Saturday, July 29, 2017

Martock, Somerset

Well provided for

I always think of the Tudor and Stuart periods as the great age of English market houses, which are so often built in a kind of rustic classicism that suggests local pride and modest prosperity. The one at Chipping Campden is a favourite, Abingdon another, on a far grander scale and far from rustic. The stone town of Martock, however, has a mid-18th century one.

It’s quietly classical, with elliptical arches and piers that don’t have capitals but just a continuation of the stringcourse that runs around the building to show where the arch begins. Up above there are sash windows and, at the end, a Venetian window above a row of scroll brackets, and above that a blind niche in the form of a semicircle that, when you look at it closely, turns out to be a vent.  It’s very simple, a local builder’s assemblage of basic ingredients, but a satisfying enough recipe for a small country town.

Next to it is a structure known as the Market Cross or the Pinnacle. It’s a tall Tuscan column (about 6 m in total) that bears the date 1741. It is allegedly a copy of one once at Wilton, but wherever the idea came from, it’s effective enough as a corner feature on this junction. Not that it needs a landmark, with the Market House there too. In this, as in its profusion of stones buildings generally, Martock is well provided for.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Is it an ecclesiastical-looking bell turret on the far gable? And a chimney on the near one - where does the flue run inside the building? And it took me a minute to see the SCALE of the building - established by the litter bin inside the arch. It has the poise and presence of a much larger building. Well done, local Martock builder/architect!

Tabitha said...

What a demonstration of size and style to play with dimension and expectation, as Joseph says there's definitely a charming juxtaposition in the way size is expected and then realised in this building.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank you both for your comments. Yes, absolutely. It's a building that makes you do a double-take as you realise it's smaller than you thought. And it does this with great flair – it doesn't give the impression of being pretentious or grandiose.