Thursday, October 27, 2016
Off the road
The old Roman road called the Fosse Way is one of my favourite routes to the Midlands. It runs almost as straight as the proverbial die* from Cirencester up to Leicester and Lincoln (old Roman towns all), and I often join it at Stow on the Wold or Moreton in Marsh to head towards an exhibition at Compton Verney or to visit an old friend in Leicestershire. Once you’re past Moreton heading north there aren’t many villages or towns on the Fosse, and those that there are, I tend to pass by quickly. One such is Halford, which I’d registered for years as having an inn (with an archway redolent of 18th-century stables and coaches) and a few roadside houses. But the other day I decided to pull in and have a look at whatever lay beyond.
I was heading for the church, but, as often when I’m heading somewhere, something else caught my eye – a group of houses around a little green, tucked away off the main road. The traveller in a hurry would never know they’re there. Here’s one, Halford House. At first glance I took it to be a Georgian house to which the porch and windows above had been added a bit later, in the Regency period. But who would make such a small addition to a house in this way? A closer look confirms that the whole thing was built in one go, in the early-19th century.† The ironwork of the balcony and the wooden door surround certainly look to be from that period, the cornice is all of a piece, and the upper string course (the horizontal band below the upper windows) runs continuously.
The deep bay window and balcony are very Regency things. I’ve noticed bay windows of this period in Aldeburgh (and in many other seaside places such as Brighton). This is no coastal town, but there’s still that feeling of slightly relaxed architecture, as the fashion changed, the Georgian liking for a more restrained symmetry being replaced by something a bit less formal. If I think of it as a style about relaxation and sea views, it works equally well in a quiet village, just off the road.
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*The road is the A429 and the B4455. As a boy I heard older relatives reminisce about how it was a narrow, minor road north of Moreton, with gated portions where you had to stop and open gates before you could pass through. It’s very different, of course, now, but still a rural road in many places.
†The new Pevsner volume on Warwickshire confirms this date. I'll be posting a review of this fine addition to the Pevsner series soon, in my winter clutch of book reviews.