’ merchant and ironmonger from Surrey, purchased James Walker’s brick and tile business on the East Quay at Poole. Jesse had no previous experience of the tile business except as a supplier of their products. By the time he took over the business it was in a sorry state and had been on the market for years. James Walker was bankrupt and the works were derelict [the Poole Potteries by Jennifer Hawkins, 1980]. Above - a rare Carter and Co commercial tile catalogue (c 1905). We are very grateful to Chris Blanchett for his contributions to the Museum and for his help in identifying and dating images of tiles that have been sent to us.
Above - part of a tile panel designed by Edward Bawden (c1930). The panel was formerly on a staircase leading to the Pottery showroom. It was sold by Christies as part of the Museum and Archive Sale in 2004 and is now on display in Poole Museum. There is also a full page picture of the whole panel in Hayward and Atterbury.


After an uncertain beginning the business began to flourish and by the 1880's Carters were competing with other manufacturers on a national level. In 1895 Carters acquired the Architectural Pottery at Hamworthy and inherited their artistic contacts (including amongst them the art potter William de Morgan). Jesse’s son Owen had joined the family business as a teenager. Owen was an accomplished watercolour artist in his own right. He also developed a particular interest in glazing and experimented with lustre glazes, working closely with James Radley Young who was head of the design studio.




Above - an important panel of tiles with lustre glazes, formerly set into a wall at the East Quay works but resited when the redevelopment of the Quay took place and still on public display. The panel is in the art nouveau style and incorporates the faience of William de Morgan (c1905). The demand for decorative ceramics grew in the early part of the 20th century. Carters supplied breweries, pubs, hospitals, schools, retailers, municipal authorities and many others.

Private commissions

There are very few examples of Carters tiles commissioned by private individuals for non-commercial purposes. One of the finest examples we have seen is at North Hall, Barton, North YorkshireThe main sitting room is oak panelled with a ceramic frieze 30 inches high along all four walls. The tiles are signed Carters Poole and dated 1913. They also bear the signature of the head of the design department James Radley Young.



Above - tile panel 17 feet long (one wall of the frieze) with romanticised medieval hunting images. The moulded plaster neo-classical panelling at either end was a speciality of Carters. The method of manufacture is described in detail in 'The Poole Potteries' by Jennifer Hawkins.


Brewers and pubs


From the early 1900's breweries began to adopt colourful ceramic facades to identify and ‘brand’ their tenanted pubs in the face of intense competition from rival brewers. Nowhere was this more apparent than in Portsmouth which before the Second World War (and the impact of German bombing) had more pubs per square mile than anywhere else in the world. Carters supplied glazed bricks and ceramic tiles to rivals Portsmouth United Breweries and Brickwoods who adopted distinctive green and red/brown liveries respectively. Although the breweries themselves no longer exist (Brickwoods took over Portsmouth United Breweries and Whitbread took over Brickwoods), many pubs in the City still retain their striking ceramic facades.





Above - the distinctive green glazed bricks of the Portsmouth United Breweries supplied by Carter and Co. The hardened glazed facings show no signs of deterioration.




Above - the brown glazed bricks and mosaic facade of competitors Brickwoods.




Above - Blake's brewery in Gosport was acquired by Brickwoods in 1926.


image Chris Blanchett


Above - of the Hearts of Oak in Portsmouth illustrated in a Carter Tiles catalogue, c 1905. The former Brickwoods pub was refurbished by Arthur Cogswell in 1897. Time was called in 1974 and the pub has been demolished, although the ornate frontage is reputed to have been preserved and placed in storage. We would like to include a photo of the pub and to know the future of the parts preserved if the information is out there!


The supply of glazed bricks and ceramic tiles for facades, kitchens, toilets, hallways, corridors and for the working breweries was the mainstay of Carters’ production. Commercial contracts were unglamourous but lucrative and gave the business a solid foundation from which artistic development was to flourish in the decades ahead. There are some fine examples of decorative tiled panels designed either as pub signs or as themed works of art in their own right.




Above - the Tangier in Portsmouth was built in 1912 for Portsmouth United Breweries and was the first of their pubs to carry the distinctive green PUB livery.





