Saturday, July 01, 2006

Black and white in colour

click photo to enlarge
Many a driver on the A-road from Preston to Blackburn must have done a "double-take" as they passed Samlesbury Hall. Old timber-framed "black and white" buildings are characteristic of a number of English counties, particularly Cheshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Kent: but you don't expect them in Lancashire! The midlands, southern and eastern counties have such buildings, largely because in the 1500s and 1600s they didn't have good, outcropping, building stone, but were well-wooded and consequently had skills in wood-working. The style was popular not just in England, but across a number of countries in mainland Europe. And, in the 1860s the style made a comeback through Richard Norman Shaw, John Douglas and other architects. Aspects of the style have remained in use through to the present day, though usually as "tack-on" half-timbering rather than in the use of timber for structural purposes.

The photograph shows a small part of Samlesbury Hall. Along with Rufford Old Hall it is one of the most northerly of the big timber-framed houses. It was begun in 1330, though little from that period remains. The hall itself was built around 1500 and the large wing at right angles to the hall, in about 1540. Various owners added to Samlesbury in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and a major restoration took place in 1835. Although the main structure comprises large posts, crucks and beams of oak, the infill is largely wattle and plaster. Moreover, stone and brick is used in a number of important places, most noticeably in the footings of the walls and in the chimneys. Some say that the characteristic black painted wood and white painted infill is a Victorian invention, and it's true that many such buildings do have untreated oak. But, whoever is responsible, it certainly gives these buildings an appearance that is both striking and pleasing.

I took this shot in the morning when the shadows were still deep. I decided to focus on a part of the building to show the wall pattern to good effect. In my composition I placed the door to the left of the image, and the bay to the right, with some leaves from an overhanging horse chestnut above. Together with the closely cropped lawn they frame the quite unusual quatrefoil patterns of this part of the building. The fact that these are in the shade doesn't matter because of the very strong contrast that is characteristic of these buildings.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen