Monday, September 14, 2009

Abthorpe, Northamptonshire


The long view

To build is to be optimistic. You are investing time, money, and effort in an unknown future. To build during a time of war entails an extra dose of optimism, of bravery even. Relatively few major buildings (big houses, churches, and so on) were put up during the English Civil War, and those that were are still pointed out and cherished.

Hats off, then (tall, Puritan hats or saucy feathered Cavalier titfers) to Northamptonshire spinster Jane Leeson, who built a school for the children of her village of Abthorpe in 1642, as the first phase of the Civil War began. She nailed her colours to the mast, placing this inscription on the front of the building:

1642 FEARE GOD
HONOVR YE KING
IANE LEESON HATH BVILDED THIS HOVSE FOR A FREE SCHOOLE FOR EVER

That round and optimistic declaration was placed smack in the middle of the facade beneath the dormer window. Here it remains, although it's not in the middle any more because the right-hand portion of the building, with its big gable, is a later, harmonious, addition.

The lovely two-tone stripes of local stone have worn well so far, justifying Miss Leeson’s confidence, the warm, toffee-coloured marlstone and paler oolite combining well as in so many villages of southern Northamptonshire. The stone-mullioned windows too help make this building an adornment to its end of the village. The building is not a school any more, but, used as a village hall, its service to the community continues.

11 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

Blimey, that was brave of Ms Leeson. For more about the buildings that were built in this turbulent time, I can recommend Timothy Mowl and Brian Earnshaw's Architecture Without Kings.

James said...

I love it!

martin said...

Its a good sturdy building.She obviously knew what she was about.I think the inscription makes that clear.
I think I can see the join at the gable end-but,as you say,its a sympathetic addition.
One question: What exactly is oolite?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you all for your comments.

When I clear the decks in a few days I'll try and do a post about oolite. Shouldn't be too hard as I'm surrounded by buildings made of the stuff.

accountant said...

I can recommend 'Northantonshire Stone' by Diana Sutherland for everything you need to know at building stones in the county and examples of there use.

cardinal_wolsey said...

Very nice. I also Stumbled this characterful
Tintagel cottage I thought you might be interested in ....CW

Wartime Housewife said...

Wouldn't it be brilliant if someone did that now? "I've decided to build a school. It's going to be free, anyone can come and the teachers will be trusted to get on and teach. And to top it off, it's going to be a really lovely building". Thinking about it, I went to a Prep school a bit like that...

Vinogirl said...

I love the inscription:
"Feare God
Honovr Ye King"...words to live by indeed.

accountant said...

Not if you are a republican and atheist!

Anonymous said...

Little bit of discipline would serve Britons well these days.
Does the profession of accountancy generally lack moral fiber?

accountant said...

Discipline and moral fibre are not the exclusive to those believe in either Royalty or organised religion.