Medusa and the Lost Floor of Clivedon

This stunning section of an encaustic floor was almost destroyed by Nancy Astor, but survived and is now in the collection at Jackfield Tile Museum.

American millionaire William Waldorf Astor bought Clivedon in 1893 for $1.2m and set about remodelling many rooms of the house, and improving the grounds. In 1906, Astor’s eldest son Waldorf married Nancy Langhorne, and the couple were given Clivedon as a wedding gift. Nancy Astor reputedly did not like the Minton encaustic floor and had it taken up and stored in the basement of the property. Waldorf Astor gave Clivedon to the National Trust in 1942 and in 1966 the property was opened to the public. The tile collector John Scott bought the Medusa roundel from a dealer many years after it was removed from Clivedon, and it was part of the celebrated collection which he donated to the Museum in 2013. The roundel is now on display at Jackfield Tile Museum.  

The encaustic pavement of Clivedon was described in The Potter Gazette of 1 November 1895: 

Millionaire’s Encaustic Floor

Some years ago, the late Mr. Herbert Minton presented to the then Duchess of Sutherland an elaborately manufactured encaustic tile floor for her residence at Clevedon, Bucks, and the property having passed into the possession of Mr. Astor, the American millionaire, that gentleman has recently ordered a counterpart of it from the present firm of Messrs. Minton, Hollins, & Co., of Stoke-upon-Trent, and which we have had the privilege of seeing. The floor is 25ft. 8in. by 23ft. 8in., and is of a most artistic character and wonderfully displays the high manufacturing powers of the firm. The whole floor has been specially designed and modelled, and is undoubtedly the finest of its kind ever produced. The Corinthian form of design is mainly adopted. On the outer border of the floor are Cupids allegorically drawn. The base of the ornament on the outer edge is of a jasper blue colour, the figures of the Cupids being white, and in their hands they hold a wreath, the ends of which are attached to a vase in the form of a fountain. A scroll and a key border are also effectively introduced. At the top of the columns or plinths in the centre of the floor are allegorical figures in white upon a jasper ground, the figures being relieved by touches of green. The elements are represented by four allegorical pictures, and in the centre of the pavement the mask of Medusa is portrayed. The colours of the tiles used in the construction of this beautiful work of art are blue, white, grey, buffs, black, green and purple. It is impossible to convey by description anything like an adequate idea of the rare beauty which the design presents to the eye, or of the harmonious colouring which has been attained by the firm in this their distinctive branch of the ceramic art. The entrance hall to Clevedon when this pavement is laid will consist of 60ft. by 25ft. of Messrs. Minton, Hollins, & Co.’s tiles, and will have a most magnificent appearance, such, in fact, as no other palatial residence in the kingdom can present.
The Potter Gazette, 1 November 1895

Image: Encaustic tile depicting Medusa, Minton & Co., 1895.