Sunday, March 20, 2011

Alcester, Warwickshire

Colour again

Wandering around Warwickshire today, I ended up in Alcester, admiring Church Street, and it occurred to me that the combination of pale colourwashes here wasn’t too far away from the effect John Piper admired in Launceston, as recalled in my previous post. There are big differences of course. This is a row of houses, not a square of shops. And the Cornish town’s granite, brick, and colourwash, is replaced in Alcester by timber framing, brick and colourwash. But I like the effect of these pastel shades on this range of mostly Georgian and early-19th century facades.

In the foreground on the right is a house dating to the beginning of the 19th century with banded stucco on the ground floor and windows topped with curvy consoles and cornices on the middle two floors. Next come two stunning houses. First an off-white Greek revival frontage of about 1830 decorated with a quartet of tall Ionic pilasters and a trio of patterned panels in the style of the great architect Sir John Soane. The chaste triglyph frieze over the door is another Grecian allusion. Next to this house is the grey one with a pair of canted bay windows, plus a round-headed window with Gothic glazing above the door. It’s mid-18th century, but altered a century later. Beyond the rather plain red-brick house is a pale green one. Together with the one beyond it was originally part of an inn, the Angel – the shallow carriage arch is the giveaway. It’s a building of various dates, the frontage perhaps early-18th century but again altered in the 19th. Beyond the inn, just visible at the far left of my picture is a 16th or 17th-century timber-framed house, one of many in Alcester.

And timber-framing, the ‘black-and-white’ effect, was what I’d expected to find in Alcester. The place is indeed full of it, as are many towns and villages in the West Midlands. But as often happens, a different aspect of the town caught my eye. As usual, exploring English buildings is a source of unexpected pleasure and surprise.


Terry said...

They could do this block today couldn't they? I mean on today's kind of budget. I'm glad it caught your eye.

Anonymous said...

I very much enjoy the quiet, restrained, elegance of most of these houses, especially in a small provincial town which is what I assume Alcester is. Would the same colours (pale blues and greys) have been used at the time? What of the shiny whites found in Belgravia or Regent's Park, which are, unless I am mistaken, of the same period ? Are those genuine or later colours?
François-Marc Chaballier

bazza said...

I have to admit Philip, that I've never heard of Alcester, (don't even know how to pronounce it!)
It certainly looks appealing and your desciption adds to the picture very nicely.
Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

François-Marc: Some of the buildings in my photograph have brick walls that have been colourwashed. The red brick would probably have been visible originally. Other buildings in the picture are finished with stucco. Here the picture is less clear. Stucco was sometimes left unpainted - the colour came from the sand used in the mix, which was selected to give an effect like stone. But other stucco-finished buildings were whitewashed or colourwashed early on in their history - both for the colour and because stucco is not an inherently strong or long-lasting material and a coating of colourwash protected it from the weather.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: Alcester is not far from Stratford upon Avon. I'm not sure I know how to pronounce it either! I've always said 'Alster' (or maybe 'Allster'), but I've heard it pronounced 'Alsester' too.

worm said...

'Allster' is right Philip, but yes there are many who pronounce it Alsester (My office is on the Alcester Rd out of Birmingham and I hear all sorts of weird interpretations) Its a lovely little town, although the high street is pretty moribund these days. Interesting that as Anonymous says above, places of the same era like Regents Park and Leamington Spa are entirely white/cream

houses for sale said...

I've never heard of Alcester too. So great to own one of them.

Arrielle P

houses for sale said...

What a colorful houses you have shared. So great to live in there.

Arrielle P