Monday, August 24, 2015
Langton by Spilsby, Lincolnshire
What shape is a house?
I checked the Pevsner Buildings of England volume on Lincolnshire before setting out to find the severe classical church of Langton by Spilsby, all red brick and box pews, but I didn’t notice the book’s two lines on this nearby cottage: ‘E of the church an eminently picturesque cottage orné,* circular, with a conical, thatched, overhanging roof.’ Fortunately this eye-catching product of the Picturesque movement was the first thing I did notice when I pulled up by the church.
Pevsner gets it right, more or less. He might have mentioned the mud and stud construction, the Gothic pointed windows, the elaborate pattern of the glazing bars (a mix of elongated octagons and lozenges), and the fact that the roof overhang is supported by slender columns, but we get the idea. There’s an odd thing though. Would you call this cottage circular? Its footprint seems to me octagonal, with fairly crisp corners to the wall and a column at each corner. The thatched roof smooths out the shape, as thatched roofs do, but still has more or less obvious facets. By the time your eye reaches the top of the roof, you’re gazing at an elliptical chimney pot. So: Circular? Octagonal? Metamorphic, perhaps.
There have been at least three big houses at Langton – an old hall, a rebuild of 1822 that didn’t work out because of bad foundations and was demolished, and a third, a Victorian hall, that’s has also been pulled down. This small but striking cottage, perhaps built in the early-19th century to please the owner of the estate and house servants or farm workers, has outlived them all, a survivor in a quiet lane by the church and the ubiquitous Lincolnshire farms.
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Cottage orné Rustic house of picturesque design, as the English Heritage definition has it. Cottages ornés were built in the 18th and 19th centuries and have features such as polygonal plans, thatched roofs, pointed or quatrefoil windows, and ornate or rustic woodwork.