During the initial stages of the construction of the new Westgate Oxford shopping centre, excavations revealed extensive remains of the medieval Greyfriars friary (AD 1244-1538), including a decorative tile pavement which formed a corner of the cloister. The tiles were discovered by Oxford Archaeology during the award-winning archaeological project. With the help of a grant from Historic England, Landsec and BDP architects decided to use the remains of the pavement to create an architectural tiling display for the new shopping centre.
Summary of the conservation work carried out
Cliveden Conservation were appointed as specialists in decorative arts to conserve the tiles, advise on the best display methodology and carry out all the works in collaboration with Landsec and BDP. Each of the tiles which varied from fragments to complete pieces were carefully assessed for condition and then treated. Nicholas Barnfield from Cliveden Conservation explains some of the challenges of the project:
“As well as the tiles being very worn, they varied in thicknesses which posed problems for the display and there were also large areas of missing tiles. All these anomalies were solved using expert craftsmanship and by working closely with architects and Westgate Oxford project managers.”
To create the display Cliveden Conservation applied the tiles to backing boards to make 12 separate panels of irregular shapes. The objective was to place the panels to form a 4m x 4.5m display which followed the design of the pavement recorded by the archaeologists when it was found.
Over 400 medieval pavement tiles were carefully conserved by Cliveden Conservation and mounted to create an architectural tiling display for the new Westgate Oxford shopping centre. A supporting brushed steel frame now suspends the display which has been positioned over the new lift shafts in the Westgate Shopping Centre.
Advisory and material analysis | Decorative arts
“Oxford is rich in history and culture and the archaeological dig carried out before construction began unearthed many local treasures dating back hundreds of years. Collaborating closely with archaeologists, architects and Cliveden Conservation, we have worked tirelessly to ensure this heritage is reflected in Westgate Oxford. Alongside the intricate medieval tiling, we house a number of other works as part of our Art in Westgate programme which includes unique pieces from some of the most respected artists across Europe such as Daniela Schönbächler and Rana Begum.”
Brendan Hattam, General Manager at Westgate Oxford