The third of the main floor fireplaces of Jolimont is in the Library of the house. Except for lacking the window through the chimney, this mantelpiece matches Fireplace 1, and was undoubtedly originally located in the back of the double Drawing Room (former Dining Room) of the house.
This fireplace has an elaborate overmantel with three shelves, small panels and pillars, which allows the display of collections of Victorian pottery.
During restoration of the fireplace and stripping of many layers of over-painting, it was found that the cedar wood of the mantelpiece had been badly scorched at some time in the past, and the blackened wood was unable to be restored to the original clear cedar finish, so it was decided to ‘ebonize’ the fireplace, and design the entire room as an Aesthetic-style black and gold and red library of the early 1890’s. Fortunately, the black, grey and gold tiles complemented this scheme well.
The fireplace tiles of the Library had been removed many years ago and stored by a previous owner of the house. Hearing of the restoration, he agreed to return the fireplace tiles so that they could be returned to where they belonged. Fortunately, a photograph of the fireplace surfaced from 1954, and this image was used to place all of the tiles back in their original positions. One tile, at the top centre of the fireplace surround was missing, but a year-long search on Ebay turned up the missing tile of the set, and once again, the set of tiles looked as it did when the house was built in 1892.
Appropriately for a Library, the designs of the tiles are based on the Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott. For nearly a century, his books were among the most popular and widely read novels in all of Europe and North America, and they made Scott a very wealthy man.
The design of each tile is identified by the book title, the chapter of the book that the scene was taken from, and which characters are being illustrated. These tiles – most of which are showing dramatic action poses – were designed by the celebrated English tile designer Moyer Smith, who was responsible for many of Minton’s “picture tile” sets in the late Victorian period.
The set of tiles was manufactured by Minton’s China Works. The “Waverley Novels” series of tiles were produced in two sizes – 6” and 8” square – and the 6” tiles were used in this fireplace. Originally designed and produced in 1878 when they were shown at the Paris Exhibition as 8” tiles, the six inch tiles, as used on this fireplace, were first made in 1882. This tile set proved popular, and was in production into the 1890’s.
These tiles were made in two classes of decoration. There was a series of a single colour on a buff background, and there was the more expensive series that were used in the Library at Jolimont. The colour combination of black, grey and ‘gold’ is striking and both printing and glazing quality are excellent. The series gets a special mention in the forward to the 1885 Minton China Works catalogue: [spelling is as per original catalogue]
“In some patterns the colours are on the glaze, but in all cases where the Tiles are exposed to much wear, such as for Hearths, &c, the Enamelling Colors are UNDER THE GLAZE, and therefore practically indistructible.
Mr Reynolds, the patentee, who was awarded a medal of the 1st class at the Paris Ezhibition of 1855, and also at Vienna in 1873, has had the management of the process at these Works since 1848, and although other manufacturers have lately adopted it, mostly in it’s simpler form, it is not too much to say that noine have produced effects at all equal, for instance, to the Waverley and other series of monochrome [polychrome] pictures.”