Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ware, Hertfordshire

Watching the river flow

A long time ago I lived in house with a garden going down to the bank of a canal. Sitting outside and watching the passing canal traffic, not to mention the swans, was an agreeable way to waste time. How much better would it have been to have a little room, right on the canal bank, from which one could watch the water? A similar thought seems to have occurred to the people of Ware in the 18th century – and they acted on the idea. In their long, narrow gardens – probably originally burgage plots –  that stretched down to the River Lea, they built little square gazebos overlooking the water. Some of these pavilions are still there, and one of my readers kindly sent me some photographs of them, which I reproduce here, for your delectation.

Brick walls, weatherboarding, canted bay windows overlooking the river, hipped roofs, in some cases with details such as a ball finial on the top – all this adds up to something transparently right. And the white weatherboarding and generous windows seem to belong to an architectural style that's perfectly suited to leisure. The big windows must make the rooms light inside and the pavilions combine the functional and the ornamental: their bay windows reach out over the water, inviting those inside to look out, admire the view, and watch – or even perhaps chat to – those who pass by in their boats. It seems that some of these buildings have been here at least since the 18th century, although many of their details, from tiling to weatherboarding, have been renewed over the years.
Some of the buildings to which these gazebos belonged were coaching inns, so guests could have the pleasure of Ware's riverside views while they enjoyed a drink. Many of the long gardens to which they belonged have now been divided up, so presumably the pavilions don't necessarily belong to those original houses or inns. But by the look of things they are well cared for. They must be admired by those who pass them on the water too.

With thanks to Tom Raw for the photographs


bazza said...

Wow, this post has taken me right back to my childhood. It is so evocative of my grandfather's farm which was in Hoddesden and is all developed land now but it backed onto the Cambridge railway line. I used to play at Dobb's Weir. a couple of miles downstream of Ware on the River Lea.
Wonderful far-off days, travelling to Ware, Hertford and Rye House on the back of Grandad's horse and cart!
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Vinogirl said...

Love these little pavillions, can just imagine the hours I could waste in one of those.

Anonymous said...

You have a wonderful blog.

I do wonder at the lower parts of houses on canals. Aren't they perpetually wet?

No doubt though that sitting in the window and watching things go by would be wonderful.

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