Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ludlow, Shropshire

Wooden world (2)

The west of England (especially the West Midlands, Shropshire, and Cheshire) are full of the glories of English wooden building, timber-framed houses that are as bright and flashy as magpies. I could devote many posts to the delights of buildings such as Chester’s marvellous Rows or the dazzling Little Moreton Hall, whose structure I remember creaking like a leaky old fishing smack as I walked around it. But few places are as rewarding to the admirer of England’s ‘black and white’ buildings as Ludlow.

With most ‘black and white’ buildings the timber was used for the structural framework. It was the province of the joiner, whose skill was principally to make everything fit together properly, and who often incorporated ornament in the form of ogee cross-braces, quatrefoils, and similar designs with their roots in the Gothic architecture of churches and cathedrals.

In Ludlow, though, the timber is often also the province of the carver. And some of this carving is seriously high-status stuff, like this example, high on a building in the very centre of the town. The detail on this bargeboard and finial is simply stunning, the kind of thing that in the Middle Ages would have adorned the alabaster tomb of a grandee. On this urban building it seems to speak of the prosperity of a merchant, a member of the rising middle classes.

But it speaks too of the sheer flair and hard work of the craftsman, who could be bothered to go to all these lengths to create a riot of quatrefoils, spirals, stylized flowers, and snaking borders that could hardly be appreciated without the binoculars or telephoto lens of an age to come. In Ludlow’s world of wood, it is very close to the top of the tree.


Peter Ashley said...

Like The Feathers Hotel in the same town, I've always thought these buildings start to become more artwork than architecture. Marvellous.

Thud said...

I attempted an ornate bargeboard last year and it looks like I have a rather large project coming up later this year.By coincidence I took my chippy to view lych gate at Ismay family church in Thurstaston today to look at a good example of carving.Your pic today inspires me to greatly raise our sights....I'll keep you informed.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thud: It's worth looking at more pics of Ludlow buildings if you're interested in this kind of carving - though the example I posted is probably the most ornate. All the best with the forthcoming project.

Thud said...

Phillip,a trip to Ludlow may be in order,my chaps are more than happy to attempt ever more intricate designs as building nowadays rarely gives arise to opportunities to stretch themselves.Google... Brimstage fairfield and you will find upcoming project,house is so well hidden it has escaped listing.It has a seemingly complicated build history and several interesting outbuildings...if ever in area you should take a look.