Sunday, November 20, 2011

Faringdon, Berkshire


Town hall Tuscan

So you want your town to have a dignified civic building, with a hint of classical sophistication, but you can only give your local builder a limited budget. What do you do? For dozens of small towns, building a two-storey town hall with an upper room raised on columns, the answer was to use the Tuscan order. Tuscan, invented by the Romans, was the plainest of all the classical orders. Tuscan columns are plain, without flutes, there’s a base to connect the column to the ground, and the capital is very simple.

In the late-17th or early-18th century that’s the kind of building that the burghers of Faringdon provided for their town hall. It’s basic and functional, but those Tuscan columns give it just a hint of classicism. It seems that people have liked this building, and found it valuable, because it has survived numerous adaptations and changes of use. It has been, at different times, a library, shop, and fire station, in addition to the combination of civic meeting place, court, and market for which it was originally built. It’s a war memorial as well, as purpose that helped secure its survival when, after World War I, people wanted to pull it down.

This town hall is a modest building, a far cry from the glorious structure the citizens of nearby Abingdon built at around the same time. But it’s been useful, and it provides an unpretentious focus for the town centre. Civic pride doesn’t have to involve constructing grand, or grandiose, buildings. There’s room for the little ones too.

12 comments:

Ann said...

Great post!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Ann: Thank you!

Terry said...

A real beauty thanks so much.

Val S. said...

It's a lovely building. The creamy terra cotta colour and green trim are very Tuscan, too.

I can't imagine why anyone would have ever wanted to get rid of this building!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Terry: You're welcome. Good to see you're still enjoying some of my offerings.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Val: Yes. Now I look at the photograph again I see all sorts of other tings one could say about it – the roof overhang, the tall upper storey and so on. All add to the charm. I really don;t know how long it;s had that colour scheme, but it suits the building I think.

aw said...

There seem to be lots of these small market halls dotted around the country. Often they house the lock-up such as at Thaxted, Essex, and have other functions such as fire station. A small point but isn't Faringdon, like Abingdon, now part of Oxfordshire or do you stick to the old county boundaries?

Philip Wilkinson said...

aw: Yes, there are quite a lot of these buildings. Often, the town hall was the only (non-religious) public building in a small town, so it had to fulfil lots of functions.

Yes, I use the old county boundaries, partly because I am attached to them, partly because Nikolaus Pevsner's invaluable Buildings of England books use them, and some of my readers like to look up these buildings in Pevsner.

Peter Ashley said...

The changing Berkshire / Oxfordshire boundary is one that causes me most confusion. I can never remember offhand which county the White Horse at Uffington is now in.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Me neither. The village of Uffington is now in Oxfordshire, but I'm not sure about the horse. I think of the hills as the Berkshire Downs and just call it all Berks.

bazza said...

I see that 'aw',above, has already mentioned Thaxted in the under-rated county of Essex. It has a lovely Guildhall. The one at Faringdon, however, has lots of charm especially when considering it's such a simple building.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Yes, Thaxted is a good one. And I agree about Essex. It's not a county I know well, but I've been surprised by its beauty and interest on the few occasions I've been there.