Friday, June 20, 2008

Roofs, walls and windows

click photo to enlarge
A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days cycling around Rutland, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire. I was looking at church architecture, travelling from village to village on quiet country roads. That corner of England has many stone-built churches and houses, and the wonderful architectural legacy that they represent is the product of local builders and architects, and of the quarrymen of Barnack, Collyweston and Ancaster.

The churches date from the 1100s to the present day, but most of the houses go back no further than 1600. Cycling through a village one notices how the style of these buildings changes over the centuries, moving from "mud and stud", to rubble walls, cut stone, and locally made brick. There is a fair sprinkling of thatched roofs, many of split stone tiles, orange clay pantiles, and from the nineteenth century onwards, Welsh slate. Humble homes have low-ceilinged rooms, rough stone and mortar walls, small windows, and dormers poking up through the roof. Grander buildings use cut stone (ashlar), have columned and pedimented doorways, tall windows, string courses and carved classical ornament. The history of the development of the settlements can be read through their architecture. However, one development that was slightly depressing was the number of "cod-old" (sorry "traditional") buildings that were being erected. These were traditional only in the sense that they borrowed the details of the original houses and stuck them on a twenty first century frame. One large house I saw under construction was made of concrete blocks, steel girders and timber, but a veneer of thin stone slabs, stone mullioned and transomed windows, and a cornice was being carefully applied to the outside by a "builder of traditional homes". No doubt the columned doorway was stored somewhere, ready to complete the transformation. I'd much rather have seen modern, imaginative buildings of today, that respect their context being built, structures that add to the story of the village rather than plunder and mock it as these sham-old properties do.

Today's photograph shows part of a street in Stamford, Lincolnshire. I liked the way that the buildings clearly show the styles and incremental additions of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as well as the variety of materials and the pleasant jumble of the roofs, walls and windows.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 51mm macro (102mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On