Saturday, June 17, 2017

Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire

A symphony of semicircles

John Piper once wrote an essay called ‘The Gratuitous Semicircle’,¶ in which he noticed the use of half-round or Diocletian windows in English buildings – especially buildings in a kind of ‘country Palladian’ style. I’m reminded of this whenever I go through Moreton-in-Marsh. Stopping there a couple of weeks ago for a brief evening promenade,* the Resident Wise Woman and I once more admired this building full of semi-circles as it caught the evening sun.

It was built as a house in the mid-18th century. It’s topped with a pair of very swanky curved gables and a balustraded parapet. Below is a profusion of the kinds of windows§ that were fashionable then. First, the three-part Venetian windows, which provincial builders of this period like to use for effect, sometimes one in the middle of a frontage, sometimes more,† here on either side of the doorway. Second, the half-round Diocletian windows, which fit well under gables but here are deployed right along the upper floor, not because they fit the space especially well, perhaps just because of the way they look, echoing gracefully the curves of the Venetian windows and the old cart door on the right.

Add that to a grand if narrow doorway with pediment and fanlight, raise the whole thing on a high plinth, add a couple of wings with more semicircular windows and you have a big building with a sense that its creator had the elements of the Palladian style at his fingertips, together with a free and easy attitude towards how to lay them out. Nature, in the form of warm, low, early summer sunshine on glowing limestone, does the rest.

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Architectural Review, October 1943

* This post is another of my retrospective pieces, inspired by a visit to Moreton before my recent injury rendered my leg useless, for even such brief strolls, for the moment.

§ Clicking on the photograph to enlarge it makes these clearer.

† There's a good example of the profuse use of Venetian windows here.


bazza said...

It's hard to think of a lovelier place in England than Moreton-in-Marsh but the last few times we went it was jam-packed with tourists which must be a nightmare for residents. We were staying at The Lygon Arms in Broadway last year and did the usual Cotswold tour.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s Dilatory Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

It's at its busiest on Tuesdays, when the market is held - it's a big market and attracts visitors from far afield. Other days it is usually less busy, but the Cotswolds always attracts its share of tourists. If it's anything like our Cotswold town, locals' reactions vary – shop owners love the influx, people who move there for the peace are disillusioned.