The tiled panels show an Arabic horseman and a market scene and are said to have their origins in a Moroccan holiday taken by the Brewery Chairman. The artwork on the tiled panels is particularly fine and (unusually) is signed by the head of the design department James Radley Young.







Above - pub sign for the Mediterranean pub, Stamshaw Portsmouth (1904) showing the British fleet off Gibraltar and reflecting the naval history of the City. The pub was converted to flats in1978 but the sign has been preserved.



Above - The Nelson Arms Merton (1910), A Charrington pub named after Merton’s most famous resident.




The tiled panels showing Lord Nelson and HMS Victory are signed ‘Carters’ Poole 1910.




Above - Shakespeare taking refreshment - on a wall of the former Rising Sun (later the Paper Moon) pub in Southwark. The Shakespearean reference probably reflects the close proximity of the site of the former Globe Theatre.




Above - The Swan Inn, Poole. The tube lined tiled facade was made for Marstons Dolphin Brewery of Poole. The Brewery was acquired by Strong’s of Romsey in 1926 and went into liquidation in 1928. The pictures above were taken in the 1970's by Keith Blanchard.


photo Roger Hopkins


The pub has since closed and the tiled facade and brewery markings are presently covered up (Update, January 2013, the premises are presently on the market for sale and the tiles are once more on display).




Above - Queen Victoria from (presumably) an eponymously named pub, c1904. The tiled panel can be dated relatively accurately because James Radley Young’s assistant can be seen working on the design in the Carter studio in a contemporary photograph [the Poole Potteries by Jennifer Hawkins, 1980 page 38].








Above - an exceptional tiled facade from the Rising Sun at Warsash, made for Strongs of Romsey.


                                                                 photo Ewan Munro


Above - tiled advertising panels made for Dorchester brewer Eldridge Pope and located at the Wheatsheaf New Milton and the Branksome Arms Bournemouth (1909). 


                                                                                                                              photo Ewan Munro



Above - ceramic plaques produced by Carters for Morland, Lacons and Charrington's


The use of ceramic facades in the brewing industry declined after the 1914-18 war as the construction boom ended. However, ceramic decoration remained popular with Lacons Brewery of Great Yarmouth, partly because of the enthusiasm of their in-house architect. (‘Decorative ceramics in the buildings of the British brewing industry’, Lynn Pearson).



Above - tiled panel of the ‘Lacons Falcon’ on the Brewery Stores, Great Yarmouth. Lacons were sold to Whitbread in 1965 and closed in 1968. The building was demolished in 1997.


                                 Photo Geoffrey Smith



Photo Geoffrey Smith                                                    Photo Leo Reynolds 







Above - Carter tiled panels at Lacons pubs: the Garibaldi, Great Yarmouth, the Clipper Schooner, Great Yarmouth, the Duke of Wellington , Norwich and the Blackfriars, Great Yarmouth. The Garibaldi tiles (painted by Phyllis Hunter) may not have survived when the pub was demolished but the others are still in situ.



Above - there were few post-war tile panels made for pubs. Carter and Co. did however receive the occasional commission. The pub sign for the White Hart Hotel in Poole dates from the 1960's and was made by Tony Morris who is better known for his work in the Poole Studio.  When the hotel closed the premises were taken over by Halfords. When Halfords changed premises the sign moved with them and can now be seen on the internal staircase of their present shop in Poole town centre.


Meat, fish, fruit and veg.




Ceramic finishes were not only cool attractive and durable but also hygienic and easy to clean. They were an obvious choice for the walls and displays of butchers and fishmongers. Decorative tile panels were produced for outside facades (where they served as an advertisement) and as a design feature of interiors.



Unfortunately some tile panels have been removed, lost or simply covered up. The artistry and rarity of the tiles is sometimes unappreciated and 1920's fish shop designs do not always suit modern uses for a building. The panel above, designed and painted by James Radley Young in 1923 (from the fishmongers in Holdenhurst Road Bournemouth in the black and white photograph) has been removed and broken up. It bears a strong resemblance to the panel shown below and it is possible that both were commissioned by the same company.





