Saturday, September 10, 2016

Ilminster, Somerset

Stone and glass…and paintwork

Just out of the town centre of Ilminster is one of the few hints that’s there’s a big house close by: a pair of hexagonal gate lodges next to some stone gate piers. My photograph shows the right-hand lodge, which was catching the sun, warming up its local limestone walls and bringing out their slight orangey tinge here and there.

This is a building of the early-19th century, and guards one of the drives to Dillington House, a building originally of the 16th and 17th centuries that was hugely altered by Sir James Pennethorne in 1837. Dillington now hosts educational courses on all sorts of enticing subjects – as it happens I was teaching one of these courses last week, which is how I came to be here.

The lodges may well be of the same date as the Pennethorne remodelling of the main house. They are in the simplified Gothic style of the time – pointed openings, Y-shaped tracery to the windows, small battlements on top – that does very nicely for a small gate lodge. Buildings like this quite often came in odd shapes – circular, octagonal, or hexagonal – to catch the eye, to catch the sun, and perhaps sometimes because the design allowed the person inside to have a view in more than one direction, so that they could keep an eye on comings and goings.

However there’s an added twist to this building. The windows have the patterned glazing bars so popular in estate buildings in this period, but the window immediately above the door is a false one. There’s no glass there at all, just a stone impression of a window, to be decorative, with the glazing bars painted on to the masonry. A bit of trickery to remind us, I think, that this little lodge is as much as anything else a bit of architectural fun.