Monday, September 19, 2016

Aldeburgh, Suffolk

More light!

Along the Suffolk coast I noticed them, but they are everywhere in coastal towns in England: houses with bay windows and balconies. The balconies are an obvious asset: a place to sit and enjoy the view if your energy, and the weather, discourage you from making it all the way to the beach. Here at Aldeburgh, on houses only a few yards from the shore, there seems little excuse for them – but people like their own private sitting space, so why not?

The bay windows, of course, need no excuse. They add another dimension to a room and, above all, they let in extra light. And in England, where the sky is often cloudy, we need as much light as we can get. In this location they’re especially effective, and bay windows have been popular in seaside towns since the Regency period – and pretty popular in other places too.* The coast hereabouts runs roughly north-south, meaning that these houses have a view roughly eastwards. That makes them wonderfully sunny in the morning. But with simple flush windows they’d be a bit dingy the rest of the time. The canted bay windows catch the sun as it moves round to the south through the middle of the day admitting more light. You can see where the light is coming from in my picture, taken at around 2 pm on a summer’s day.

Add a nice coat of plaster to protect the walls from salt spray and a pastel shade of paint to cheer everything up and you have as good a coastal house as you could want. Just the thing to contemplate before turning one’s gaze eastwards on the endless blue of the sea and sky.

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* Actually some Tudor buildings, especially grand houses, have them, but they became widely used in the Regency period.


Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

A curious thing about windows - often large in East Anglia, with its comparatively drier climate and big skies, getting smaller as you go westwards, till in Cumbria, Wales and Cornwall you can have cottages with tiny windows in a wetter, more overcast climate - probably before the advent of electric light, the houses would be more like dark caves during most of the winter, day and night alike. All right, the canted bays seem to be in response to a climate need, but local fashions in building seem to be a far more important factor. Nor can it be entirely a matter of building materials - surely it's easier to make a wide lintel with a whopping big slab of slate than piece it together in a flattened brick arch?

Joe Treasure said...

I'm familiar with dark Welsh cottages. I've always assumed more light would have meant less warmth, or larger coal bills. Perhaps big windows come with relative prosperity.

Jenny Woolf said...

That east wind from the sea in Aldeburgh must make the windows rattle but in fact these houses were aimed at people of a higher rank than cottagers. A Suffolk cottage has thick thatch, a very steeply pitched roof and windows of moderate size, I would imagine the size had something to do with the cost of glass. , I'm inclined to agree the regional differences in cottages are more to do with availability of local materials and fashion.