Saturday, July 14, 2012

Police stations new and old

click photo to enlarge
Ever since I started to take an interest in architectural history, about forty years ago, I've compared buildings. Take town halls. These are invariably made to look imposing and designed to ornament the community in which they are located. They are a visible symbol of civic values and pride. Architectural styles and fashions come and go, and town halls reflect these changes. I've seen excellent town halls, mediocre examples, and some that are downright terrible. You'd think the same would be true of police stations given that they originate from the same public procurement processes. Yet, as far as Britain goes, it's unusual to see a good police station and all too common to see a bad one.This is partly because many date from the period when Britain had a spell of building new, bigger police stations - the late 1960s and 1970s. Examples from this time often exhibit the worse fashion of those years: raw, shuttered concrete, acres of barren paving, grim glass walls, main entrances that are hidden from view, and flat roofs topped by excrescences - lift gear rooms, flag poles and multiple aerials. I remember particularly dour examples in Morecambe and Blackpool, Lancashire.

The other day I came across a police station from a much earlier time, 1847 to be precise. It was in the small Lincolnshire town of Barton upon Humber and it currently serves as the premises of a veterinary surgeon. However, the main entrance doorway boldly proclaims (sans one letter) its original purpose. It is made of brick laid using the Flemish bond (alternating headers and stretchers) with stone dressing round doors and windows and a Welsh slate roof. The main entrance is flanked by windows and at each side a wing projects forwards, single storey on the left, two storey on the right.The building is not, overall, a thing of beauty. But, the section with the main entrance, shown above, has a certain simple charm. What prompted my photograph was the paving, seating and planting, some work of recent years, and the way it complements the symmetry and regularity of the building. As I looked at the building I reflected that the original door would almost certainly not be the strong red that it is today, was more probably dark blue, perhaps black, or some other reserved or muted colour, but definitely benefited from the louder hue.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 35mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On