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Month: November 2020

Explore a 19th century court housing slum

I stumbled across this 3D explorable reconstruction of 19th century Liverpool court housing when reading up more about Victorian slums on Week 8 of our course:

Digital reconstructions can sometimes be a little clunky or superficial, though this one (developed by Domingos Studios) is particularly atmospheric in the way it combines graphics and sound. Best-viewed in full-screen (toggle from bottom). If you’ve for a VR viewer (eg Google cardboard) it works with that, too: (opens in new window)

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Ashridge House (1808-14)

During our week looking at Victorian eclecticism we also explored the Gothic revival. As it happens I’d recently visited James Wyatt’s Ashridge House in Hertfordshire with the family for the pumpkin trail. Only the gardens were open, but I was keen to explore the hall’s exterior as I’ve previously only seen it at distance from other parts of the Ashridge estate:

The elevated setting is undeniably spectacular, as is the house at first glance, but there’s something about the much-altered building that’s not quite right – perhaps it’s the crenellations? It conjures childhood visits to the hall at Alton Towers, so perhaps there’s something suggestive of ‘theme park Britain’ in its desire to recreate the past … though I’ve just read Ashridge’s entry in Pevsner, who is firmly in the other camp, calling it ‘..the best example of Wyatt’s truly romantic handling of the Gothic style’!

I’m keen to return to have a look inside once we’re allowed to – the fact that it’s been altered so much since its priory days certainly make it a fascinating building. At time of writing the house was putting on more outdoor events open to the public in (I assume) the absence of their usual business college bookings.

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Royal Pavilion, Brighton (1815)

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton. Image: Qmin (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In Week 7 we looked at nineteenth-century eclecticism: the range of architectural styles including John Nash’s Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

One question asked how seriously or frivolously Nash himself intended his work to be regarded. I agree that the Royal Pavilion seems primarily to have been designed for pleasure and indulgence, however it seems from the sources provided in the course material that Nash took the job of delivering the Prince Regent’s ambitions seriously; one pointer is Nash’s decision to plan the building with Humphrey Repton’s garden designs in mind. This wider consideration of the building and its setting working in tandem to delivery an aesthetic whole shows that, while architecturally playful and serious in its intent to deliver fun and delight, Nash didn’t want to leave himself open to accusations of frivolity.

The significance of the adjacent stable complex, built in an Indian style, should also not be overlooked. The magnificence and size of this complex was overshadowing the old Marine Pavilion, and having already demonstrated that an eastern style could be successful, the stables’ design could provide both an anchor and a catalyst for Nash’s own vision for a new Royal Pavilion.

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Chenies Manor House (1460)

Last week we went for a pre-lockdown visit (exterior and gardens only) to Chenies Manor House near Chorleywood. The building has an intriguing history due to its multiple alterations over the centuries, and was memorably described by Pevsner as ‘archaeologically, a fascinating puzzle’. Time Team shed some light on this a few years back, but the puzzle to some degree remains unsolved. My course only touches on secular Tudor/Jacobean buildings, and I’m keen to come back this period; for now, here are some pics:

Chenies Manor House
The Manor that’s Back-to-Front (Time Team episode on Chenies)

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Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury (1850)

The other morning I caught Christ the King, Bloomsbury bathed in dramatic light. Pausing to take the photo below, I had another go at applying the skills learned on my course to the church’s exterior.

Church of Christ the King, Bloomsbury

Early English Gothic revival was my first guess. Why? Firstly, age: the honey-coloured ashlar is insufficiently weathered, so it’s plainly not old enough to be a medieval gothic church. We haven’t yet reached the Victorian period on our course, so I don’t yet feel confident identifying the nuances that would place it firmly of that age, though from earlier studies of the variations of gothic architecture, Christ the King seems be Early English Gothic in style.

What makes it so? Most apparent are the narrow, plain, lancet windows with little-to-no tracery, typical of the Early English Gothic style of the late 12th and early 13th centuries (see my previous post on Wells Cathedral). Supporting the structure’s weight are a series of external buttresses, an invention from the same period. However, the south transept rose widow, uncommon in England at the time, nods to the later English Decorative style, though its design here seems a little perfunctory, another clue perhaps to this being an imitation of an earlier style.

And the answer is (according to Wikipedia)…

Early English Neo-Gothic in style and cruciform in plan, the church was built by Raphael Brandon between 1850 and 1854 (with Brandon’s interior designed in 1853) for the Victorian church movement the Catholic Apostolic Church (also known as “Irvingites”). It is built of Bath stone, with a tiled roof.,_Bloomsbury

So I wasn’t too far off (though if I had to put a year on it I’d have probably said nearer 1900). The article also notes (citing the church’s entry in the Dictionary of National Biography) that:

‘… this extremely large church was criticized by a contemporary for its lack of originality of design. Recent scholars, however, have drawn attention to the combination of 13th- and 15th-century Gothic precedents in its design,’

Both points of which tie with my initial impression … so I must be learning something!

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