Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blandford Forum, Dorset


Have you got the scrolls?

Pevsner’s Dorset volume says that the old Greyhound Inn, in the centre of Blandford Forum, takes façade decoration to ‘Bavarian extremes’. Although there’s a hint of Saxon (or even Lutheran) hauteur about that comment, he doesn’t mean that the gloriously named John and William Bastard, architect-builders of Blandford who reconstructed the town after the fire of 1731, had been at the beer when they conceived this building, but that the decoration is less restrained than the norm in this town and more like the ornate baroque pastel and white facades of Central Europe.

English Georgian architecture can come over as rather plain, getting its effect not from decorative curlicues but from order, proportion, and restrained classicism. We think of Georgian building in terms of simple brick walls and rows of sash windows, relieved by the occasional pilaster, stretch of rustication, or fancy fanlight, and given form, in the best examples, by craftsmanship of the highest quality – meticulous brickwork, fine carpentry, and so on.

The facade of the Greyhound seems indeed to come from a different world. The decoration around the triangular pediment is from the top drawer, an encrustation of classical details. The Corinthian capitals below it, too, are exceptionally ornate and full of delicate fronds and curves. And then there’s that central window: the big plain keystone at the top and the protruding ‘ears’ at the upper corners are the kind of things seen on many a Georgian window. But the generous scrolls up the sides, the lavish moulding around the sides and top, and the fancy-shaped apron below the sill set this window apart. Even better is the small face in the middle of the apron. Is it a drunken satyr, bearing grapes and welcoming us to the inn? That’s the answer, then: it was wine that the builders were drinking that day.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The scrolls on the side of the central window, in less ornate form, are frequent in French XVIIth c. buildings. One finds them in Paris. The small face in the apron looks like many "mascarons", in the same context, but more likely, perhaps, on top of a door frame. I am far from an expert but might there be a continental influence?
François-Marc Chaballier

Peter Ashley said...

Mmm, hare of the dog. Must get down there snapping for 'Creature Features'.

Toque said...

The Red Lion pub in Blandford is up for sale - it was owned by the father of the Bastards, Mr Bastard senior.

I very nearly considered buying it, but decided instead to buy a place in Budleigh Salterton, which just has a more ludicrous name than Blandford Forum.

Philip Wilkinson said...

François-Marc: Yes, there are French windows with scrolls like this, and France could be an influence. I've read somewhere that the Bastards worked with the baroque architect Thomas Archer, a gentleman architect who went on the grand tour, and it may be that they picked up some of the European elements in their buildings from him. The 'Borromini' capitals I noticed in another post about Blandford are a case in point.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Toque: Interesting to hear about this. The senior Bastard was a builder too - so did he combine the useful trades of builder and publican? A versatile Bastard indeed.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Interesting to see a mythical beast as well as the hare and the dog. The building, by the way, is no longer a pub, but it is good to see some of the baroque-inspired architecture surviving, along with the creatures.

The Devoted Classicist said...

What a handsome variation on typical English Georgian architecture.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when the Greyhound ceased to trade as a pub??? And whether there are any online photos of the old pub interior when it was operating as a pub??? THANK YOU IN ADVANCE