Thursday, November 21, 2019

Poole, Dorset

Joining and splitting

Columns and pilasters on the facades of buildings can be made of many different materials – wood, stone, plaster, even cast iron. But many are simply made of wood, like this example in Poole that I spotted during my visit last year, with the paint stripped away during a restoration. Multiple accumulated coats of paint, applied over years, can seriously blur the carved details on facades and it pays to remove the paint and start again, for a crisp, fresh finish.

Door surrounds, like this lovely Classical example, were often the job of the joiner, who was a woodworker skilled in fine work and trained to do the accurate cutting and fitting involved in making snug joints, hence the name. A joiner of the Georgian and Regency periods could expect to be asked to do this sort of job, based no doubt on a widely available pattern book, whose designs he would follow closely. Cutting flutes, carving capitals, and producing mouldings from the varied and adaptable vocabulary of classicism would be meat and drink to him.

But as James Ayres points out in his excellent book Building the Georgian City (Yale University Press, 1998), there could be drawbacks to doing this kind of work in wood. Splits in the timber, for example. Or mitre joints that proved less than durable – Ayres describes mitre joint as ‘little more than a slippery slope to disaster’, because it involved the use of unreliable glue, applied usually to end-grain. This particular bit of woodwork has a bad split, which I seem to have caught mid-repair. Perhaps it will all look better when tidied up and repainted. I must remember to look out for it when I next visit the town.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Some theorise that things get better and better. How many joiners could join together something like this now? Would anybody encourage them to do so? A split or two after a couple of centuries - let's not get super-tidy about it and rip the whole thing out and replace it with - ? I was travelling through some run-down old streets in Bristol. Lots of architectural detail: something quite ordinary in its day, but today - impossible! I wanted to remind the people living here what a heritage they were living in, compared with the brand-new estates some of the better-off occupy. Please spare me from ever living in that minimalist new Rest Home at X! Where is romance? Where is beauty?