Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Peterborough, Peterscourt and bricks

click photo to enlarge
Approach Peterborough from almost any direction and you can see its position from miles away. It isn't the cathedral that looms over the centre that catches your eye, nor is it some gleaming tower broadcasting the city to the wider world - the modern buildings in Peterborough aren't too tall. Rather, it's the cluster of chimneys of the brickworks, each with its plume of smoke trailing downwind that marks the settlement. There are fewer chimneys today than in the past but sufficient to make the city unique.

Brick-making in Peterborough is based on the local clay and became a major industry with the building of the railways. In the nineteenth century it was a fairly local undertaking, but from around 1890, with the exploiting of the Fletton clay that is suitable for making harder bricks, output soared. In the twentieth century the Peterborough area was the dominant brick-producing locality in Britain.

The other day, when I visited the city to do a little shopping and photography, I passed the building known as Peterscourt. This brick building with stone detailing is on City Road. It was built in 1856-64 by the prolific architect, Sir G. G. Scott, as a teacher training college for men. It subsequently became council offices, and is today the Eco Innovation Centre. It's a building I've wanted to photograph for a while with its long facade with ranks of tall chimneys. The clear, lowish September sun and sharp shadows of the day of my visit were perfect for architectural photography. Unfortunately, however, parked cars and sundry roadworks and street furniture prevented me getting the image I wanted. But, as I passed the end of the building, I noticed this wall with its doorway and window raked by the light. The sharpness conferred by the side illumination combined with the cleaned brickwork and painted stonework gave me something of a feeling for what Scott's building must have looked like when it was first built. I don't know if it uses Peterborough bricks, though it surely must. What I do know is it is a fine testament to the architect's handling of the material and a credit to the city that the building remains in use and in good repair.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On