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Tucked away in an area of woodland in Kew Gardens there is a timber-framed brick cottage with a thatched roof. It was originally single storey but later had an upper floor added. It was built between 1754 and 1771 for Queen Charlotte, a cottage orné to serve as a destination for her rural walks, a place to rest and take tea; to experience what she imagined to be the bucolic lifestyle of a yeoman farmer without getting her hands dirty. The desire to build in old styles was a notable feature of the Georgian period. Alongside the styles that they invented they also built using features of Greek and Roman architecture, invented a style of Gothic architecture sufficiently different, yet like the original that it came to be called "Gothick".
The Victorians continued this trend emulating the Italianate villas of the Mediterranean in their suburban detached and semi-detached housing, and at the most extreme borrowing details from Egyptian, Saracenic and Indian architecture. They too plundered Gothic with abandon. However, like the Georgians they built much that owed little or nothing to past styles. And, unlike the Georgians they built it virtually anywhere, too often heedless of vernacular and local traditions. The twentieth century followed suit with, for example, watered down European "Moderne" influencing suburban houses of the 1930s, Georgian columns and bulls-eye windows favoured in the 1970s and Victorian tile-hanging, plinths, roof cresting and fake half-timbering being popular in the 1990s. The same style of house appeared on estates and streets the length and breadth of the country.
I was reflecting on this the other day when I was looking at Barkham Street in Wainfleet All Saints, Lincolnshire. The centre of this small country town is filled with modest brick buildings of the Georgian and Victorian periods, usually two storey, often with the door opening on to the pavement. Consequently to turn a corner and see a London street plonked down amongst the unassuming Lincolnshire housing is something of a surprise. And it is a London Street too. A plaque on the buildings notes: "Barkham Street. Built in 1847 for Bethlem Hospital according to the design of Sydney Smirke, their architect, and named after their benefactor. A number of similar terraces stood in Southwark near Bethlem hospital." Smirke is best known as the architect of the circular Reading Room of the British Museum. Both sides of his street have the same rather grand elevations with the main living storey slightly elevated by a basement and emphasised by steps to the front door and stone framed windows. The relative importance of the two floors above is signified by differing window treatments. The houses make a fine sight, though a very unusual one for this locality.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14.1mm (38mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/50 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On