Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Whitelackington, Somerset

Quietly showy

This is the west lodge to Dillington House, a mainly Jacobean revival house, now leased by Somerset County Council and run as a centre for continuing education, conferences, and other events. It’s a small cottage orné of about 1830,* sited where the drive to the house joins a bend in the road, its three ‘front’ faces looking out on the road and giving no doubt a useful range of views of the curve. It would originally have been occupied by someone whose job (or part of whose job) was to oversee and open and close a gate to the grounds of the great house. The accommodation would be small and basic – I’ve seen inside a similar cottage built for toll gate on a road and it was on the cramped side of compact. Polygonal buildings also have the drawback of non-rectangular rooms, which can pose difficulties with fitting it furniture, although these difficulties aren’t insurmountable. Many such buildings, if in use today, have been extended at the back.

This house’s Y-tracery, Gothic doorway, and thatched roof into which the upper windows protrude are all classic features of the ornamental cottage of the 19th century. The building is clearly meant to be a small landmark, telling visitors that they have arrived at the entrance to the grounds, and its ashlar masonry on the front walls, rubble on others, makes it obvious that it was always designed to be seen from the road. The ‘three sides to the road’ design is similar to that of other lodges not far from Ilminster, which mark another former way in to the house, but these lodges don’t have the thatched roof that makes this little house stand out. None of the buildings is grand. They’re not the kind of lodges that bring instantly to mind the phrase ‘trumpet at a distant gate’† although the gates in both cases are certainly distant from the main house. If a trumpet sounds, it’s fitted with a mute. The tune it plays is charming nonetheless.

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* For more on this kind of house, see Roger White, Cottages Ornés (Yale U. P., 2017), which I reviewed here.

† See Timothy Mowl and Brian Earnshaw, Trumpet at a Distant Gate: The Lodge as Prelude to the Country House (Waterstone, 1985)


bazza said...

It's looks very strange to see that style of arched window under a thatched roof but the whole is quite pleasing to the eye.
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Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

The occupant of the lodge would presumably be expected to be on duty 24/7, like the toll keepers. No holidays. No sickness allowed.

I always feel there is something perverse about the permanence of a stone building finished with the impermanence of thatch. Very effective aesthetically, though.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Indeed. There is something incongruous about it. Thatch can last well, but not for more than a few decades. In the past, I've lived in a 100-year-old house with a slate roof of the same age, and opposite where I live now there are Cotswold stone roofs that are probably a lot older than that. But whoever built this lodge wanted the 'picturesque' look – are they achieved it.