Saturday, September 29, 2018


On the move (2): The King’s Board

My second example* of a building on the move is a small building known as the King’s Board, which now stands in Hillfield Gardens in Gloucester. You can just see it from the road as you pass the gardens and when I’d driven past previously I’d taken it for some elaborate garden seat or gazebo built by the owners of Hillfield House, Gloucester’s grandest Victorian house and now occupied, I think, by offices – an effective and unusual garden feature, indeed, which it still is.

However this little building did not begin life as a gazebo. Originally it was in the centre of the city and looked quite different, because the arches, which now make up the sides of a polygon, were once arranged in a straight line along the front of a rectangular building. This rectangular building can be seen in Kip’s engraving (c. 1710) of Gloucester and had been in Westgate Street (one of the city’s four main streets named for points of the compass). It had been a butter market and was reputed to have been given to the city by Richard II. By Kip’s time the roof had been altered to house a water cistern but by 1750 it had been taken down and relocated. After several more relocations, including a spell in the grounds of Tibberton Court, northwest of Gloucester) it was moved yet again to its current site in 1937. It’s not known for sure at which of these moves it was remodelled as a polygon rather than a rectangle.

No doubt its polygonal form, the fact that it once had a cross on the roof, and the religious relief carvings it bears fuelled the tradition that it began life as a preaching cross, though the rectangular layout shown in the 1710 engraving – and the fact that archaeology has confirmed this – put paid to that theory. Medieval markets often bore crosses and religious imagery too. The sculptures are charming. They cover the story of Christ’s Passion, including the entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, and other subjects. Although partly restored and even so highly worn, they preserve plenty of detail – the crenellated walls of the city, the monkey, St Peter’s keys, for example are all visible in the image of the entry into Jerusalem in my lower picture. The King’s Board is still highly effective in offering interest and shelter, some 80 years after it was re-erected here.

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*Following my post about Carfax Conduit, in Oxfordshire, here.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

I must try and find this on my next visit to Gloucester! The style is sophisticated Perpendicular, with the narrow columns and the integrated carvings, and the reign of Richard II is perhaps as early as it could be. The arches are more Decorated, methinks? These arches would be okay for the fifteenth century in, say, East Anglia, but for the muddy Midlands wouldn't be very late in the period? Could it be the same team who added the Perp. bits to Gloucester Cathedral, Pershore Abbey, Great Malvern Priory, etc., doing a bit of civic work too? I wouldn't be at all surprised if the stone was from the same quarries. The other explanation might be that a building for the city fathers may have been deliberately in a rather archaic style, as appealing to an older generation of patrons? Is it in Gloucester Museum that there's a wooden door and screen in Late Gothic style that used to belong to a civic building - or perhaps that's Bristol? Sorry for all the question marks????