Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Stone roses

There are some buildings that just make me smile, no matter how often I see them. This is one: a house of about 1730 (now a café) on the market place in Stow on the Wold. What I love about this house is the decoration. It’s Classical, up to a point – look at the fluted pilasters with their Corinthian capitals. But whoever built this place was determined not to stick to the rule book. Those pilasters begin, not with a base, anchoring them to the ground, but with a peculiar block of stone sticking out from the wall, a couple of feet above pavement level. The strips that run up from either side of the central niche, dotted with carvings of flowers, are another odd, but charming, touch.

Pevsner (who describes this façade as ‘rather gauche’) tells us that there’s a local tradition that the building was the work of a pargetter named Shepherd. That’s odd, as pargetting (the art of decorative exterior plasterwork) is native to eastern England. It’s not something you see much round here, where the decorative medium is stone. And yet the exuberance and richness of the carving, especially the flowers, is not unlike the sort of thing you might see on a pargetted house in Essex or Suffolk. It certainly sticks out here, not in the manner of a sore thumb, but like an elegantly manicured digit raised in defiance of convention. Stow off the wall.


Barry Jackson said...

Buildings that make you smile: this builder's version of a keystone does that to me. It's in Berwick upon Tweed:

Philip Wilkinson said...

Terrific! Held together by sheer willpower.

Peter Ashley said...

Lovely. I also like the fact that somebody has at least been a bit thoughtful about how it should be signed for its new use.

Philip Wilkinson said...

True. Although they should also try to afford some repairs to the carving, which are suffering decay beyond the pleasing kind in some places.