Saturday, March 4, 2017

Potterne, Wiltshire

Bargeboards and bollards

The Porch House in Potterne’s High Street is a beautiful timber-framed house of about 1480, restored in the 19th century* but with many of its original features intact, including fancy woodwork, such as some of the glorious carved bargeboards. Raised on a plinth of very solid stones, it’s a close-studded frame, meaning that it has many vertical timbers, placed close together – a sign, together with the carving, that the person who had this place built could pay for a top-class timber frame, and a well decorated one to boot.

It may have been built by the church – it was lived in by at least one bishop – and was later variously a brewery, bakehouse, pub (the White Horse), and house again. It has a lot of the features that one is taught marked out the ‘classic’ medieval manor house – a central, full-height hall (where the tall bay window is) flanked by two cross wings, which would have contained private rooms on one side and service rooms on the other. The porch, protruding from one of the cross wings, is placed unusually, and its protrusion now makes the building vulnerable to knocks and scrapes from passing traffic, hence, no doubt, the profusion of bollards, posts, and concrete curbs that seem to have sprung up in front of it.†

The saviour of the house was an artist, George Richmond, who found it in a dilapidated state, bought it, and set about restoring it with the help of the architect Ewan Christian, in the 1870s. Searches were made for missing bits – it’s said that the old front door was found on the floor of a local pigsty, with a pig reclining on it – timbers were repaired, and fragments of old stained glass were installed in some of the windows. So profuse thanks to Richmond and Christian for their good work, and to subsequent owners who have clearly looked after the house. And to those who have attempted to protect it from the dashing objects on the A360 that I had to dodge to take my photograph.

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* Some give the date as early-16th century; there were two 19th-century restorations, in 1847 and 1876.

†Some of which look as if they have been doing their job.


Anonymous said...

A pleasant surprise to find Ewan Christian undertaking a sympathetic restoration - his restoration work on churches is often harsh. He was an evangelical low-churchman, and tended to remove decoration to leave a puritanical plainness; and like many of his contemporaries, felt that "restoration" could amount to virtual rebuilding so long as any "interesting features" (like carved stones) were preserved. As architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, he was often employed to restore chancels (since responsibility for chancel repairs fell on the Rector or the owner of the advowson, many of which were acquired by the Commissioners). His office undertook work on some 300 churches - but he also designed houses, schools, and the National Portrait Gallery.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Shui-long: Thank you for your comment. Yes, I remember as a boy going for a special service (relating to my school) to St Matthew's church in Cheltenham, which is a big Evangelical church, in a rather plain Early English Gothic style and very much a preacher's church. I've always associated him with this kind of building, although he was more versatile than this I think.

Wendy said...

Please don't move Potterne into Somerset! It's in Wiltshire. Living just north of Devizes, we drive through Potterne frequently and know how difficult it must be to photograph, what with all the on street protection from traffic, as you say. Just along the road to the south is a battlemented 'gatehouse' which I would also like to know something about. Late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, I would guess.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you, Wendy. Doh! Of course it's in Wiltshire. I must have had a brainstorm. I'll correct the text right away.