Monday, June 2, 2014

On the web

In black and white

Items in the news recently have spread the word the the British Council have been putting a series of fascinating early documentary films about Britain on its website. When I began to browse these films, my attention was immediately caught by Architects of England, a 12-minute film directed by John Eldridge and produced by Strand Films. It traces the story of English architecture from Stonehenge to the 1930s. The buildings are beautifully photographed in black and white, there's a narration delivered by celebrated newsreader Alvar Liddell, and music was provided by the prolific composer of symphonic and film music, William Alwyn. This 1941 film, then, is very much of its time, but still worth watching.

Many of the buildings shown are well known and some of the most famous examples of different periods, from Durham Cathedral to the Houses of Parliament, are included. However, there are also some interesting less well known examples, but with one or two exceptions the script does not mention the location of the buildings shown in the film. I have therefore set about identifying them. The British Council site includes some identifications, but what follows is a longer (though still not complete) list, with timings. I hope you enjoy the film – I'd be happy to hear from architecture enthusiasts, via the Comments section, with any details of the structures that have eluded me.  

00.06 Stonehenge
00.45 Bradford on Avon, Wilts, Saxon church
01.08 Earls Barton, Northants, Saxon church tower
01.14 Durham Cathedral
01.28 Gloucester Cathedral, nave, interior
02.08 Wells Cathedral
02.26 Gloucester Cathedral, cloisters, vault
02.37 Tintern Abbey
02.43 Lincoln Cathedral, chapter house flying buttresses
02.58 York Minster
03.10 Lincoln Cathedral
03.23 Salisbury Cathedral
03.43 Cruck cottage, Didbrook, Gloucestershire
03.47 Timber-framed houses, various locations
04.20 Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire
04.56 Hengrave Hall, Suffolk
05.48 Trinity College Library, Cambridge
06.10 Royal Hospital, Chelsea
06.27 Mompesson House, Salisbury
06.31 Raynham Hall, Norfolk
06.46 Holkham Hall, Norfolk, marble hall
07.20 Edgcote House, Northamptonshire
07.46 Bath, Royal Crescent
08.11 Regency terraces, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
08.39 Terraces, Regents Park, London
08.56 Railway viaduct, Durham
09.08 Menai Suspension Bridge
09.17 Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
09.48 Houses of Parliament, London
09.58 Law Courts, Strand, London
10.09 Albert memorial, London
10.31 Euston Arch, London (demolished)
10.38 Council House, Nottingham
10.44 Various buildings, Thames Embankment, London
11.03 Broadcasting House, Langham Place, London
11.09 Peter Jones store, Sloane Square, London
11.13 Modern flats (is this Kensal House, West London?)
11.41 Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
11.55 Wells Cathedral
12.10 Battersea Power Station
12.17 Durham Cathedral
12.20 Salisbury Cathedral
12.27 St Paul's Cathedral, London


Stephen Barker said...

Thank you for showing that, even if I was disputing the commentary.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Quite so. Not everything is quite right, or quite clear. But the film is still of interest.

Hels said...

Many of the buildings shown are very well known and easily discovered. But some are far trickier for the interested observer. So I would be grateful in particular for the Regency terraces in Cheltenham and inside the Royal Crescent buildings in Bath.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Yes, I was disputing the commentary too. Bradford-on-Avon Saxon church PRIMITIVE? I photographed every inch of it, and am fully convinced it was carved out like the churches of Lalibela, except as blocks. That wonderful tower at Earls Barton PRIMITIVE or CRUDE? The thin plain pilaster strips have survived 1000 years, while some 1990s+ buildings e.g.Welsh Assembly building, the Senedd, already look tatty (and never looked as good)! No doubt to keep the Menai Bridge from rust, the commentary has moved it into England, likewise Tintern Abbey by a few hundred yards - though the best long view is admittedly from the Gloucestershire bank of the river. I think vintage 1941 was hardly likely to do justice to the Anglo-Saxon period - and I don't think most commentators do now, getting very vague and airy-fairy once they have to admit pre-1066 date.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thought the comments about the Anglo-Saxon churches would make some of my readers pause! No one with half an eye.could call Earls Barton crude, or indeed Bradford on Avon primitive if they looked at it carefully.

As for the assumption that Wales is part of England, that's very 1941 too, I suppose. As I'm sure you know, James, the way to keep the Menai Bridge from rust is by boiling it in wine....

Philip Wilkinson said...

Hels: There are actually four different Cheltenham terraces shown in the film, between 08.11 and 08.36. Next time I am in Cheltenham with time on my hands, I'll try to identify them. The second one is Lansdown Terrace and the last of the four is the famous street, The Promenade, in the centre of the town. I'm not sure of the first and third, as there are several terraces in the town with a similar design.