Remember this post about the Vestigial Lawn and the bits of pottery shrapnel I kept digging up? We still have no clue what this stuff is.
The all-knowing Internet has provided options but no answers, and comments and emails from blog readers have not given any clear resolution to what these odd bits of old things might be. Beth R. observed the outer lip might allow these to be used as a a decorative baseboard, something similar to the sanitation wrap which joins the wall to the floor in commercial bathrooms. Other readers said these could have been used in the garden as pottery or for drainage.
There is a slight consensus towards roofing tiles. John said these seem to be like the Spanish roofing tiles where he lives, and Kasey K. sent her boyfriend up on the roof to take pictures of the tiles on their Belgium home:
They have the grooves in the right places, but there are differences. Kasey’s tiles have deeper, more rounded grooves and are generally thicker and more solid-looking than our scrappery. The grooves might be regional preference, but I have looked around and have not been able to find any thin roofing tiles.
Digger noted that it might be the remnants of bricks used for housing insulation:
Looks like structural terra cotta to me. Structural terra cotta isn’t bricks, but more honey-combed (generally) forms used from linings to entire buildings. You may have had a small outbuilding or addition built from it, or perhaps it was used for a flue liner. Here’s linkage to an online piece that clearly shows the same stuff as what you have: http://historicbldgs.com/terra_cotta.htm
That link leads to a fascinating article on “hollow tile,” which appeared to provide some insulation in addition to cosmetic facings. The thickness and general size of the pieces looks similar to those in the article. This might be more likely than roofing tile!
Another option is that these are simply old floor tiles. I’ve chipped off some of the marine enamel (read: industrial boat paint) on the floor of the hallway bathroom and it looks as though the previous owners painted over red terra cotta tiles. The color and texture is not a match to the pottery scraps, but the scrappery was left outside for a few decades so weathering might have altered them. I’ve never heard of floor tile with thick grooves on both the top and the bottom, though, and five wheelbarrows full of floor tiles is a lot of materials waste.
Weirdly, I was digging around in the ivy and found yet another scrap of pottery with the same hangy-bit-line-things, but this one was blue. It was what put me in the mindset that these might have been used for decoration rather than construction. And take a look at this: there’s writing stamped into it.
The edges are saw-cut so someone fabricated something out of this.
I still have no idea what these things are.