Above - tiled panel designed and painted by James Radley Young for Jenkins and Son at Penn Hill, Parkstone, 1923. The original shop frontage is shown in Hayward and Atterbury (complete with wet fish). The panel is still in remarkably good condition - for a closer look pay a visit to Bankes Bistro at Penn Hill near Poole.


Above - tiled facade of G&K Fish Merchant's shop in the High Street Budleigh Salterton, Devon.  The signed panel (see below) in the entrance porch is dated 1932. The inset tile panel of a salmon on the shop front (see below) is possibly later and may have been commissioned to replace the name of the former proprietor on a change of ownership. We are also hopeful of finding out what is beneath the attached name-board above the entrance.

Above - unsigned panel from the shop-front shown above.

Above - fishing boat signed Carters Poole and dated 1932.



Jenkins and Sons were also butchers and the left hand side of the Penn Hill shop shows characteristic Carter and Co. tube lined letter tiles. The extract below is from a Carter and Co tile catalogue c 1937.




Hooper & Son owned shops in Great Southsea Street and Albert Road Southsea selling fish and game. Both shops had internal decorative tiled panels. In her book ‘The Poole Potteries’ Jennifer Hawkins shows a 1910 black and white picture of one panel  The shop in Great Southsea Street (now a pub) still has 2 panels in situ but they are covered up by modern decoration. 



Two of the Hoopers' panels from Albert Road (above and below) have been removed and restored. The first panel depicts a fish auction. Portsmouth City Museum commissioned Heritage Tile Conservation of Shropshire to restore and mount the panel which is now on public display in the Museum.




Above - the second Albert Road panel (and the second panel at Great Southsea Street) both have a shooting theme.


Above - tile panel from Lankester and Crooks butchers at Bitterne Triangle,  Southampton.  The panel is now on display in the eponymously named Butcher's Hook micro pub. 


Above - the butchers shops originally belonging to Walter J. West at Bishops Waltham and Wickham, Hampshire. Both of the tiled facades have survived.





Above - detail from the Bishops Waltham and Wickham shop fronts.


Above - tile panel from the former fishmongers and poulterers of 'Fishy Davies'at the junction of Church Street and Graham Road Malvern. The panel has been discovered and put on display by the new owners. With thanks to the Malvern Gazette for letting us know.



Above -  the Farmyard series series of stencilled and painted tiles designed by EE Stickland (c1922) were a popular choice for the tiled interior of butchers' shops.




Above - extract from a Carter and Co tile catalogue c 1937



Photo Ann Williams 

Above - tiled panel to be found in a former greengrocers (now a second hand book shop) in Harwich. The panel is signed 'Carter and Co Poole'


Books and magazines 


Carter and Co. designed a series of tile panels for the decoration of W.H.Smiths' shops in the 1920's. Some of these appeared on the facades, others directed customers to areas of interest within the stores. 






The four tile panels above can be seen on the shop front of the W.H.Smith shop in Llandudno, North Wales (with thanks to local photographer Geoff Steen).





 Above - tile panels from the shop front of W.H.Smith, Great Malvern



Tile panel on the exterior of the former W.H.Smith shop in Bath




In the 1970's a major modernisation of WH Smith's outlets took place. Many of the original features of the Newtown Powys branch were found to have been hidden by modern panels.  The shop was restored to its original condition - as it would have been when first opened in 1927. The first floor of the building is now a museum tracing the history of the business from 1792 to the present day. The Newtown shopfront shows the use of ceramic tiles on the front elevation.


                                                                                                                                           Photo - Ann Williams


Some branches also had attractive mosaic entrances. The examples above are from former branches of W.H.Smith at Monmouth,  Fowey, Cornwall and Llandrindod Wells.




The font used on the W.H.Smith tile panels was designed by Eric Gill





Above - tube-lined tile panels (c1927) made for W H Yeatman & Sons' corn and seed merchants' shop in Poole High Street and fixed in their present location when the old town was redeveloped in the 1960's. Yeatman's owned the Victoria Flour Mills on Poole Quay. The design is based upon the 'traditional' pattern LE.


