Friday, August 29, 2014
A ‘sort of Jacobethan’
This doorway in the middle of Northampton, sandwiched between two shops, is easy to miss. Easy to miss, that is, until you look up, when you realise that it’s part of quite a large corner building full (above the modern shopfronts) of big windows, banded masonry, and curvy gables. But what kept my eye engaged, and my mind boggling, was the busy collection of carved stone motifs above the doorway. Pevsner describes this 1902 structure as being ‘in a sort of Jacobethan manner’ and notes that the architect was J P Sharp of Birmingham.
The architect certainly threw the kitchen sink at this entrance. The carved crosses, roundels, and nail-heads certainly seem to be straight out of the pattern-book of standard Tudor-Jacobean patterns – but perhaps you’d be as likely to see them around a 17th-century fireplace as framing a doorway. There are classical motifs too and some of these, like the little Ionic capitals, are highly ornate, again in the manner of Jacobethan builders, who got their classicism as much from Renaissance buildings in France as from Greece or Rome. Put all these elements together and you have a very ornate, turn-of-the-century sort of Jacobethan.
This is confirmed by the lettering, which has eccentric touches (the bulbous lower portion of the B, the rather oddly proportioned M) that don’t look Jacobean at all. These forms are very much of their time: not quite Art Nouveau, but very nearly. This, and the curious cornice above, which comes to a sharp point but does not quite turn into a pediment, are the crowning touches – eccentric, to be sure, but offering a welcome bit of visual incident amidst the more commonplace shop fronts on either side.