Thursday, June 21, 2012

Shodfriars Hall, Boston

click photo to enlarge
The Dominican Order of nuns and friars was founded in the early 1200s in France by St Dominic. It quickly crossed the Channel to England, becoming established in Oxford in 1221 and spread widely into many of the major towns thereafter. Here they became known as the Blackfriars after the black cloak that was worn over a white habit, and to distinguish members from the Whitefriars (often the Carmelites) and the Greyfriars (e.g. the Franciscans). However, they were also referred to as the Preaching Friars because both preaching and conversion were strong features of their work. A further name for the Blackfriars, much used in England, a country that specialises in conferring humorous names on the mighty, was the Shodfriars. This name arose because they used footwear, unlike the Greyfriars for example, and so they were always shod.

It is the latter name for the Dominicans that attaches to Shodfriars Hall, the black and white, timber-framed building of c.1400, in Boston, Lincolnshire. It was one of a group of buildings in a part of the town associated with the Blackfriars. Interestingly, the Hall itself may have been built as "The Golden Hows", "the principal mansion of the guilds". For many years the building was thought to be Victorian, so thorough was the restoration by John Oldrid Scott in 1874. However, even a cursory inspection reveals large parts of the exterior and interior structure to be original. It seems that people didn't look beyond the pierced barge boards, symmetrical timber-work, simplified pargeting and obviously new timbers, all of which recall Victorian Tudor of the sort that can be seen across the country, but particularly in Chester. Incidentally, the Gothic-style Victorian building with the crow-step gables, tall chimneys and steeply pitched roof behind and adjoining Shodfriars Hall is a former theatre. For those who are interested in such things it is where Arthur Towle (later famous as Old Mother Riley) made his first stage appearance.

On a recent trip into Boston I had meant to photograph the main facade. However, parked vehicles prevented that so I took a detail shot of the pargeted plasterwork with its Tudor roses and surrounding dark wood. Later I managed to get today's main shot from the tall tower of the church of St Botolph (The Stump) at the other end of the market place.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 161mm macro
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/400 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On