Friday, October 5, 2007

Ralph Allen's Town House, Bath

Just visible through a gap between buildings, to the rear of North Parade Passage in Bath is the grandiose town house of Ralph Allen, a man who had a huge influence on the development of the city. Allen was Bath’s postmaster, but his main claim to fame is that he bought Combe Down quarries, a principle source of Bath stone. Allen marketed his stone effectively. He installed a wooden railway and was involved in making the River Avon navigable so the stone could be transported more cheaply. Bath builders bought the stone enthusiastically and soon new houses clad with this beautifully creamy material were appearing all over the city.

Allen bought the lease of this house in 1727 and straight away began to improve it. Both the flat-topped façade to the left of the picture and the much more elaborate free-standing extension to the right were built for him, perhaps by premier Bath architect John Wood the Elder. The carved pediment, huge Corinthian columns, and big, round-headed window of the extension make up an inspired bit of infill, which you can see if you peer through the space between the adjoining structures.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Allen took the 1st Lease on this house in 1719, co-incidental with his 1st contract to run the Post. He extended the lease in 1727. For the next 20 years or so he (and later his brother) administered the Post business for almost all of England & Wales from this building.