Monday, September 29, 2008

Chimneys and the picturesque

click photo to enlarge
This derelict Lincolnshire cottage has four chimney stacks, some of them leaning quite alarmingly. Four! That probably equates to an open fire in every room. It looks like a nineteenth century structure, so for much of its life coal and wood would have burned merrily in its fireplaces, offering the inhabitants visual cheer and limited warmth.

The earliest houses had a hole in the ceiling for smoke to exit, but as building skills developed a chimney to confine the smoke and make it leave the building in a controlled way became firstly desirable, then mandatory. Houses made of wood frequently had a chimney made of bricks or stone for safety reasons, and these can still be seen on such houses built during the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Fireplace and chimney breasts were often a focus for decoration - arches, pilasters, brackets and mythical figures are common, as are mantelpieces for the display of family artefacts. The chimney stack above the roofline was also often embellished too: a clay pot on a stepped brick cornice for the humble dwelling; spirals, castellation, and more for the well-to-do residence.

Today, ever fewer buildings have chimneys. Indeed the day is coming when new buildings will not require, or be permitted, a source of heat that requires combustion. Consequently chimneys will probably, in time, disappear and with them the focal point of the fireplace and the finial-like finish to the top of houses. Am I alone in thinking that the photograph above would be much less interesting, less picturesque, without the chimneys? Perhaps it's an age thing - maybe younger folk don't see things that way? However, I certainly wouldn't have photographed this scene had there been no chimneys on this building, regardless of the allure of the sun breaking through the cold, foggy, autumn morning.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mm (26mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/1000
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -2.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On