Sunday, December 15, 2013

Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire


Round we go

Sometimes the way a building turns a corner can be the best thing about it. I remember in a past post describing a particularly noticeable corner tower on a building in London – a 1930s version of many such markings of the junction between one street and another. This house in Bishop's Stortford is almost the opposite, small where the other building was grand and statement-making. Presumably there was a triangular site, where two roads, Basbow Lane and King Street, met at an acute angle. The builder (probably in the early-19th century) made full use of the plot, creating a triangular building with this beautiful curve at the junction. The bricklayer obliged with some careful brickwork.

Even if the house is only about six feet wide at the apex, it does the two things it should – makes full use of the available land and turns the corner gracefully. Steps, bricks, and trees make an interesting bit of urban scenery too, rendering a small building dramatic and turning a change of level into an architectural surprise. Modest? Yes. Unregarded? Probably. But sometimes, in townscape as in life, it's the small things that matter.

4 comments:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

There seems to have been quite a cult in the 19th century for cramming buildings into a narrow plot. There are dozens of examples in the South Wales Valleys. As with the famous round houses on Graig-yr-Helfa Road in Pontypridd, one wonders where you would get furniture to fit a room with that shape! The cult is not quite dead: there are dozens and dozens of brand-new houses on the former school site behind us, old-fashioned terraces in all but name.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Quite. The business of packing houses into tight plots continues, but to my mind today's builders lack the flair of some of their 19th-century forebears, including whoever built this example in Bishop's Stortford. Furniture must indeed be a challenge, though.

Eileen Wright said...

That's a very interesting take on the more usual sharpened corner. One local to me, in East Devon, has utilized the sharp corner space for cupboard/storage, but obviously in the Bishop's Stortford case the windows indicate part of a room. Great find.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Eileen: Yes, quite a few of these acute-angled buildings have cupboards in the pointy bit (for storing pointy-shaped objects, obviously), but in this one the rooms must go right into the corner.