Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lavenham, Suffolk

Colours of memory

I’ve blogged before, more than once I seem to remember, about buildings and memory: so often, I find, architecture is a trigger for some recollection. When I was looking through my pictures and wondering what next to share here,* a memory from decades ago welled up from somewhere.

‘Green and pink,’ said my friend, looking out of my window in Oxford and taking in the view of backs of cottages.
‘Green and pink. Painted walls. I keep seeing the colours next to one another; they seem to look good together.’
‘Yes, that’s true. I’d  not thought of it before.’

And so, brought up among the ubiquitous limestone of the Cotswolds and the white stuccoed walls of Cheltenham, I learned to look out for the splashes of pale colour that English buildings throw at us and to like them too. Pinkwash instead of whitewash, plus pale green, yellow, blue, ochre. I get the impression that my readers like these colours too, because posts about colourful facades – in Saffron Walden, Alcester, and Launceston, for example – have proved some of my most popular. So too did the discussions (in the comments section and elsewhere) about the different colours used on medieval buildings and their sources (pink from animal blood, for example).†

So here are green and pink again in Lavenham, spotted in the sunshine last summer: modern pastel shades on buildings several hundred years old, and no worse for that. To my mind the colours enhance this modest vernacular architecture and contribute to a wonderfully effective streetscape. Often it’s the original features – sash windows, timber framing, jetties – that we notice, taking the colour for granted. But it’s the colour that makes these buildings (at least from the point of view of the passer-by), both the colour of the walls and of those wonderfully variegated tiles. Long may they delight the eye and start the  memory working.

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*My usual way, as regular readers will know, is to post about buildings I've seen recently. But now and then, for the sake of variety and to relive old visits, I choose something I saw a while back.

†Another post concerning colour, this time in Tewkesbury, inspired a number of comments from readers.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Pink-wash cottages as at Thaxted, etc. were supposed to have been produced using pigs' blood, and all sorts of reasons for using it in East Anglia, but Maynooth Castle in Ireland, built very solidly in stone, was also washed pink for some reason. One good reason for painting exteriors all white is economy: when investigating our own exterior, I found white was always the cheapest colour. Ty Gwyn in Welsh parlance is a house of whitewashed stone, while Ty Du is a turf house with no whitewash on it. It was usual to whitewash not just the house, but the yard walls, farmyard walls and so on. A lot of Tom Sawyers not busy all over Wales!

bazza said...

There are rather a lot of pink-painted cottages in Essex. Lavenham of course is a few miles over the Suffolk/Essex border but I grew up thinking that 'Essex Pink' was only found in that county. Obviously not so! I remember some lovely pastel-painted sea-front cottages in Aldborough as well.
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