Thursday, November 24, 2011

Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire

Top shop

On either side of a traditional shop front are vertical features called pilasters. They frame the façade and may be topped with a kind of bracket (known as a console) that helps to support the signboard. Pilasters can take various forms, from plain wooden or tiled uprights to full-blown classical half-columns that reveal how, somewhere in the genetics of shop-front design, the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome is lurking. Few of these designs draw attention to themselves. The shopkeeper wants us to look at the stuff in the window, after all, not at the pilasters. Very often, therefore, designing a traditional shop front is an exercise in restraint.

Now and then, though, the inventiveness of Victorian design was unleashed on a shop front with all the ingenuity of Rube Goldberg solving a simple problem. The results include this stunner in Shipston-on-Stour. Here the pilaster is an unlikely mixture of vaguely classical and vaguely Gothic elements, with the addition of a stylized plant that looks as if it’s been borrowed from some Arts and Crafts source. But from plain fluted base to pointed finial it works, and the black-and-white colour scheme sets it off well. Small towns like Shipston, which still have their fair share of small independent local shops, are full of such gems, though few are quite as dazzling as this one.

One of the joys of this blog is being able to share finds like this with you all, and to benefit in turn from the sharp eyes of others. I’m reminded of this because friends who often go to Shipston once told me about this shop front, and encouraged me to do a post about it. I’d noticed it before, as it happens. But their encouragement made me look again, and appreciate it more, and tap it to make sure it was made of wood. Such small acts of togetherness and connection are shafts of light in a sometimes gloomy world.


bazza said...

It's like a native American totem pole in the way that the elements are stacked on top of each other.
I also like the colour of the brick-work in your photograph; I'm a sucker for interesting brickwork, of which, we have plenty in this country.
Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

Bazza: I agree about bricks. People often don't notice them. More bricks soon...