Tiling Our Front Path in a Victorian Style: Case Study

The Parker family decided to try to recreate the Victorian tile path that would once have graced their front garden. It was not easy but they are pleased with the results.

Jane Parker said:

“We have lived in our Victorian home in Norwich for about 21 years now, and have slowly been making changes to it. One of the things my husband always wanted to do was to replace the Victoria front path that must once have been there. Some of the houses on our street still had theirs, along with their original wrought iron railings, but ours just had concrete.

For years, I put him off doing anything about it, feeling that we ought to be concentrating on the interior of the house. While I knew it would eventually look nice, I felt that replacing the path was really a cosmetic change that was less important than improving bathrooms and renovating the kitchen.

Looking for tiles

About four years ago, however, my husband came through to tell me he had seen some old Victorian tiles on the internet for a good price. I suggested we should do our research before buying any, to make sure they were the right style, and so we didn’t go ahead. But it did spark an interest and for the next year or so we studied path designs and kept our eyes open for good deals.

We both started to chat to our neighbours about their paths. A couple of them were original but others had newer versions. We also managed to track down an old black and white picture of our street. It was a bit grainy but you could just make out that the houses in the row all had tiled paths and wrought iron fences.

Path pattern

We worked out that our original path was probably black and white, in a checked pattern, with diamond-shaped tiles. It was likely to have been bordered with black rope edging.

Once we had decided how we wanted to replace the path, we started to search for the right kind of tiles. We visited reclamation yards and kept our eye on the internet to see what people had in. Every so often we would see there was a load of original tiles that had been taken up from an old property but it took a while to find what we were looking for. Victorian tiles vary in shape and size, and colour. Black and white are not uncommon but often they are a red colour, and occasionally green, blue or brown. We were looking for small squares in black and white.

Finding reclaimed tiles

Eventually we found what we were looking for and a friend kindly picked them up for us in his van. The tiles were in good condition and there were enough for us to tile from the front door down to the pavement. A couple of weeks later we also found some edging.

Then one sunny weekend, my husband decided to tackle the path. Getting the old concrete up was hard work. He tried to do it with a sledge hammer first, but it was thicker than we had realised, and eventually he had to ask a friend to bring round a hammer drill.

Laying the path

Over the years, the level of the front garden had also been built up, so there was a fair amount of soil to be taken out. My husband dug it up while I ferried it round to the beds in the back garden. Then he made a fresh cement mix and laid it flat. With the help of some friends we laid out the tiles in the right pattern, starting from the pavement and working our way up to the front step. It was a slow process but it was fun to watch the path coming together. My husband then put the same mix into the gaps.

It did take us the whole weekend to make the path – and we had a lot of help – but it was worth it. It has really smartened up the front of our property. Now we are on the hunt for wrought iron railings to put on top of the wall – that will be our next project!

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