Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Middle English Dictionary

The Middle English Dictionary is online, and is of use for looking up Middle English names for tiles. For example:

til(le, tiel(e, tigel, tighel, ti3l, tieghel, teil(le, tel(e, teghle, teghel(e, te3ele, thil & (in names) tichel, tiwel, thiel, thigel; pl. tiles, etc. & tiellen & tile, til(le, tiel, tigel, tighl, til, tel(e & (error) teys.

[OE []tiegle, tighel; for -e- forms cp. MDu. tegel, tegele; ult. L te macrongula. For the surname form tiwel cp. AF tiwel, tiuuele, vars. of OF tiule.]

(a) A brick; a masonry tile; -- also coll.; brenned ~; (b) in related cpds., combs., & phrases: ~ of flaundres, flaundres (flaundrish) ~, bricks or tile made in Flanders; ~ ston, q.v.; ~ wallere, a bricklayer; brike ~, bricks; herth ~, tile for making a fireplace; pendaunt ~, ?a tile used for the arch of a fireplace; sconchoun ~, chamfered tile; wal ~, a tile for a wall; -- also coll. [see also wal n.(1)]; (c) a fragment of a brick or tile; -- also coll.; ~ scarthe (sherd).

(a) A roofing tile; a stone slate used as a roofing tile; -- also coll.; crestes of ~, tiled rooftops; (b) in related cpds. & combs.: ~ pin, a wooden pin used to attach a roofing tile to a lath; -- also coll.; ~ pinninge, the attaching of tiles to the lath of a roof with nails or pins; ~ prig, coll. nails used to attach roofing tiles; ~ thacchere, one who lays roofing tile; coin (corner) ~, ?a hip tile; ?a tile for an archway; goter ~, a tile for a gutter; hipe ~ [see hipe n. 2.(b)]; hole (holwe) ~, a concave roofing tile; plaine ~, ?a flat roofing tile; ?an undecorated roofing tile; rigge ~ [see also rigge n. 7.(c)]; rof ~ [see rof n. 6.(a)]; thache ~ [see thach(e n. (c)].

(a) A paving tile; a painted paving tile; -- also coll.; (b) in related cpds. & combs.: ~ paving, paving tiles; holand ~; pavement ~, tiles used in paving; pavinge ~ [see also paving(e ger. (c)]; pen ~, tile manufactured at Penn and Tyler's Green in Buckinghamshire [the quotation under penne-til n. should be moved to pen n.]; wal ~, ?decorated wall tiles used for flooring.

In misc. cpds. related to senses 1., 2., & 3.: ~ formere (makere), one who makes or shapes bricks or tiles; ~ hous, q.v.; ~ kilne (oste), a kiln for firing bricks or tiles; ~ kilnere; ~ makinge, the process of making bricks or tiles; ~ poudre, powder made from crushed bricks or tiles and used in mortar; ~ werk, bricklaying or paving; square ~, a square tile used for roofing or paving.

A heated tile used to heat or melt something [in most cases it is impossible to determine if the reference is to a flat tile or to a brick]; also, a tile used to cover an earthenware pot; ~ ston, q.v.

?The hardened material out of which bricks and tiles are made, burnt clay; also in prov. expressions; brenned ~ [occas. difficult to distinguish from sense 1.(a)].

In phrase: tiles of ston, mistransl. of L macheras petrinas stone swords: ?error through misreading of machera as ML maceria; ?error for ME stile n.(2).

In surnames and place names [see Smith PNElem.2.179].

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cleaning the floor tiles at Barley Hall: 5

The last day of tile cleaning. And there was one patch to do in front of the dias and leading up to the doorway. Since we should have finished yesterday, no other volunteers were due in, and I worked on my own. It would have been difficult to get two people easily in to the available space anyway. We would have been wondering which bits had been done or backing into each other's cleaned area at some point.

