Monday, September 21, 2015
As your lordship pleases
Eyes that look along High Pavement in the middle of Nottingham are naturally drawn to this imposing classical frontage, with pediment, pilasters, short Doric columns on the ground floor and some of the tallest sash windows you could wish for. It’s strong Greek Revival stuff. Redolent of the way in which architects of the early-19th century could use the plainest of classical details to make a facade that stands out, it has imposing proportions – and it is far from bland or boring.
So whatever is it? Some sort of Assembly Room? A gentleman’s club? No. It’s a house, which has a history going back to the late Middle Ages but was remodelled in 1833, specifically as judges’ lodgings (there are law courts in the Shire Hall, on the opposite side of the street). The unusual proportions are at least in part due to the fact that this front was attached to an older building. The big room behind the enormous sash windows is the judges’ dining room, where they could eat in grandeur. The architect was Henry Moses Wood, a prominent Nottingham figure, active as a banker as well as the designer of numerous buildings in Derbyshire and Notts. I find it difficult to dissociate this severely grand frontage from the image, summoned up by the writer John Mortimer, who put it into the mouth of his immortal character Horace Rumpole, of members of the judiciary passing death sentences and then retiring to their lodgings to enjoy muffins. Traditional and severe as it is, though, this facade makes use of what in 1833 was modern technology. Those columns on the ground floor are made of cast iron, like some similar ones in London I wrote about long ago in a post called Kicked a Building Lately?
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Note The right-hand part with the big windows dates to Wood’s remodelling of 1833. Authorities are rather imprecise about the left-hand part. It looks Regency too, and feels like a different phase, but also looks too late to be from an earlier remodelling of the building in 1742.