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A Brief History of the Mosaic & Terrazzo Industry in the U.K

Prior to the latter part of the 19th century the limited amount of Mosaic work required in the United Kingdom was carried out by Friulani or Venetian Artists on short term commissions.

From available records it would appear that Pietro Mazzioli (formerly Mazziol) a leading hand with Giandomenico Facchina was the first Terrazzo/Mosaic worker to arrive in London from Paris in 1875 to carry out mosaic works for Messrs Facchina and who subsequently decided to form a small family company and remain in London on a permanent basis.

This small company consisting of his own family carried out many prestigious contracts working at one time closely with and operating from the offices of Messrs Trollope (Estate Agents) at Hobart Place London S.W.1. until his untimely death in 1896 (age 45) caused the eventual demise of the company. Of his earlier works recorded in the Tablet as a work of Art was the High Altar of St. Georges Cathedral at Southwark; later works included the Old Scotland Yard, the Baltic Exchange Offices and the Dental Hospital at Leicester Square.

In 1877 other Friulani in France and the Low Countries hearing of the work opportunity in England arrived forming other small family companies.  Amongst the most notable were Mongiat & Sons, Marus, Girolami, Narduzzo, and Di Spirit. In 1879 Messrs Odorico from Holland sent their Sales representative Mr. Diespeker and leading craftsman Mr.Giovanni Mariutto to survey the market in the U.K. with the view of forming a company in London. However in 1881 Mr G.Mariutto and Mr. Diespeker’s nephew Mr. Scentille formed a company in London, Diespeker & Co, who by 1890 together with Messrs Ebnor (Austrian),  DeGrelle Houdret & Co (Belgian), W.B. Simpson & Sons Ltd and Messrs Burke were the major operating companies. In 1900, with further arrivals, Marble Mosaic Co (Maddelana) of Bristol was formed and these companies remained the major companies until the First World War

By the mid 1920’s the two major companies operating nationwide were Diespeker & Co Ltd now owned by the Hollybush Trust and The Art Pavements & Decorations Ltd, formerly DeGrelle Houdret & Co, who were to hold this position until the late 1940’s. Other reasonable sized companies during this period who played a notable part in the commercialisation of Terrazzo were Toffolo & Jackson (Scotland), Marble Mosaics Bristol, Standard Pavements, Birmingham, Jaconello Ltd, St. James Tile Co. Ltd. and Camden Tile Ltd, of London besides many smaller companies.

After the second world War, the smaller companies expanded and many new companies were formed from within the trade so that by the 1950’s the majors had given way to a greater number of middle sized companies. The National Federation of Terrazzo & Mosaic Specialists which had been formed in the late 1920’s lists during this period of the 1950’s and 1960’s over 60 associated companies, amongst which are The Alpha Mosaic & Terrazzo Co Ltd, The Arcanum Terrazzo & Stone Ltd,  Art Pavements & Decorations Ltd, Diespeker & Co. Ltd. Birmingham Art Flooring Ltd,  Malacarp Terrazzo Ltd,  Marriott & Price Ltd, A. Quiligotti Ltd, Zanelli Ltd, Zanetti and Bailey Ltd, Roman Mosaic Ltd, W.B. Simpson & Sons Ltd, Conway Tiles & Terrazzo Ltd,  A. Andrews & Sons Ltd and many others.

However with the severe recession of the 1970’s and the lack of skilled craftsmen many companies ceased trading or amalgamated with many companies converting their trading from a craft capable of carrying out all forms of In situ or Precast Terrazzo and Mosaic to mechanisation of simple or limited workmanship such as precast Tiling etc, and carrying out only the simplest forms of In situ Terrazzo.

It is therefore doubtful if any of the more intricate and decorative forms of In situ or precast Terrazzo of the past will be available in the next century. Many attempts to recruit apprentices have been made over the years, but owing to the long apprenticeship necessary to acquire the skills associated with the crafts of Terrazzo and Mosaic, the hard labour involved, the long periods from home, and the adverse working conditions, deter even those with a long traditional background in the crafts from entering the industry.

It would appear that once again history repeats itself, Mosaic and Terrazzo except in its simplest forms are due for another period of decline.

A special credit is due to Diespeker & Co. Ltd. who in the late 1920’s established the method of pre-casting reinforced Terrazzo in all its present forms, and to Art Pavements and Decorations Ltd who during this period established the first Hydraulic Tile press in the U.K. Together they laid the groundwork for the commercialisation of Terrazzo as a major component of every building from the l930’s to the present day.

Initial draft by:
G.G. Tiramani
NFTMMS Secretary 1987 – 1998

Spell checks and minor alterations by:
D. A. Slade
NFTMMS Secretary 1999 - 2008