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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Doorsteps

Since moving to a rural area with small, old market towns all around I started noticing how many of these decorative doorsteps there were at shop entrances. This was three years ago now, and I started collecting photos of them whenever I saw one with a view to doing a post about them at some point.


What I never expected to see, however, was someone laying down a new one outside a new store about to open. I had thought they were exclusively a thing of the past. So I asked if I could take a few photos of the new floor being laid out. I intend to photograph the finished floor when I next visit Totnes.




Having taken these photos of a new floor in the making, I thought that now in the quiet period between Christmas and New year was a good time to collect together all the photos which were taken in four nearby towns, Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge and Salcombe.


This one was the exception and was taken in Lostwithiel in Cornwall and is one of my favourites. Every town in Britain used to have a gas showroom where you bought all of your gas appliances, mainly cookers. I love the period lettering in this example and, no longer a gas showroom, it is so good to see it survive. This is an example of Terrazzo flooring.

The floors in this post fall into three categories, Terrazzo as the one above, Mozaic, and traditional Encaustic tiles. The new floor at the top of the post is an example of Encaustic tiles.


This is an example of mosaic and is probably the most famous and historic type. This is an actual Roman floor in Dorchester.

Mosaic floors are made up of different colours of small pieces of either pottery or glass to form either a pattern or a picture. This is a modern piece in Salcombe at a pizza restaurant.


This abstract looks quite 1970's to me.


This is a beautiful piece of work in a grade 2 listed building in Dartmouth. The listing claims that the floor was made in about 1901 at the time of a refurbishment. Former Stamp Office now a restaurant.


HISTORY: This plot was leased by the Plumleigh family from 1585 until after 1700. In 1655 this property was leased to one Anthony Plumleigh whilst the adjoining property, No.4 The Quay (qv), was leased to Robert Plumleigh, both were mariners. The property here was built on land reclaimed from the estuary in the 1580s and thereafter Fairfax Place/Lower Street became one of the main trading streets in Dartmouth.


This is a modern business, a clothes shop.


Our story began in Penzance in 1981, when Don Chadwick opened his first shop on Adelaide Street. It sold traditional workwear to local farmers, fishermen and artists and was known as General Clothing Stores. Inspired by this creative, coastal community, Don’s sons – Neil, Leigh and David – decided to create a clothing brand and, with the help of a growing team, we started to design our own collections. Seasalt was born.


I found several floors locally that were edged at the front by white marble, in exactly the same way, so I am guessing that this is the work of the same local business.

The style of the tiling also looks like the same hand.


Joseph Hepworth (1834–1911) was the clothing manufacturer who founded Joseph Hepworth & Son, a company which grew to become the United Kingdom's largest clothing manufacturer and which is now known as Next plc.


Born at Lindley in Huddersfield, Joseph Hepworth left school at ten to join George Walker's Mill in Leeds in 1844. In 1864 Joseph Hepworth went into business with James Rhodes, his wife's brother, as a tailor in Leeds. By 1881 their factory in Wellington Street employed 500 people and, unusually, made all three pieces of a gentlemen's three-piece suit. In the 1880s they innovated further establishing shops to sell their suits direct to the public. By 1890 they employed 2,000 operatives who sold their stock through 107 shops.


Joseph Hepworth died in Harrogate in 1911 and within 6 years of his death Joseph Hepworth & Son was the largest clothing manufacturer in the United Kingdom.


This one is now Dartmouth Ice Cream


Terrazzo floors have a mosaic appearance but are made in an entirely different way. In mosaics, each tessera or piece of pottery or glass can be hand cut and these are then placed manually in position to form the pattern or picture into a cement, where they set, and are grouted, to seal them and make them waterproof.


In Terrazzo, a substrate layer is prepared and a mixture of cement and broken coloured stone chips are laid down to set. These are then polished flat leaving a smooth speckled surface. These can either be made as a random speckled floor or more artfully laid to form lettering or patterns as these below.


This is a lovely Art Deco design somewhat spoiled by the practicalities of the door mat.


Another white marble frontage.


This one is in need of some elbow grease, outside a hairdressers in Kingsbridge. Johnson's are long gone.


Johnson Cleaners is a British brand with a heritage we are proud of. It all started back as 1817 when Johnson Brothers set up their silk dyeing business in Liverpool. We are proud of our unique heritage and our dry cleaning journey has now moved into its third century. We stay at the forefront of our industry, embracing new technologies and solutions. We believe that the combination of this experience and expertise makes us the UK’s best dry cleaner.



Another modern floor keeping up tradition Peter Betteridge.


Our business was born in 1972 in the small south Devon market town of Kingsbridge and by continuing the ethos of providing excellence in customer service combined with quality products, we now operate three retail stores in Kingsbridge and Honiton together with this web site ‘bedexpert.co.uk’.




Finally, the method that got the ball rolling for this post, the Encaustic tile floor. Encaustic tiles are tiles specifically designed for hard wearing floors, as the tiles are not glazed with colour but have the colour running all of the way through. This means that as the tiles wear down the colours or patterns remain intact.










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4 Comments


Unknown member
Dec 29, 2022

What a neat idea and what great captures. The amount of work put into creating. Each gives "class" to the entry of the store and while all are really nice I think my favorite is "Seasalt". Another unique and interesting post. 😊

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Dec 29, 2022
Replying to

Thanks Camellia.

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John Durham
John Durham
Dec 28, 2022

What beautiful floors! Is this common for shops in many areas or specific to a certain region in rural England? I especially loved seeing terrazzo again. My father's original office was in an Art Deco building, the first skyscraper in Arkansas, that had terrazzo floors throughout the hallways, and I loved taking off my shoes and sliding along them in my sock feet after they were polished and shined. Great idea for a series!

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Dec 28, 2022
Replying to

I don't actually know the answer. I suspect that they used to be common everywhere but have disappeared in the cities as High Streets became full of national or international chains. An international like McDonalds is not going to keep one of these floors if they move in. In rural areas High Streets have fewer chain stores and more independents. That is my theory anyway.

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