Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Round the back
As a small boy I remember being taken into this building by my maternal grandfather, who lived in a village a few miles from Louth. He went into the market hall to buy ginger biscuits for himself and sweets (in generous quantities that I never saw at home) for me. Needless to say, this place holds fond memories. There being serious sweet-buying work to do, I don’t remember thinking much about the architecture. I remembered the tower, though when I saw the building again the other day, that tower’s slender proportions and the cut brickwork around the windows were a surprise, one pulled off, I now read in Pevsner, as the result of an 1866–7 design by Rogers and Marsden, local architects who are not, as far as I know, well known outside Lincolnshire.
From the front, it’s an odd design, but with a reason, I think. The entrance is very deeply and narrowly recessed, the narrowness of the opening mirroring the slender proportions of the tower above. Making this entrance-way rather tightly proportioned gave the architects more floor and facade space for the short row of shops, fronting the market place, on either side. Rogers and Marsden gave the town added value, in the form of these shops, but at the expense of pushing the market hall back behind them. But as well as all this, the hall has a surprise to pull.
Go round the back, and the rear facade is completely different. Like the train shed of a Victorian railway station, it wears its arched structure on its sleeve, and provides, into the bargain, the most enormous semicircular window, through which one can make out the great metal arches inside, which support the roof. The plain pattern of the glazing bars is remarkably modern, but the doors at the bottom, which are topped with semicircular arches let into the great window, and iron hinges that have ornate spiral agendas of their own, provide some contrast. The effect is one of drama, brio, and rightness. And although I wouldn’t have thought about it in those terms, I do remember thinking, as a small boy carrying several paper bags full of pear drops and allsorts and sweet seafood, that this was simply the biggest window I’d ever seen.