Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Bristol, again

Bristol brickwork (2)

My walk to the Tramways Generating Station, the building described in the previous post, took me along Victoria Street, an in many ways unremarkable street that now forms one of the routes from the city centre to Temple Meads Station. As I walked along it, I was struck by how much evidence there was of Bristol’s admirable Victorian buildings, the kind of thing that the city was full of before the place got comprehensively bombed during World War II.

This row of buildings shows what I mean. At the far end, mainly in shadow, is the former Talbot Hotel (of about 1873), in attractive polychrome brickwork, and the largest of these structures. It was converted to offices after World War I and refurbished much more recently – I believe in the 1990s. The two nearer buildings continue the brickwork theme, with additional adornments: on one a row of pointed Gothic arches, on the other, number 8, dressings of stoner. The Pevsner City Guide to Bristol suggests that number 8 may be by an architect called Henry Masters, who did much work in the city in this period.

Whoever designed these buildings, they were no doubt influenced by John Ruskin, who liked this kind of Gothic with a Venetian feel to it, with colour expressed in the materials rather than painted on, and with scope provided for the carver. The pointed arches with their stone capitals have a particularly Venetian feel, a link which to my mind is made stronger by the worn-down, antique-looking carving of the capitals. Not death in Venice, exactly, but Venetian decay – and, praise be, survival.


bazza said...

I'm a sucker for brickwork. I do like Bristol but, for me, one of the most impressive places for atrractive brickwork is Marlborough. I was in Bristol recently and visited an old synagogue near the university at the top of Park Street. Very interesting.
Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Peter Ashley said...

Is it just me, or does that stone capital look like a lady slipping her corset off?

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Marlborough is a fascinating place. I must go there with a camera.

Peter: Oh dear, I think I need a cup of tea and a sit down.

DJK said...

The former Talbot Hotel building in Victoria Street is a delight. But it's not quite what it seems. The top two storeys were added in the 1990s restoration, returning the building's appearance to something like what it was before the 1940s. The pale green paint that covered the remaining brickwork was stripped off at the same time.

Can't find it now, but Flickr has before and after comparisons.

Philip Wilkinson said...

DJK: That's fascinating. If I'd realised at the time I'd have tried to look at the upper brickwork more closely, to compare it with the old.