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Photo Feature: Additional Repairs for Guildford House Mathematical Tiles

Published on: 28 May, 2022
Updated on: 28 May, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

We tend to think cladding for aesthetics is a modern approach to building construction but not so. The mathematical tiling at the rear of the 17th-century Guildford House mimics a brickwork effect and is a 350-year-old example of cosmetic alteration of a residential building.

Sections of the mathematical tiling at the rear of Guildford House were no longer fixed to the building and could have crashed down. Click on the images to get an enlarged view in a new window.

When The Guildford Dragon NEWS heard there were repairs being made to the tiling on the Grade I listed building, we were delighted to have the opportunity to get a close-up look at the work in action.

Mark Graham, GBC building surveyor, explained that mathematical tiles were hanging vertical tiles used to replicate brickwork. He said: “The idea was that it was a cheaper way to clad the building. Like today, the owner wanted the building to be modern and brick elevations were the last word in the latest materials at that time.”

Guildford House in the High Street, a Grade I listed building, is a 17th-century townhouse. Repair work to the rear facade is planned to be complete in July 2022.

But with water getting in behind the tiles, there were sections “bulging out by as much as 300mm and it was a worry” said building consultant, Alistair Piper from Cooper and Withycombe.

It looks like solid brick but it is cladding in mathematical tiles. The curious name probably comes from the neat geometric pattern effect.

Daniel Higgs, contracts manager for the specialist restoration contractor, Pierra Ltd, demonstrates how the tiles fit into a brickwork pattern.

Around 1,700 original mathematical tiles were removed and about 70 per cent were able to be re-used in the restoration work.

George Bennett, multi-tradesman and stonemason, fixing the tiles in place. He said: “I’ve done mathematical tiles once before. It a slow process. I like the work. I love Guildford town centre and I’ve worked on many of the old buildings here.”

“Every non-standard tile on each course was logged before being removed so it could go back like for like.” said Daniel Higgs.

Most of the original 17th-century boards for hanging the tiles were in good condition but some had to be replaced.

The 350-year-old, hand-made nails for hanging the mathematical tiles were still in good condition.

The work included repairs to the roof. Copper tape was attached to the roof ridge as it is thought to stop the formation of moss.

As usual with working on old buildings, there were some surprises.

Some intriguing wood-carved features emerged from under centuries of paint layers. Mark Graham said such embellishment to a building is called a “swag”. “We cleaned off the hundreds of years of paint. You couldn’t see any of the detail before but it’s stunning. We will probably paint it white but we have yet to decide.”

And a previously unnoticed stained glass window of an unknown man was tucked away on the first floor.

Contracts manager for Pierra Ltd, Daniel Higgs was confident they would be finished in July. He said: “The work is going well.  I love it, it’s so satisfying to work on a building like this. We are doing something that will last for years.”

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Responses to Photo Feature: Additional Repairs for Guildford House Mathematical Tiles

  1. Peta Malthouse Reply

    May 30, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    How interesting. Thank you to everyone who is working on this project and the officers at GBC who keep an eye on it to stop it falling into disrepair. What a find! Thank you again.

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