Sunday, May 14, 2017

Burford, Oxfordshire


I don’t recall coming across a Methodist chapel so ornately Classical as the one in Burford. The entrance front is in a local version of the Baroque style made fashionable by architects such as Nicholas Hawksmoor and John Vanbrugh (we’re not too far from Vanbrugh’s Blenheim Palace here). This is very much not the curvaceous Baroque of mainland Europe, but the British Baroque – a style that makes architecture theatrical with visual devices such as banded rustication (the horizontal bands in the masonry), an emphasis on size or height (the narrow windows help make the building seem higher than it is), big keystones over the windows, and doorways with Gibbs surrounds (the protruding square blocks are the key feature of this sort of door surrounded, popularised by James Gibbs, architect of St Martin in the Fields, London).

It’s an unusual chapel, and that’s because it was originally a private house. It was built for a lawyer called Jordan in 1720–30 and remained a house until 1849, when it was converted to a chapel by removing the interior floors to make a large hall and installing a gallery for extra seating. At this time the urns that decorated the parapet (another Baroque feature) were removed. It's interesting to find a house converted into a chapel: these days, one is more likely to find the opposite – a redundant chapel made into a house. Its rich combination of banded masonry, tall Corinthian pilasters, and all the Baroque features make the chapel’s facade a striking feature on Burford’s main street. Even though it is set back from the main building line, it stands out.


Peter Ashley said...

Blimey, wouldn't have associated that with Methodists. I think I like a sparser style such as one would find tilting out on the Fens. Or barely peeping over a hedge like the Strict Baptist one my great grandfather preached in (strawberry grower Holy Joe of Lee Common in Bucks). Auntie Pattie was the last to buried there, the graveyard so full she's under the aforesaid hedge.

bazza said...

Is there a terrace on the roof or is the balustrade just for decoration?
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Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Not a terrace as such, but there would be access to the roof, for maintenance, clearing gutters, etc, so it's not purely decorative.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

A very pleasing building, elegant and urbane.

Stephen Barker said...

My first thought at looking at the photograph before reading the text was that I was looking at an early Georgian town house. I am pleased that this is the case although I was surprised when you started with it being a chapel. I recall there is a very elegant chapel in Bury St Edmunds but even that appears modest compared to this.