Historical information

This Minton floor tile is from the wreck of the Loch Ard. The iron-hulled clipper ship from the Loch Line was heading for Port Phillip from London, when it ran into the cliffs of Mutton Bird Island near Port Campbell.

The Loch Ard was laden with high-value cargo including luxury goods intended for display at the Melbourne International Exhibition in 1880. One notable survivor from the ship’s freight manifest was the well-packed Minton porcelain peacock, a two-meter high ceramic masterpiece of vivid glazed colours. (This is also on display in the Great Circle Gallery).
The almost total loss of life and property from the Loch Ard registered as a shocking tragedy for the Colony of Victoria, at a time when social confidence and economic optimism were otherwise high. The wealth generated from Gold and Wool was increasingly being spent on grandiose private residences and imposing public buildings. The demand for quality furnishings and fittings was therefore strong.

Among the products consigned to burgeoning colonial markets by the Milton Pottery at Stoke upon Trent, were their new range of colourfully patterned but very durable floor tiles ideal for the high-traffic spaces in the large civic buildings then being constructed in Australia and America. These floor tiles were “encaustic”, meaning that their designs and colours were encased “within” the depth of the tile.

Rather than their decorative patterns being glazed onto the surface of the tile, their inlaid designs were created during the manufacturing process, as “coloured slips” (or liquid clay) were poured into a deep pre-moulded casting. When fired, the resulting tile was colour-fast and design-fast.


The Minton floor tile is significant for its hard-wearing yet attractive design.

The shipwreck of the Loch Ard is of significance for Victoria and is registered on the Victorian Heritage Register ( S 417). Flagstaff Hill has a varied collection of artefacts from Loch Ard and its collection is significant for being one of the largest accumulations of artefacts from this notable Victorian shipwreck of which the subject items are a small part. The collections of objects give us a snapshot of how we can interpret the story of this tragic event. The collection is also archaeologically significant as it represents aspects of Victoria's shipping history that allows us to interpret Victoria's social and historical themes of the time. Through is associated with the worst and best-known shipwreck in Victoria's history.

Physical description

A square Minton floor tile with a white background, and beige, dark blue, light blue and black geometric pattern as well as leaves in the design. The tile has corner broken off and some chipping along the edges. The reverse has five rows of five evenly spaced holes. The back of the tile has inscriptions. Made by Minton & Co. at Stoke upon Trent. This encaustic floor tile was recovered from the shipwreck of the LOCH ARD.

Inscriptions & markings