The photo (right) shows a section of the floor, with the risers of the dias at the back. The two (authentic re-productions of the medieval items) bowls contain de-ionised water - one with the specialised detergent, and one without. The orange item is the trusty Barley Hall Ruler - removing chewing and candlewax, for the use of. The tiles to the left hand side have been cleaned, but not buffed. On the right handside, the tiles are still dirty

Not surprisingly, there was a lot more wear on this section than on others as it is the only way into and out of the hall. Other patches of wear were under the top table, where people rested their feet. Also tiles were worn in other areas, particularly if they had a convex surface to begin with. With the brown tiles, it was difficult to gauge the degree of wear. However, it was sometimes noticeable that were was 'drag' particularly when using the non-stick scourers. Previously, when near the window, close to the settles, or near the cupboard, this proved to be a sign there was more candle wax to come off. But on the open area, it was actually where the glaze had been worn down to the body of the tile. With the brown tiles, of course, there is just one layer before hitting the body. With the yellow tiles, there are two layers - the glaze and the slip (which is what makes the tile surface seem yellow). However, some of the yellow tiles showed a little glaze wear, but not down to the slip. The most obviously worn yellow tile occurred just to the left of the surface in front of the dias.

There was no tile wear behind the settles, though the accumulation of dust and chewing gum still made it hard going. Hopefully, after our experiences with the stuff, chewing gum will be banned from the hall. The other problem was candle wax, but that is something that is a natural part of the hall's display, so we'll have to put up with that. It was noticeable that some tiles had chipped edges, particularly where the edges were higher than the mortar.

Total amount of material used:
4 pairs medium gloves (Superdrug; 2 for 1 deal)
2 pairs small gloves (Superdrug; 2 for 1 deal)
3 pairs large gloves (Poundland)
10 200g packs cotton wool (Poundland)
5 non-stick scourers (Woolworths)
11 litres de-ionised water (9 litres from Halfords, 2 litres from Barnitts; Barnitts was cheapest at the time, though I subsequently saw de-ionised water for 51p per litre in Tescos; much cheaper than either of those shops)

Also: 1 box soap flakes (Barnitts)- only used experimentally on a small patch. Seemed to work OK.
And: Several Barley Hall rulers were extremely useful in removing chewing gum and candle wax

Cleaning hours clocked up today: 4.15

Overall total so far: 39.45 hours

So let's call it 40 hours or so to individually hand-clean all the tiles in Barley Hall!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cleaning the floor tiles at Barley Hall: 4

I feel I know the Barley Hall tile floor intimately now - all too intimately. There were four of us today: Trish, Sally, Peter and myself. We were doing the more central parts of the floor, having to shift settles, tables and benches to get to the tiles. For some stretches we had to wait (briefly) whilst the tiles dried before shifting the furniture. But we achieved the target for the day. Only one section remains and it's the tiles immediately in front of the dias. The photo on the right shows the cleaned tiles of the dias on the right, and the still grubby tiles on the left. The photo shows how much brighter the dias tiles are now. I shall be in on my own tomorrow to finish off the remaining grubby section.

And then after that, it's a case of seeing if there's anything I can do to clean up the tile hearth. It's a different animal from the glazed floor tiles, as the materials used there are actually 15th century. It was originally from Rawcliffe Manor, a site dug some years ago. The most amazing thing is its completeness. There were original tile hearths at Barley Hall, but they were too smashed up and robbed to use. It just so happened that Rawcliffe produced a comparatively pristine hearth of about the same size. Rather than break it up (the site was due to be developed and the archaeology destroyed), it was lifted and transferred to the Hall. I can clean the hearth at my leisure, perhaps on a day when the Museum is closed (currently Monday and Tuesday). The main thing is that I complete the tiled floor tomorrow ...

Cleaning hours clocked up today: 13 hours (total of person hours)

Overall total so far: 35.30 hours

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Cleaning the floor tiles at Barley Hall: 3

Another day on the tiles! At various points in the day, there were six people, plus myself working on the floor: Kim, Alex, Maria and her husband, Sally and Peter. This time we were concentrating on cleaning the tiles behind the settles, and those on the dias. The settles effectively created two corridors to clean down. I was on one of them, and Kim and Peter were on the other at different times. A puzzling feature was chewing gum. Normally these 'corridors' are covered by the settles, which have been pulled out for cleaning purposes. However, there was a fair amount of dirt behind them, but how on earth did the chewing gum get there? Not surpringly, there is talk of ensuring that school parties have disposed of their chewing gum before they enter the Hall ...

The dias had its own particular problems. Namely the table could not be moved, as it's too heavy. So the valiant tile-cleaners (Alex, Sally, Maria and her husband) had to work with their heads under the table. We are using halogen lights anyway, but those working on the dias particularly needed them. They were also in peril of banging their heads.

