Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Melksham, Wiltshire


Five early pieces: 5

My final reprise (for now) is one of my smallest buildings (and one of my shortest posts). The roundhouse in Melksham...

This small surprise is tucked away in a side-street in the Wiltshire town of Melksham. It’s an 18th-century structure, built, Melksham being a wool town, as a wool-drying room. When the wool trade declined in the 19th century many such buildings were no doubt demolished. But this one survived, playing down the years a multitude of roles – armoury for the local volunteer militia, feed store, business premises, tourist information centre, and museum. England has many specialized structures like this, the often odd-shaped remnants of local industries – oast houses and lime kilns come to mind. Often they seem designed so precisely for their original function that adaptation appears impossible. But with a little imagination, many of them have been recycled to the delight both of their users and of passers-by.

Postscript 2012 This small paragraph contains a large truth: that the survival of historic buildings often depends on finding new uses for old structures. Even a highly specialized building like the roundhouse has lasted more than 200 years because people have found different things to do in it and with it. Sometimes a change of use requires some adaptation of the building, but a little sensitive alteration is better in the vast majority of cases than demolition or dereliction. Let’s hear it for thoughtful adaptation and sensitive reuse.

4 comments:

Hillside Garden said...

Oh, what a little cuty! When I go to the cotswolds next year, I can see it.

Sigrun

Philip Wilkinson said...

Sigrun: Glad you like it! You will also like another one, in the Gloucestershire village of South Woodchester, which I also posted in the early days of this blog. The post is here.

Evelyn said...

Although it looks a bit neglected it would have appeared to me to be some kind of Dovecote upon merely glancing at this structure. I recently wrote about the The Bath House just outside Stratford-upon-Avon on my WordPress blog. The interior is simply sumptuous and the exterior was restored to its very eclectic perfection.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Evelyn: Yes it does look rather like a dovecote.
The Bath House is beautiful. A good example of the work of the Landmark Trust.