Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mears Ashby, Northamptonshire

The looker-on

After my post about the lovely late-medieval manor house of Treago, someone asked me whether I'd been inside this fascinating house. Alas, I have not. Most of the time, the buildings I post about are ones that I see from the outside, en passant, as I travel around. Often I glimpse them from an eye corner as I drive past, before stopping and taking a closer look. Sometimes that look can't be too close – just what I can see from the public road.

This house, Mears Ashby Hall, northwest of Northampton, is an example. A flash of light on stone caught my eye, and something pale-coloured next to a big tree. There was a place to pull in nearby, so I did. What I found was a house of the 1630s with a gabled front and mullioned windows. It's a large house but not palatial (many a bigger house of this period has more space between the outer wings and the central porch), and it's the sort of building, perhaps, that the owners of Treago might have built if they'd lived 150 years later than they did. The curvaceous gable over the porch, the twin Doric columns on either side of the keystoned doorway, and the stepped windows in the smaller gables – all are touches that catch the eye and lift the building from the run-of-the-mill.

Pevsner's Northamptonshire volume tells me that there's a large Victorian wing designed by Anthony Salvin round the back somewhere. I didn't get to see that of course. From the gate I could see, in spite of that imposing tree, just enough of the entrance front to appreciate its architecture and its symmetry. This is the fate of the passer-by, the driver-past, the traveller-through. This blog is in part intended to show that one can see interesting things and make worthwhile (albeit brief) observations about them during such journeys: that, in short, one can use one's eyes and that it's worthwhile doing so. When I was a boy in Cheltenham there was a local paper that had amalgamated with an earlier publication in the way newspapers sometimes do so that the combined title was called, if I remember rightly, The Cheltenham Chronicle, Incorporating The Looker-On. Quite so. The looker-on. Keeping his eyes peeled for you. 

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From way back, there's another answer to the question 'Have you been inside?' here, which explains a bit more about why I blog in the way that I do.


Anonymous said...

Re-read the John Betjeman post and heartily concur. Keep it up please - saves me having to wander around holding onto my hat!

tom said...

Apparently, this was my family's home. My name is Thomas Stockdale...do you have any information about the house or pictures of the inside?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Tom: Sorry, I don't have any other information about this house. As I said in the post, it's just somewhere I saw from the outside. A local library or record office (maybe in Northampton?) might be able to help.