Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cirencester, Gloucestershire


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I first came across the word ‘tontine’ (see previous post) when I saw this building. It’s in the Cotswold town of Cirencester on the wonderful Cecily Hill, one of the most beautiful streets in the town. Cecily Hill is a wide street, full of houses – Georgian here, Regency Gothick there, Cotswold vernacular elsewhere – in the local creamy stone, and ends in iron gates that lead into the grounds of Cirencester Park and the longest avenue of trees in England. Tontine Buildings is a row of houses, and it’s said that Earl Bathurst ‘won’ it as the last surviving investor.

It’s a very plain and simple building, a terrace of ten small houses with a flat, cliff-like frontage topped by a very retrained – some might even say mean – cornice. But I like its restraint, and the elegant touches, such as the curved central carriage arch and the oval cartouche containing the name, that give the row an air of quality. Not the most ornate building on Cecily Hill, then, but a worthy complement to the more showy houses on the street. And a fitting backdrop to the most impressive collection of planters in the town.

6 comments:

bazza said...

Cirencester is a lovely town. I always visit when staying at the nearby Cotswolds water Park. Next time I will seek out this lovely road (just took a look on Google Maps).
Incidentally, with reference to your previous post: The Wrong Box was made into an excellent film with Michael Caine and Peter Cook & Dudley Moore. Further a tontine was used as a plot device in an early episode of The Simpsons.
From the sublime to the ridiculous!

Philip Wilkinson said...

The number of books, films, and so on with tontines in seems endless. I didn't know that the Simpsons had used a tontine in one of their plots.

I've spent many a happy afternoon in Cirencester, which would be practically perfect if it still had a proper secondhand bookshop (the Oxfam's not bad, though). Cecily Hill is lovely, although it's shame it has be full of parked cars these days. But I say this sitting in a house in another street in a Cotswold town, with my own car parked in the street outside.

Gaw said...

Thanks for this reminder of the town I grew up in. I was fortunate enough to cycle to school through Cirencester Park and sometimes went via Cecily Hill (pronounced Sissily!). The open air swimming pool is around the back so it's not always as peaceful as it looks.

True about the sad lack of second-hand bookshops. There was a truly great one opposite the hedge on Park Lane (At The Sign of the Dolphin possibly?). I remember the proprietor wore a three-piece tweed suit and was always happy to pass the time of day. I think it's a house now.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, that was the kind of shop to lead you on voyages of exploration. The rise of ABE (so useful in many ways) has killed off many bricks-and-mortar (or stone-and-lime) secondhand bookshops, depriving us of the serendipitous discoveries of old. Thank goodness that Hay on Wye survives, for now.

Stamp In Style (Suze) said...

I just stumbled across your blog by accident ... I was actually looking for more information about Breedon on the Hill which led me to your newer posts.

I drive through Breedon every day on my way to work and am always intrigued about the building on the left with the bell (straight after the quarry entrance) when you drive towards Castle Donnington.

The reason I'm actually commenting on this post is due to the fact I was in Cirencester in July 2009 and took a photo with all the flowers in bloom ...

Here is the link if you'd like a look

Philip Wilkinson said...

Suze: Lovely. Reminds me that I must return when the flowers are out.