Thursday, May 7, 2009

Overbury, Worcestershire


Small but perfectly formed

Bus shelters. Most of us hardly notice them, and the people who need them are just as well protected from the elements by today’s glass and steel advertising boxes as by something more traditional. And yet these modest buildings can be as important an ingredient in the character of a place as a cottage or a pub.

I was made strikingly aware of this once when I went to a talk by Sue Clifford, co-author of the essential book England in Particular. She flashed up a series of slides of bus shelters from different parts of the country – cob and thatch from Devon, limestone from the Cotswolds, timber and shingles from the Chilterns, or whatever, to show how they could be both contributors to and barometers of local character. It was as clear, as swift, and as striking a lesson in the notion of local distinctiveness as one could have.

I’m reminded of all this when I pass through the village of Overbury, beneath Bredon Hill in south Worcestershire. Here the estate was owned by the banking Martin family in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, and they employed both Richard Norman Shaw and Ernest Newton to make improvements. A school, village hall, several cottages, and many additions to other houses, were the result.

And this little gem. It’s said that Overbury’s bus shelter began life as a roadside fountain, designed by Newton in the 1870s before later being converted when the omnibus arrived to take villagers to Evesham or Tewkesbury. Local stone, stylish carpentry, and that lovely moss-covered half-hipped roof make this little building special. The seating arrangements and board for notices must be appreciated by users too. Overall, it’s a class act.

11 comments:

Thud said...

What a beauty...smashed glass and rubbish is our local variation I'm afraid.

CarolineLD said...

Gorgeous, and missing the worst design faults of modern bus shelters such as the six-inch gap at the bottom to ensure wind-blasted feet and ankles.

Peter Ashley said...

Brilliant example of local colour. And your post reminded me that my father once told me that Martins Bank was founded by a man who was discovered as a baby abandoned in a field. His rescuer was apparently alerted to his presence by the sound of a grasshopper, which much later became the bank's symbol.

Erin said...

That's lovely - I might choose to not get on the bus if I was lucky enough to have one of these to wait in. :)

Ron Combo said...

Ah that brings it all rushing back. Bus shelters and Martins Bank...Devon General AEC into town and then going to my mother's Martins Bank in Newton Abbot, a hushed silence and that distinct smell of wood polish, money and carpets. Now it's a FirstBus nightmare in orange, green and purple and a bank that resembles a scruffy airport check-in. There I've gone off on one again. Sorry Wilko, smashing post.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you all for your appreciative comments. The sheer quality of this shelter and the enthusiasm we all feel for it go to show, I think, that it's often the small things that make a difference.

jerym said...

Truly lovely and the moss is the final touch.I have encouraged moss to grow on my porch roof but have had offers to remove it by various callers.
I just don`t understand some aspects of this world.

Bucks Retronaut said...

My mate Mart,ever the master of les mots justes, has a theory that blokes don`t go missing . He reckons they`re either pissed in a bus shelter, or off with a tart . Bearing in mind the quality of the shelter in this post I think he`s on to something.

Jeri Westerson said...

I just discovered your gem of a blog and can't stop reading. I love this bus shelter. Here in California, we have the usual glass and steel, though only occasionally a city is inspired by the nearby Franciscan missions on the El Camino Real and creates a mission-esque shelter, but nothing as stunning as this example.

Bucks Retronaut said...

Just another thought........Thank you for pointing out the value of vernacular architecture which I suggest is fast being eroded by the acquiescence of gutless planning authorities to the One Size Fits All culture adopted by most national property developers

JOHNSON, Cotswold Hills, England. said...

You are right! I must have driven past this and not paid attention to it at all. Thanks for waking us up to what is around us...