Della Robbia


Luca Della Robbia was a 15th century sculptor from Florence who developed a glaze which made decorative faience sufficiently robust and weather-resistant for outside display. The style has become synonymous with the work of Harold and Phoebe Stabler who joined Carter Stabler and Adams in 1921. One of the first works undertaken was a memorial fireplace commissioned for Rugby School in 1922.


Photos - Matt Williams, Cotton House, Rugby School


The monument is still in place. At least one other cast was made and exhibited at the British Empire Exhibition [The Poole Potteries, Jennifer Hawkins, 1980]. An identical figure of St George and the Dragon is on public display at Poole Museum.




The figure of St George is approximately 3 feet 6 inches high and was modelled by Harold Stabler. The figures on either side of the fireplace were modelled by Phoebe Stabler [the Poole Potteries by Jennifer Hawkins, 1980]. 





Above - 'Piping Faun' roundel designed by Phoebe Stabler, c.1914 and produced at Poole Pottery throughout the 1920's. 



Above - faience panels modelled by Harold and Phoebe Stabler and displayed at the British Empire Exhibition, Wembley, 1924 and now on display in Poole Museum.


Below - one of the most important commissions for Carters' faience department was the Durban war memorial, designed by H.L.G. Pilkington and completed in 1925. 

 Photos - David Thompson


The glazed structure is some 21 feet high. 14 tons of clay were used in its construction at the East Quay works, where the whole of the first floor was removed to accommodate its height [The Poole Potteries, Jennifer Hawkins, 1980].



The sculpture represents the spirit of a soldier being taken to heaven by angels and the memorial records the names of the 1000 Durban men who lost their lives in the First World War.




Above - the Poole coat of arms in low-relief faience Della Robbia ware (1926) appears on each of the four towers of  Poole Bridge. 




Above - a post-war coat of arms in the same tradition. Modelled by Ron Goodwin and fixed to the front of Poole Harbour Office in 1966. The face is supposedly that of Ann Sidney from Poole who won the Miss World title in 1964. Visitors to the waterfront museum can see the coat of arms above the front entrance.



 Above - The Solarium, Branksome Chine (1932). The glazed faience roundel (one of a pair on either side of the building) probably modelled by Harry Brown.



Above and below - spectacular Carter and Co. architectural terracotta in buff and red at Julian Terrace in Seabourne Road Southbourne.




Above - the entrance porches to the flats above the ground floor shops were numbered in Carter mosaic. 




"One further area in which Carter and Co. figured largely was in hospital tiling. Their massive production of quality cream and white glazed tiles meant that they were among architects' first choice of contractors for hygienic surfacing.." [the Poole Potteries by Jennifer Hawkins, 1980]. The Company also carried out decorative work and children's wards received special attantion. 


Photos - Ann Cousins and with thanks to the League of Friends at Ealing Hospital


This is one of 12 panels with a nursery rhyme theme which were used to decorate the Princess Elizabeth children’s ward of Ealing’s King Edward Memorial Hospital in 1934. Above - Old Mother Goose when she wanted to wander, would fly through the air on a very fine gander!



Above - Jack and Jill.  





When the King Edward Memorial Hospital closed in the 1980's , the tile panels were restored and most of them were re-sited at Ealing Hospital, Uxbridge Road, Southall. Humpty Dumpty found his way to the Jackfield Tile Museum and Hush-a-bye Baby was in the Poole Pottery Museum prior to the dispersal of the Museum collection.  Above - Jack Spratt.



Above - Little Miss Muffett.




Above - Little Bo Peep.  Each tile was fired four times to obtain the required amount of detail.



Above - Ride a Cock Horse Horse  to Banbury Cross




Monday's child is fair of face? 




The design for this tile panel, showing their Royal Highnesses Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose appears in a contemporary Carters brochure which is illustrated in Jennifer Hawkins' book. This was one of two panels specially authorised by the Duke and Duchess of York.



