Saturday, February 8, 2014
Watching the river flow
A long time ago I lived in house with a garden going down to the bank of a canal. Sitting outside and watching the passing canal traffic, not to mention the swans, was an agreeable way to waste time. How much better would it have been to have a little room, right on the canal bank, from which one could watch the water? A similar thought seems to have occurred to the people of Ware in the 18th century – and they acted on the idea. In their long, narrow gardens – probably originally burgage plots – that stretched down to the River Lea, they built little square gazebos overlooking the water. Some of these pavilions are still there, and one of my readers kindly sent me some photographs of them, which I reproduce here, for your delectation.
Brick walls, weatherboarding, canted bay windows overlooking the river, hipped roofs, in some cases with details such as a ball finial on the top – all this adds up to something transparently right. And the white weatherboarding and generous windows seem to belong to an architectural style that's perfectly suited to leisure. The big windows must make the rooms light inside and the pavilions combine the functional and the ornamental: their bay windows reach out over the water, inviting those inside to look out, admire the view, and watch – or even perhaps chat to – those who pass by in their boats. It seems that some of these buildings have been here at least since the 18th century, although many of their details, from tiling to weatherboarding, have been renewed over the years.
With thanks to Tom Raw for the photographs