Sunday, May 27, 2012
Brought to book
Here’s a warts-and-all photograph of one of my favourite buildings in Brackley, a Northamptonshire town that some of you will know as (I think) the market town in Flora Thompson’s Lark Rise to Candleford. I’m attracted to this house for various reasons. First of all for the charming, if pulled-about, mid-18th century front. It’s all very restrained – the brick pilasters running up each edge of the facade are easy to miss; the pale bands beneath the windows are plain and simple; the off-centre doorway is modest. It’s not grand Georgian architecture, but the kind of satisfying facade that was put up by the dozen in the 18th century. And you notice I say ‘facade’. This is another example of the effect I noticed in Aylesbury a couple of posts ago: a Georgian brick front applied to an earlier house – in this case, a 17th-century building of rubble masonry.
There’s another reason I always stop here when I visit Brackley. This building is now a bookshop, and apparently a thriving one. This weekend it was also hosting a plant sale in the front garden, hence the unusually busy scene behind the railings. Inside it was calmer but there were customers browsing the mix of new and secondhand books, and buying too. As both new and used bookshops fold under the combined pressure of Amazon and ABE, perhaps more High Street stores should adopt the practice, still quite unusual in Britain, of selling both old and new books. Here at the Old Hall Bookshop, with its ample shelves of art, architecture, topography, and literature (and many more subjects: those are just the shelves that interest me), it certainly works for me.