Photos - The Tunbridge Wells Project


The Ark shown above is one of a number of important Carters tile panels in the recently closed Kent and Sussex Hospital at Royal Tunbridge Wells. The panels date from 1935 but were painted and boarded over in 1965 until 1984 when they were restored as part of refurbishment works. The tiles were sufficiently well concealed that Jennifer Hawkins (whose book The Poole Potteries was published in 1980) believed them to have been 'destined' for the Kent and Sussex but  used at another hospital. The Ark itself was panelled in for a second time in 1984. Its recent 're-discovery' is described in the Anke Royal Tunbridge Wells blog .



Above - hospital ward at the Kent and Sussex. The animals depicted in the tile panels can be seen making their way to the Ark.


Photos - The Tunbridge Wells Project


The monkey (above) is bringing up the rear as the deluge approaches. This is the best and most comprehensive collection of these tiles extant.














Above - a representative selection of the anthropomorphic (animals made to look like people) designs from the Kent and Sussex Hospital Children's ward.  For more designs please follow the link to the Tunbridge Wells Project website. The Tile Panels are believed to have cost approximately £9 per scene and were paid for with funds provided by the Courier newspaper's Peanut Club. The tile panels are situated in the ward to give the effect that the animals are walking in the same direction towards the Ark. 







The Hospital has three nursery rhyme tile panels which are similar to the King Edward Memorial Hospital tile panels (above). None of the King Edward nursery rhymes are repeated at the Kent and Sussex.  The nursery rhymes are Little Boy Blue, Tom Tom the Piper's Son and Mary Mary Quite Contrary.


Below - the children's ward of Bolingbroke Hospital Wandsworth dates from 1925-1927. A small side room is decorated with tiles from the same range as the tiles shown above.


Photos - Conservation and Design Department, Wandsworth Council 




The Hospital closed in 2007 but the site has been acquired by Wandsworth Council and the buildings are to be converted by Carillion into an 800 pupil school. The building is Grade II listed and the tile panels will be carefully preserved.

We are grateful for the assistance of the Conservation and Design Department at the Wandsworth Council planning office. The crocodiles shown above also featured in a contemporary Carters' advertisement.



The Evelina Children's Hospital in London has 36 tile panels which were originally in the Caleb Diplock Ward at Guys' Hospital and can be seen in their original setting below.


Photo - Guys' and St Thomas' Hospital Charity



The panels include similar animals to the 'Ark' animals at the Royal Tunbridge Wells and Bolingbroke Hospitals. There are also a number of nursery rhyme panels of which four are shown below. We are very grateful to the Guys' and St Thomas' Hospital Charity for kindly making these images available.







Below - a brass plaque on the wall of the Paediatric Department of Hemel Hempstead Hospital records the fact that the Carter and Co Tiles made in 1939 were refurbished and rehung in the Ward in 1995 "for the enjoyment of future generations of children". The tile panels are based on the 'Ark animal' designs but are larger individual panels made up of six tiles. They were originally donated to the St Albans Hospital and were relocated to Hemel Hempstead when the St Albans closed.





Whitwood Mere Infant School, Castleford W.Yorks 


Photos - David Pickersgill



Designed by the modernist architect Oliver Hill, Whitwood Mere Infant School was built between 1938 and 1941. The design featured in a number of contemporary architectural publications. The size of the tiled facade is unusual and more reminiscent in scale of the post war murals than Carter's pre-war tile panels. The iconic art deco design is by John Skeaping and is in a similar style to some of the traditional pottery designs, notably those of John Adams.




The School (which was designed so that each classroom had open access to the garden area) was closed in 1993 but is listed as a building of important architectural interest.





The building is now a small business start up centre and is maintained in good order.


The 1950's 


The Festival of Britain was held on the South Bank in London in 1951. Four paintresses gave a permanent demonstration at the Festival as the Pottery embraced the first opportunity in more than a decade to exhibit its work. Amongst the exhibits was a huge abstract tile mural by Victor Passmore ('the Waterfall') assembled by Carters which symbolised the 'post-war renewal of free expression'[To Brighten the Environment : Ceramic Tile Murals in Britain 1950-1970, Lynn Pearson] 





Above - tile panel designed by Reginald Till and exhibited at the Festival of Britain, based upon the molecular structure of zinc hydroxide.

Board of Trade restrictions on the production of decorative goods for the home market were lifted in 1952 and the first major commission undertaken by Carters was for Lewis' department store in Liverpool which had been damaged in the Blitz. 

