Height: 34.500 cm
Width: 25.000 cm
Depth: 7.000 cm
Room 46: Europe 1400-1800
Stove-tile with the arms of James I of England
From England, Surrey-Hampshire border, around AD 1603-25
This lead-glazed earthenware stove-tile is in the form of a panel, moulded with the royal Stuart coat-of-arms and the 'IR' cypher ('Iacobus Rex') for King James VI of Scotland and I of England (1566-1625).
By the mid-sixteenth century, closed wood-burning stoves (used for heating rather than cooking) generally took the form of a rectangular fire-box on supports or legs, with a free-standing 'tower' above, which radiated heat throughout the room. They were often made up from elaborately decorated tiles, and reflected a greater sense of comfort and sophistication in the domestic architecture of the wealthy and merchant classes.
Recent archaeological discoveries and scientific analysis has established that stove-tiles were being produced in England in small numbers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, probably to special commission. By the end of the sixteenth century the severe shortage in the south of England of wood for burning meant that coal, from Newcastle, was the primary source of heating fuel. Coal was not suitable for burning in closed stoves, and only the very wealthiest could afford to burn wood.
The use of tiles decorated with coats of arms reflected loyalty to the crown. The incorporation of the Tudor rose and the Scottish thistle at the base of this panel symbolises the union of the two crowns. James succeeded to the throne of Scotland in 1567 and to the throne of England in 1603.
M.R. Cowell and D.R.M. Gaimster, 'Pot-medieval ceramic stove-tiles bearing the royal arms of England' in Trade and discovery: the sci-1, British Museum Occasional Paper 109 (London, Department of Scientific Research, British Museum, 1995), pp. 105-117
D.R.M. Gaimster, 'Post-medieval ceramic stove-tiles bearing the royal arms: evidence for their manufacture and use in southern Britain', Archaeological Journal-3, 145 (1988)
M. Hughes, 'Tracing to source' in Science and the past-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1990), pp. 99-116