Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Britain from Above

This is just a short announcement, if you have missed all of the excitement in the media, that English Heritage and the Royal Commissions on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Wales have launched there website Britain from Above!

It is a digital collection of over 15,000 aerial images from 1919 to 1953 and by 2014 there will be 95,000 images to view. The collection belonged to the Aerofilms Collection who gave it over in 2007 and features some of the oldest and most valuable images of buildings, towns and landscapes across Britain.

To get a further insight click here to hear Kate Whittacker from EH talk about the collection.

                      Images taken from EH website and show St Paul's Cathedral and Chatsworth House

So go on, take a look. You might be able to find your town!

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Lady and the Laypeople

Hungerford Almshouse

Seeing as the sun was actually shinning yesterday, I met up with a friend for a drink in Corsham.

I have driven past this building for about the last ten years and never have I once stopped and got out to have a look. I continued to crane my neck to try and keep it in my view for as long as possible whilst driving on past (which in hindsight isn’t a very good idea as it is on the edge of a mini roundabout!)

Anyway, enough about my poor driving skills, this fabulous mixture of a building is the old almshouse and school of Corsham town. Essentially an early form of hospital, it is a form of charitable housing which enabled local townspeople (mainly the elderly, ill or those who couldn’t pay rent) to continue living in that particular community.

Because of their function, almshouse often comprised of many smaller terraced houses that provided accomodation for a small number of residents. The gabelled ends on one side of the structure reflect this and on closer inspection it looks as though some doors have been blocked up as well.

Almshouses began cropping up in England from the 10th century. According to the arms above the main entrance, Corsham almshouse was built in 1668 by Lady Margaret Hungerford. Though there are a few bits of information that lead me to think that this date maybe a bit late for this building as a whole:

The porch for example is made of a different quality of material compared to the rest of the structure, which appears to be more local stone with possibly a lime render. Where as the porch stones are larger, smoother and begin to take the appearance of ashlar stonework that became so popular throughout the later half of the 1600s.There are also two ionic columns flanking the porch entrance.

Secondly, the position of the smaller Elizabethan Tudor window on the left hand-side of the porch makes me think that the porch is a later addition to the rest of the building. There are also Restoration style windows on the upper left hand corner of the building. So what I think (and this is just my opinion and maybe wrong) is an earlier Tudor building that has been adapted by Lady Hungerford who added the porch and possibly the later windows (may suggest something about the use of those rooms??) in the late Jacobean/early Restoration period?

Corsham Court


Lady Hungerford lived a stone’s throw from this stunning building, right next door infact, in
Corsham Court
.  Her Husband, Sir Edward Hungerford, was Commander of Cromwell’s forces in Wiltshire throughout the Civil War.

                                                       Please note the new bag, Kerri is very proud of it.

There has been a manor on this site since the Saxon period and it used to belong to the Royal Family. Two of Henry VIII’s wives (Catherine of Aragon and Katherine Parr) lived here through the mid 1500s. The estate passed out the Royal family shortly after Katherine Parr’s time here and the original centre part of the house was built in 1582 by Thomas Smythe.

                                                         Corsham Court website  

During the 1740s it passed into the Methuen family who had the gardens redesigned and the wings added by none other than Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.  In 1796, John Nash completely renovated the north façade in the Strawberry Hill Gothic style. However, much of this was replaced in the early 1800s due to unseasoned timber.

                                        Corsham Court website

The building is now used by Bath Spa University for postgraduate research projects for those undertaking Masters and Doctorates.  

Friday, 22 June 2012

Summer Solstice 2012

Britains longest (and wettest) day

Ok, so I know that Stonehenge isn't technically a 'forgotten building', in fact it is probably one of the country's most famous heritage sites. However, bear with me - there is a reason I am writing this.....

Yesterday was Britain's longest day and thousands of people gathered at Stonehenge to welcome in the morning sunrise at 4.52. As an employee of EH I voluntered to help, which meant staying up Wednesday night and doing the 6pm - 4am shift.

This was my first trip to Stonehenge (shocking for an archaeologist, please forgive me), yet it was possibly the best way to appreciate the stones, so my long awaited visit was not for nothing!!  Before our breifing we were allowed to wander the stones alone, without anyone else. It was amazing! The size and grandeur were stunning, something that I don't think can be experienced without standing next to it.

The path of the sunrise

I apologise for the quality of the pictures, all I had was my Blackberry.

I enjoyed myself throughout the whole night, even the torrential rain from 1 am did not dampen our spirits (When we finished our shift, I don't think we could have gotten any more drenched if we had jumped in the Avon). I fully recommend it. The atmosphere was amazing. People crammed themselves into the inner circle and celebrated all night. Even though stereos weren't allowed, people bought in acoustic drums and played traditional music while pagans and druids boogied the night away.

So if you are free next Summer Solstice, come and join us. It's free!

For better images of the evening click here

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Downton, Tutankamun and the Houses of Parliament


You may ask what on earth these three things have in common…. Well, I will tell you.

Like a good student of architecture, I was attempting to fill in my architectural dictionary yesterday and came across a rather interesting fact involving the film location of the ever popular 20th C drama and the Houses of Parliament.

It is now common knowledge that Downton Abbey is expertly played by Highclere Castle in Hampshire, definitley not near Ripon, and home to the Carnarvon family whose ancestor discovered Tutankamum in 1922.

What is not so common knowledge is that the external façade of Highclere was remodelled for the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon from 1839-42. Originally of a more plain and austere Georgian appearance it was modified into the romantic Victorian Gothick style that we see today by Sir Charles Robert Barry.

The same Sir Charles Robert Barry who, along with A G W Pugin, designed the external appearance of the Houses of Parliament after the original was destroyed by fire in 1834.

Barry was inspired by the Renaissance architecture of Italy and became known for working in a Renaissance-based style that became known in the 19th century as Italianate architecture.

However, at Highclere he kept to the traditional British style of Jacobethan, but could not help some European influence creeping in; such as the four corner towers, which are slimmer and more refined than those belonging to other Jacobethan houses in the area.

So there you have it, an unlikely connection between an Egyptian boy king, a 20th C based ITV drama and the architect to one of the country’s most recognizable buildings, but a connection nonetheless.