Photos - Stephen King 


The cafeteria on the 5th floor (which was designed to seat 600) features a Carters tile panel which is 65 feet long by 10 feet high.



The 5th floor closed in the 1980's and many of its original design features were preserved behind locked doors, captured in time. The Carter's tile panel is now Grade II listed. Stephen King had access to the 5th floor prior to the refurbishment and has kindly made these images available. His exhibition of photographs has now been incorporated into a book.



The panel was probably designed by Alfred Burgess Read, a former student of the Royal College of Art who joined as head of the design unit in 1951.



Above -  Reg Goodall who, in his younger days,  spent a year tiling the 5th floor of Lewis' department store. The image gives a good impression of the scale of the mural.


In 1958 the renowned town planner Gordon Cullen was commissioned by the Planning and Redevelopment Committee of the City of Coventry to design a 40 foot ceramic mural for one of the first pedestrian underpasses to be built after the Second World War.

photo Joe Austin







The panel charts the history of Coventry from prehistoric times to the present day. When the town centre was redeveloped in 2002 the mural was (as a condition of the planning permission) relocated to its present location in Lidice Walk. This was a major engineering exercise. Many of the tiles had already suffered neglect and some had been lost in the 1970's through careless workmanship. To avoid any further damage to the tiles the concrete retaining walls with the tiles still affixed were cut into segments weighing 2.5 to 3 tons each which were moved and reassembled in their new location.

The tile mosaic map shown below can still be seen on the side of a 1960 multi-storey car park in Hemel Hempstead.



The map was designed by Rowland Emett - Punch cartoonist, artistic inventor and builder of whimsical machinery. We are grateful to Tim Griffiths of the Rowland Emett Society for providing the images.









The tiles were made at Carters' Hamworthy Works and decorated by Phyllis Ryall.


The clock tower in Stevenage Town Square has a Carter and Co  tiled panel (c1959) which is slightly more understated than the flamboyant Emett design.



The panel measures 5 feet by 5 feet. The clock tower is Grade II listed.


Industrial designs

Photo Terry Joyce


A number of post-war tile murals showed industrial designs associated with the companies which commissioned them. An example is the A.B.Read mural made for Shellhaven in Essex.


Photo - Chris Guy 


Above - a Great Dane in Stratford, London E15. The tile panel was commissioned by Dane and Co., printing ink manufacturers. 




Above - mosaic tile panel designed for West Kensington Telephone Exchange by Brian Moore (1961). The building is scheduled for demolition.




One of Northern Ireland's youngest listed buildings is Transport House in Belfast. Built in 1959, the slightly concave mural is 5 stories high and shows an aeroplane, a ship, cranes and a factory which are representative of Belfast's industry. The design (and in particular the images of a united proletariat at the base) is in the 'international style', reminiscent of 1950's Russia and perhaps betraying the political leanings of the commissioning body. The style was popular at the Festival of Britain.


Harbour Tower and Seaward Tower Gosport



Above - 135 foot (16 storey) Carters mosaic murals decorate Harbour and Seaward Towers, Gosport.





The murals show the initials of J E Tyrrell, Chief Architectural Assistant to Gosport Borough Council  and Kenneth Barden, Chief Architect for the builders Wimpey.




The mosaics were considered controversial when the flats were built but are now illuminated at night. They occupy a commanding position on the sea front and are visible from Portsmouth and the Solent.



Northern Star





Launched in 1961,  the Northern Star was designed for the fare-assisted migrant trade to Australia. Between 1945 and 1972 over one million 'Ten Pound Poms' migrated to Australia under the assisted passage scheme operated by the Australian government.




Carter and Co were commissioned to tile the swimming pools on the upper deck. The main pool was 30 feet long and there were two shallower pools for children and non-swimmers on either side. The pool wall features a full width tile mural designed by Ivor Kamlish (who was appointed as assistant to A B Read in 1955) with assistance from Brian Moore.





These images are taken from Carters' records and it is assumed that the mural is no longer extant. Northern Star had a short life and was sold for scrap in Taiwan in 1975.