Saturday, July 14, 2012
Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire
A bold front
Pargetting, decoratively moulded exterior plasterwork, is a technique I associate with Suffolk, where plastered walls bear images of flowers, fruit, heraldry, and all kinds of abstract patterns. But decorative plasterwork is also found farther west, and here it is in Hertfordshire, adorning the front of the former White Horse pub in Bishop's Stortford, a building that’s now a restaurant.
The White Horse was a pub for most of its life, closing in the 1930s, after which it was home to a succession of different shops. It has been a restaurant since the 1990s. The yard at the back, which housed the inn’s stables, has also been home to activities as diverse as a poultry market, a slaughterhouse, and a small brewery. So the building had a chequered history behind its bold and striking frontage.
The plasterwork on the facade is modern (I’ve seen early-20th century photographs of the building with plain plaster) and conceals a timber frame that dates back to the 16th century. The design is quite simple – mostly abstract patterns set off by bands of bunches of grapes – but it makes the building stand out and was catching the sun beautifully on the day I passed by.