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Tag: ionic

Exhibition: The Romance of Ruins – The Search for Ancient Ionia, 1764 (Sir John Soane’s Museum)

Image: Struan Bates.

I chanced upon the Soane Museum’s The Romance of Ruins: The Search for Ancient Ionia, 1764 exhibition when researching Nicholas Revett’s will. I’m glad I caught it, as it brought home the lengths to which a generation of eighteenth-century architects, explorers, artists and other dilettantes went to establish an academic school of classicism that ushered in the Greek Revival.

Map of the journey. Image: Struan Bates.

The display over a series of rooms follows the journey of Revett, antiquary Richard Chandler and artist William Pars across Greece and Ionia on a trip funded by the Society of Dilettanti, Watercolours by Pars depict the other two men measuring ruins and interacting with the locals, and are similarly valuable as records of the state of important archaeological sites as they appeared at the time.

Image: Struan Bates.

It’s the first time Pars’ pictures of the expedition have been drawn together. Revett and Chandler’s sprightly industry springs from the watercolours as they beaver away on columns and cornices under Pars’ somewhat milky Aegean light.

Revett taking measurements. Image: Struan Bates.

Video from Sir John Soane’s Museum introducing the exhibition.
Image: Struan Bates.

Particularly striking, too, are the depictions of the guides, translators and local men, seemingly indifferent to the important structures they lounge on – scenes that pose questions about Western interpretations of Ottoman culture at the time.

Soane’s personal copy of Ionian Antiquities. Image: Struan Bates.

The men’s illustrated accounts of the expedition were published in 1769 (Ionian Antiquities) and 1797 (Antiquities of Ionia), with Chandler publishing his diaries of the trip from 1775.

Image: Struan Bates.

The exhibition is also accompanied by an excellent hardback catalogue, featuring all of Pars’ watercolours, background and timeline of the expedition and a series of essays by eminent scholars. Highly recommended.

Image: Struan Bates.
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133-135 High Street, Watford (c.1830-50)

133-135 High Street, Watford (c.1830-50). Image: Struan Bates.

Ocean Bells café in Watford was a bit of a lifeline during the pandemic, and though I’d sat in its snug, renovated Victorian interior countless times, I’d never taken time to look at the building from across the road until this spring. The handsome but much altered building (at 133-135 High Street) has a rusticated ground floor, with shallow, giant ionic pilasters stretching to the cornice and a pair of small first floor balconies . It’s currently shared between two units, Ocean Bells and Shakeaway, a milkshake/ice-cream bar. Ocean Bells is a single café room downstairs, with a flat (I think) above. There’s also a basement it would be interesting to peek into sometime. For now, here are some more pics …

Image: Struan Bates.

Image: Struan Bates.

Image: Struan Bates.

Image: Struan Bates.

Image: Struan Bates.

See also: 73 High Street, Watford

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73 High Street, Watford (1905)

One of the requirements of our course is to try and spot architectural references to the period we are studying each week when out-and-about and apply some of what we’ve learned. With that in mind I snapped 73 High Street in Watford, a branch of HSBC, as I passed last week. It’s sandwiched between the new Las Iguanas restaurant on the left and another bank building on the right, and just about manages to stick its head out amongst a mish-mash of modern buildings on the main shopping drag.

73 High Street, Watford

The building is obviously neo-classical, but its age was hard to ascertain. The ionic pillars immediately jumped out, with their tightly-scrolled volutes and connecting festoons. There’s also a recessed pediment behind the balustrade with a central dome poking out above that’s easier to see from across the street. My first guess was early Victorian Neoclassical revival, but up-close it doesn’t appear that old. I didn’t manage to go inside, which might have yielded more clues.

Ionic columns and entablature at 73 High Street, Watford

Walking around to the left gave a better view of the smooth-faced rusticated ashlar. It also emerged that the forebuilding only reaches back twenty feet or so, with a brick wall containing a decorated former sash window stretching back towards the shopping centre, however the stone gable with niche and pediment above suggested the stone and brick parts were built at the same time. The brickwork led me to think that the building might be more recent, possibly late-19th century.

Side view of 73 High Street, Watford

A web searched revealed all: 73 High Street, built in 1905, is grade II-listed and surprisingly has always been owned by the same bank (or at least its previous incarnation as the Midland). Style-wise, its listing description has it as:

A sophisticated Baroque revival design achieving a monumental scale despite the actual size of the building and the narrowness of the site.

The interior is built to a Greek cross plan, with the dome described as a ‘bulbous-based, lead clad, shallow saucer dome with vase finial’ (must go inside next time!) The designer was Thomas Bostock Whinney (1860-1926), who become chief architect of the Midland Bank, and was responsible for many of its offices in the early past of the 20th century. Interestingly, Bostock Whinney was married one of Charles Dickens’s granddaughters.

King Edward VII driving to Sunday Service at St Mary’s, 18th July 1909.

I also came across the postcard image (above) of Edward VII driving down the High Street a few years after number 73 was built. There appears to have been space to the left of the building even than (an alleyway?), and with the adjoining building to the right possibly still extant with a later facade.

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