Monday, September 07, 2009

Early 1800s houses

click photo to enlarge
The first few decades of the nineteenth century, when Georgian turned to Victorian, is an interesting period in English architectural history. It is a time when the middle classes began to build houses outside the towns and cities in which they made their money, and when those who had the inclination, and could afford it, established themselves as nouveaux squires.

A style of spare, stripped down architecture evolved at this time. It incorporated something of the proportions of Georgian buildings, but with updated "modern" classical detailing, often yellow brick, stucco, shallow bows and angled bays, deeply overhanging eaves, verandas and new sources of inspiration from southern Europe. Italianate villas were popularised by architects like John Nash, and erected in rural areas as new country houses, and in towns as desirable modern residences. However, the English have frequently been an architecturally conservative nation, and whereas these features are very visible in London, the Home Counties and provincial metropolitan areas, in the smaller towns old styles hung on longer.

Today's photograph shows a detail of a large, early nineteenth century town house on Swinegate in Grantham, Lincolnshire. Despite its date it is very much a symmetrical facade in the Georgian manner with a centrally-placed door, with windows regularly disposed on each side of it and above. The style of the doorway, with its window at the top letting light into the hall, and the stubby canopy supported by brackets with two volutes are developments of Georgian details, but stylistically are clearly later. Similarly, the indented window lintels with their reticent keystones have a mechanical feel that the Georgians would eschew. However, the brickwork, in Flemish bond (alternating headers and stretchers) has yet to become the all-pervasive stretcher bond, and could be that of an earlier building, as could the "Gothick" glazing bars. Then there are the shutters. In England these are usually thought of as "foreign" - we don't have sun that is strong enough for long enough to warrant them - but this period liked them in cottage ornes (where they added to the ornament), and on Italianate villas (where they suggested the Tuscan origins more forcibly). I don't know when these were fixed to this facade, but I suspect they date from the twentieth century. The interesting thing is, even though they are probably later than the building itself, they help to make it look more of its time!

This photograph is another attempt by me to get away from my usual shots of building facades, where verticals are carefully corrected.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/400
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On