Friday, October 22, 2021


Happy pigs

Walking along a street in Hereford, a city I’ve visited a number of times, I saw this tile panel, clearly one produced for a butcher’s shop, that I’d never previously noticed. How can I not have seen this before? I have walked along this street more than once, on at least one other occasion noting the features of other old shop fronts hereabouts. Could it possibly be that this tile panel was covered by some later decoration, and has been revealed relatively recently? Maybe. But whatever its recent history, it’s now visible, delightful, and an asset to the streetscape, even though the premises no longer belong to a butcher, having been made over to the business of selling boots and shoes.

I find the panel charming – and charm, I’d say, is a quality that is appropriate for retail architecture, the object being to charm customers so much that they go inside and buy things. So here, five happy-looking pigs chomp and root away by a stream, while a sixth seems to have decided to lie down in contentment. The foliage of the trees is not depicted realistically, but made up of a series of impressionistic shapes and splodges in various shades of green and brown, a style that looks more 20th century than Victorian. The chequered border and angular lettering point that way too – I wonder if the tiles were designed and made in the 1920s. I couldn’t find anything about them in my favourite tile reference book, Lynn Pearson’s Tile Gazetteer. So for now I’m left to speculate and admire.

Entering the shop, I found one more tile panel (below), showing another group of pigs just inside the door. This time they seem to be in a farmyard setting, and this, together with the fact that the pigs are depicted in more detail, has given the artist a little more scope to be realistic. The grey wall in which the tiles are now set has a surface slightly proud of the panels, and this may well conceal a tiled border. The adjacent display of wellington boots, perfect for the well dressed farmer or swineherd, made me smile. It’s a while since I’ve seen such good butcher’s tiles, and these are rivals to my local favourites, which adorn the shop of Jesse Smith and Co, butchers of Cirencester. There they have attracted me inside to buy a pork pie. Although I didn’t buy any shoes in this Hereford shop, I may well return – tiles are still, for me, a powerful attraction.


akfurness said...

You are right in thinking that the panel was covered up previously. I had a look at Google Street View, which gives one the opportunity to look at older versions. In 2009 and 2012 it was a printing shop, and that side of the doorway is covered with a white panel advertising the shop. The Google camera didn't go past there again until May 2017; by then the premises were occupied by a cafe/bar called Cellar Door and the tiled wall is clearly visible on Street View from that date onwards. By November 2020, the latest Street View, the cafe/bar had closed and there is a sign up saying "To Let".

bazza said...

Whenever I see something like those tiles, I immediately think "They won't be there much longer!" Hopefully they can be protected in some way.
I have noticed locally that there are some Victorian/Edwardian-style porches and garden paths appearing. Sometimes it's incongruous with the house's architecture but still nice to see:
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s unnecessarily unique Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Jameso said...

Old google streetview images suggest it was covered in 2012, but not in 2017, so that looks like your window of opportunity, so to speak