Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Facades, fanlights and foliage

click photo to enlarge
The house shown in this photograph, a detached building on the High Street of the village of Billingborough, Lincolnshire, has puzzled me for a while. It has a symmetrical facade with a centrally placed, panelled front door flanked by a fluted doorcase, traceried fanlight with a semi-circular head above, single glazing-bar sash windows (with extra margin lights) either side, and three similar windows at the first floor level. A parapet hides the double ridge roof. There are gable-end chimney stacks, and the front of the house is finished in light-coloured stock brick, whilst the remainder is red brick. Two things have baffled me about the building: its date, and whether or not the fanlight is original.

Everything about the unembellished front of the house says early 1800s - the plainness of door and windows combined with symmetry, the spare-looking parapet, the colour of the facing brick, the absence of surface ornament. It looks to belong to the period when Georgian proper was giving way to the Regency-style: that is to say, about 1815. My researches show that it is indeed early nineteenth century. But what about the fanlight? My guess was that the almost Art Nouveau curves were late nineteenth century - that it replaced an earlier, more fan-like fanlight. But I appear to have been wrong. I find that designs in both cast-iron and wood, incorporating tear drops, curves and circles of the type seen here, were not uncommon in the early 1800s. And, on subsequent trips, I have come across more examples exactly like this one, and others that are similar, in houses of the same date.

So, that explains my interest in this facade as architecture. However, I probably wouldn't have photographed it for blog-posting purposes had it not been for the sensitive symmetrical planting of Pyracantha, Senecio greyii and potted dwarf conifers around the door. Combined with the restrained architecture they produce a very appealing combination of colours and textures. Even the more recent use of tiles for the steps adds to the charm of this attractive composition.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/25
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On