Saturday, May 20, 2017

Balham, London

The colours of London

Walking around Balham with a friend and local resident the other week I was struck by the number of Victorian and Edwardian houses built of white bricks. I’m used to thinking of London as built in a mixture of red bricks and yellow London stock bricks – when I lived in London my own house was built of such a mixture. But in some streets in Balham there seem to be almost as many white bricks as reds and stocks. I knew about Suffolk whites, but the origin of the white bricks in London is varied – there are a number of places as well as Suffolk with clay containing the amount of lime that produces the white colour. In this house they’re combined with reds, to decorative and glowing effect.

I also admired the tiled paths in this part of London. This house has a path of terracotta- and buff-coloured tiles, producing an effect similar to the medieval encaustic tiles still occasionally found in old churches. Even worn, like these, they make a beautiful approach to the front door, which clearly has an impressive display of stained glass too. London can be a colourful place, if you stop and look.


bazza said...

I am a sucker for interesting brickwork and I just love this door and porch. I once started a series called 'Doors and Windows'. There was one post in 2011 and one in 2012. With your agreement I would like to pinch this photo and resurrect the series after a five year gap!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s deficient Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: That would be fine. An accompanying link to this blog would be great.

bazza said...

Absolutely! Goes without saying. Probably sometime in June.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

White brick (and black brick) seem to be restricted to London and area. This weekend I was reminded how RED (to red-orange) are Birmingham and the Black Country (despite the name of the latter!). I also saw examples (in Small Heath, I think) of elaborate decorative cornices purely in brick, along the terrace and below the roof-line. As I think I mentioned before, the only other place I remember seeing a lot of this was in Belfast.

On the subject of street name signs with curvy edges, I was also pleased to see a lot of the old ones in Birmingham still in place. I think a few hours with a camera in the Second City might be quite rewarding: I didn't have enough time to attempt many myself. No excuses for the extensive badly-built bits which are and always were a disgrace.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joseph: Thank you. Yes, those Midland bricks are VERY red.
I don't go to Birmingham that much, but resolve to do so again, quite soon. I find Birmingham rubs me up the wrong way with its intrusive redevelopments and with the fact that I always seem to get lost there. This no doubt means I should go there more and accustom myself to the place's virtues. Then I'd get lost less, or do so in a way that leads me to more interesting parts of the city.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I always get lost myself. Suggestions: "Digbeth Institute" near coach station: caryatids rather stiff and solemn. St Philips Cathedral (proper Baroque) - and near it, a very ornate building in its own style. Medieval half-timbered building - the only one not burnt down by Prince Rupert - in Deritend. Somewhere just off there, a wall built of squashed scrap cars, if it's still there. St. Chad's R C cathedral (Pugin) - it looks like something in North Germany. Also, at least two magnificent mosques. The Town Hall (classical, built of Anglesey stone), and the Victorian ornate Classical Council House opposite, very, very grand. The Monument, a strange tower in Monument Road, Edgbaston, and of course the Oratory near it in the Hagley Road - Newman and Tolkien associations, totally Italian in style: the cross on top was burnished by my aunt and grandmother. Elegant brick buildings near there too.

Joe Treasure said...

Thanks for this one, Phil. You have alerted me to the quantity of white brick in my neighbourhood. I've been fond of London's yellow bricks since I first began visiting Peckham and Camberwell in my youth. But I've begun to notice these white bricks (Suffolk or otherwise) in Balham and Clapham, sometimes only on the face of the building, with the more porous-looking and presumably cheaper yellow bricks down the sides.

Philip Wilkinson said...

You're welcome, Joe. It's a small thank-you for an entertaining walk around the neighbourhood. Yes, the yellow stock bricks were usually the cheap ones. Our London house was red brick at the front and yellow stocks to the back and side. Some of the stocks one sees around do indeed look poor quality – they vary quite a bit, I think.

I hope to do another Balham post in a while – there's something about the underground station I want to point out. But I have other things to get off my chest first.