Tomorrow, one of the settle 'corridors' just needs buffing up, and then the settle can be moved back. This will reveal some more tiles to be cleaned in the centre of the floor, and again there will be the table problem for part of it. The other settle 'corridor' needs finishing, drying and then that part buffing, and we can then get to the next section. The floor in front of the dias will need to be done, but not before the tiles in front of the settles have been done, other wise we will be walking over the person cleaning it, and probably still damp tiles. Still outstanding is the tile hearth, which is not glazed, but certainly needs a clean. I think it's a toothbrush or nailbrush job.

We've cleaned perhaps a half to two thirds of the Hall floor so far.

Cleaning hours clocked up today: 13.30 hours (total of person hours).

Overall total so far: 22.30

Friday, January 05, 2007

Cleaning the floor tiles at Barley Hall: 2

Having gathered together various materials, including gloves, de-ionised water, cotton wool, and non-stick scourers, the first day of cleaning began. There were two other people cleaning the floor with me, Sara and Linda.

The cleaning method is as follows:

· Take a small amount of cotton wool, and dampen it in the bowl of de-ionised water only (do not use the bowl with the non-ionic detergent at this point)
· Use the wet cotton wool to clean the surface of the tile
· If there are is any stubborn dirt (eg. chewing gum) just wet it at this stage
· Concentrate on the tile itself and try to avoid the mortar at the edges
· Do not put the used cotton wool back into either of the water bowls
· Discard dirty cotton wool
· Take another clean cotton wool ball and dip it in the bowl with the non-ionic detergent in
· Clean the tile surface again
· Check how dirty the cotton wool is getting and use another if need be
· Use the non-stick scourer if required
· Use the edge of a plastic ruler to prise off any stubborn dirt
· Take another cotton wool ball and dip in the non-detergent water and clean the face of the tile to remove any more dirt and the detergent itself
· Allow the tile to dry
· Take another cotton wool ball, dry this time, and gently buff the surface of the tile

We started at the 'window' end of the Hall. This window is in the snicket - which was originally the screens passage of the Hall, but at some point in its history it became a public right of way. So one end of the Hall is a clear window, and people walking by can look in. Normally, they see the Hall laid out with tables, settles, benches, and pottery. But at present all that is piled up. Instead they could watch three people carefully hand cleaning the Hall's tiles. One old lady banged on the window and said: 'Put some Cillit-Bang on it!' I agreed, but carried on regardless.

The main hazard in this section of the floor is candle wax from the large candlesticks often placed at the end of the Hall. There is also some chewing gum, and that is spread all round the the floor. And of course there is a large amount of dirt. Sara was surprised to find a green tile, up against the window, which constrasted with the other yellow and brown tiles. Why it was in the floor is uncertain. Perhaps they ran out of tiles? But there are plenty of spares to be had. So that's a bit of a mystery.

Cleaning hours clocked up today: 9 hours (total of person hours)

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cleaning the floor tiles at Barley Hall: 1

The reproduction floor tile at Barley Hall in York is a glorious centre-piece to the restored medieval house. However it's in need of a clean, and I volunteered to find out how to do this. The tiles were handmade by John Hudson, and have been walked by the visitors to the Hall for at least 15 years. The floor has been cleaned occasionally, but sparingly using modern cleaning materials. It now needs a deep clean, along with the rest of the Hall.

I consulted the Tiles and Architectural Ceramics website, and found their fact sheets 1 and 2 of some use, though they are primarily aimed at cleaning Victorian or later tiles. Green 'Scotchbrite' scourers were recommended to clean the surfaces, but I think it might not be applicable here - we'll be using the white 'non-stick' scourers, and even then, sparingly. It also turned out that some of the materials recommended were very difficult to get hold of. Biotex (a non-ionic cleaner, which won't interfere with the glazed surfaces of the tiles) no longer seems to be available. And distilled water is only available from laboratory suppliers. However de-ionised water was to be found on the shelves of hardwear stores, Halfords and supermarkets. In the end, I consulted the a conservation laboratory who were very helpful. De-ionised water should be OK to use. They also recommended that I could try soap flakes as a cleaning agent, so I'll be trying that out tomorrow. We also have a small amount of specialised non-ionic detergent to use.

Yesterday, I spent my time getting the equipment and materials required together. And today, I did a patch test to find out how the cleaning process would work. I've just typed out the instructions for the volunteer tile cleaners. Tomorrow, the real work will begin ...