Monday, February 24, 2020

Stourport, Worcestershire

Place of resort

The elegant piece of carpentry on top of the dovecote at Rousham set me thinking about other buildings I’d seen embellished with a bit of the woodworker’s art. As it happened, I was reading a book on urban history and chanced upon a paragraph about Stourport-on-Severn. I was reminded that Stourport is best known as a canal town, begun in the late-18th century as the terminus of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.

When the canal got going, various utilitarian buildings – warehouses, barge sheds, workshops, and the like – were built by the canal basin and a steady traffic of boats built up. This excited quite a bit of interest, with people coming to the town just to look at the boats. The town began to become a ‘resort of people of fashion’ and a hotel was built. In addition, there seem to have been attempts to beautify the place, to make it more attractive to visitors. This warehouse, originally quite plain, was adorned with its white-painted turret, with weather vane. The clock was donated by the people of Stourport in the year 1812.

The clock turret is visually attractive and a public amenity for passers-by. It’s also a reminder that there’s a danger in thinking of places in one way. Stourport was not only a canal town, even if the canal was its raison d’être. Towns, almost by definition, are home to varied activities and the ‘resort’ of visitors who come for all kinds of reasons. It’s interesting that a clock turret that’s easy to take for granted is a sign of that varied history.


Hels said...

Many a town has been (largely) built for one main purpose and then found that the population had to diversify. I am think of places like Bendigo and Ballarat in Australia that were going gangbusters architecturally while the gold rush seemed endless... then had to rapidly find other sources of income. Some towns in fact disappeared.

Stourport seems to have done well.

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