Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Louth, Lincolnshire

Round the back

As a small boy I remember being taken into this building by my maternal grandfather, who lived in a village a few miles from Louth. He went into the market hall to buy ginger biscuits for himself and sweets (in generous quantities that I never saw at home) for me. Needless to say, this place holds fond memories. There being serious sweet-buying work to do, I don’t remember thinking much about the architecture. I remembered the tower, though when I saw the building again the other day, that tower’s slender proportions and the cut brickwork around the windows were a surprise, one pulled off, I now read in Pevsner, as the result of an 1866–7 design by Rogers and Marsden, local architects who are not, as far as I know, well known outside Lincolnshire.

From the front, it’s an odd design, but with a reason, I think. The entrance is very deeply and narrowly recessed, the narrowness of the opening mirroring the slender proportions of the tower above. Making this entrance-way rather tightly proportioned gave the architects more floor and facade space for the short row of shops, fronting the market place, on either side. Rogers and Marsden gave the town added value, in the form of these shops, but at the expense of pushing the market hall back behind them. But as well as all this, the hall has a surprise to pull.

Go round the back, and the rear facade is completely different. Like the train shed of a Victorian railway station, it wears its arched structure on its sleeve, and provides, into the bargain, the most enormous semicircular window, through which one can make out the great metal arches inside, which support the roof. The plain pattern of the glazing bars is remarkably modern, but the doors at the bottom, which are topped with semicircular arches let into the great window, and iron hinges that have ornate spiral agendas of their own, provide some contrast. The effect is one of drama, brio, and rightness. And although I wouldn’t have thought about it in those terms, I do remember thinking, as a small boy carrying several paper bags full of pear drops and allsorts and sweet seafood, that this was simply the biggest window I’d ever seen.


Billy Blue Eyes said...

Imprerssive building and like you said ver egine shed in it's looks

per apse said...

Good to see Louth again - some fine buildings and not to be visited just for the church. BUT what the "planners" allowed ...... I spent a Sunday morning in c1970 looking at the streetscape....... Many horrors then - Fine Fare was a total disaster - have things improved? Louth is a long way from the South Coast and I've no reason/excuse to revisit. Again thanks for the picture.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Per apse: Yes, there are still blots, but Louth preserves enough of its Georigan, Victorian, and early 20th-century townscape to make it an agreeable place, in my opinion. One building seen by many as a blot, the ABM malt kiln, has been demolished (heralding the arrival of an Aldi), changing the skyline.

Stephen Barker said...

Amazing building by what would be described as provincial architects. It does have the look of a train shed.