Fourth Grade Visits  Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle

May 20, 2022

Fourth grade recently visited the Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle. They learned about Henry Mercer, Moravian Tile Works, and the American Arts & Crafts Movement.


Mercer Museum Field Trip

Henry Mercer's Fonthill Castle

Built between 1908-1912, Fonthill Castle was the home of archaeologist, anthropologist, ceramist, scholar and antiquarian Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930). Mercer built Fonthill Castle as his home and as a showplace for his collection of tiles and prints.

The castle serves as an early example of reinforced concrete and features forty-four rooms, over two hundred windows, and eighteen fireplaces. Fonthill Castle’s interior features Mercer’s renowned, hand crafted ceramic tiles designed at the height of the Arts and Crafts movement.

The Tileworks

Between 1911 and 1912, Henry Chapman Mercer (1856-1930) built the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works to “master the potter’s art and establish pottery under personal control.” The success of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works rested on Mercer's pure genius. With a small capital investment, relatively inexpensive operating costs, and an ability to produce a range of wares that made the best use of biotechnology, the pottery produced unique tiles that were praised by critics and sought after by architects. The honest, hand-made quality of his work fully expressed the ideals of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, elevating Mercer to one of the movement’s most important proponents. His tiles were emblematic of the survival, or rebirth, of the handcraft tradition. By the turn of the century, he was recognized as a premiere maker of “artistic” tiles. For the next thirty years, his work was sought out by leading architects and tastemakers to decorate public and private buildings all across the country. Mercer’s pioneering influence was far-reaching and still affects many tilemakers today.


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