Monday, April 16, 2012

Hampton Court, King's Lynn

click photo to enlarge
The over zealous restoration of old buildings is rife in the UK. This especially happens when such properties are in private hands. If the building is Listed the wilder fancies of the owners are often restrained by the legislation. However, where this isn't the case you too often see work designed to make the property look "quaint", or conform to the owners' conception of an idealised past that owes more to Hovis adverts, television adaptations of classic novels and the illustrations of Kate Greenaway than to a sympathetic understanding of the building and its history. So, traditional, practical finishes and details are eschewed in favour of picturesque embellishments that appear to owe more to increasing the re-sale value of the property than to any appreciation of the qualities necessary to present the building authentically. However, though such treatment of old buildings is more common than one might wish, instances of good restoration in both private and public hands are not difficult to find. Hampton Court in King's Lynn, Norfolk, is one such example.

This cobbled courtyard surrounded by four ranges of buildings dating from C14, c.1450, c.1480 and c.1600 has elevations constructed of brick, stone and timber-framing. The west range incorporates a former warehouse that would have fronted the river before it was embanked. All the present structures may have been built on the foundations of earlier buildings, all have been the subject of later maintenance and updating down the centuries and all were restored in 1958-60 at a time when they were in very poor repair. In 1962 they were converted into the fifteen flats that we see today. The current name probably refers to John Hampton, a master baker who became a freeman of the town in 1645. The restoration of Hampton Court has been widely acclaimed. Pevsner speaks of it "setting a standard for such work which is reached depressingly rarely." He was right, and to stand today under the half-timbered entrance arch on Nelson Street and look into the courtyard is to look back in time.

I 've photographed this courtyard a few times but I've never been satisfied with the shots that I've secured. On a recent visit I decided to concentrate on a small section, the corner where the northern range (on the right) meets the western range. I'm much happier with this outcome.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 58mm
 F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On