Mosaic tiles from Byland Abbey

Medieval, 13th century AD
From North Yorkshire, England

Floor tiles

The creation of mosaic floors by combining different shapes and colours of tiles was a common practice in medieval English religious houses. The Cistercian order in particular favoured this type of floor and used it to spectacular effect in abbeys such as Rievaulx and Byland, both in Yorkshire.

Tiles still in position in the ruins of Byland Abbey's south transept give a good impression of how such a floor looked. The tiles in The British Museum reveal similar patterns from elsewhere in the Abbey complex. They were pieced together by the duke of Rutland who was given them in 1926 and 1928 by the owner of the land, Captain Malcolm Wombwell.

The tiles were made locally, probably at the tilery from Old Byland which is referred to in 1197 in the chronicle of Philip, third abbot of Byland.

This mosaic panel consists of 384 tiles. When they were first made the glazes were yellow and dark green. The other colours which appear randomly in the arrangement are the result of wear and damage. In places either the slip or the fabric of the clay has been exposed, creating a more diverse palette of greys, pinks and whites.

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Mosaic tiles from Byland Abbey

Medieval, 13th century AD From Byland Abbey, N Yorkshire, England


More information


E. Eames, English medieval tiles (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

E. Eames, Catalogue of Medieval lead-gla (London, The British Museum Press, 1989)


Width: 1.950 m
Height: 1.260 m

Museum number


Acquired with the assistance of the National Art Collections Fund


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