Mosaics and mosaic making information from The joy of shards Mosaics Resource

Purbeck House, Swanage

George Burt (1816-1894) bought the Georgian house on this site (now 91, High Street) in 1857 as his residence in Swanage, but in 1875 he rebuilt the house in the contemporary Victorian gothic style. Continuing a habit established by his uncle John Mowlem, he incorporated numerous artifacts salvaged from the family firm's construction contracts in London. These included statues, railings, bollards and also tiles from refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster (The Houses of Paliament). Also from Westminster was a mosaic of the Prince of Wales's crest (feathers) and his motto ("Ich Dien" - I serve). This was apparently set in a red hexagonal background in a path outside the house, but seems to be no longer in existence.

The stunning mosaic floor in the entrance hall was not brought from London. Instead, it is a copy of a Roman mosaic pavement which Mowlem's unearthed while undertaking work at Bucklersbury (near the Mansion House), while building Queen Victoria Street in 1869. During the excavation the mosaic was on view to the public for three days, during which time it was apparently seen by about 50,000 people. The original mosaic, in red, white, yellow, black and green tesserae, is now in the Museum of London. (There is a picture of it on the Teacher's Guide page for the Roman London gallery.)

guilloche mosaic border

The geometric design is based on an eight-pointed star formed from two squares at an angle to each other. The two squares contain guilloche (interwoven rope design) and in a nice "twist", the squares themselves weave under and over each other. The octagon they create has a circular three-strand guilloche border inside.

roman style mosaic

At one end of the floor is what looks like an abstracted thistle motif, scalloping and spirals of half grey and half black peltae (below). A pelta is a shield shape, curved at one end and pointed at the other. The pelta shape tessellates (fits together repeatedly to cover a whole surface without gaps) and was often used in Roman mosaic patterns.

For many years a Convent School, the house is now the Purbeck House Hotel

purbeck house tiling

Above and below: tiling from hallways at Purbeck House.

purbeck house mosaic

purbeck house hotel tiles

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(mosaics in the south of England)

See also the Heritage Centre and the fish mosaic in Swanage.

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