Thursday, October 29, 2020

Wallingford, Berkshire*


Pevsner says that the old Wilders Foundry in Wallingford has ‘a railwayish look’. Very true. It immediately made me think of the former locomotive works in Worcester. If the Worcester works is on a large scale for a sizerable city, this foundry looks outsize in a back street in this small town. Thirteen arches line each long side and the brickwork gives a chunky effect, though not without charm.

As well as being ‘railwayish’, this building is also typical of the 1860s, when English architecture was enjoying a period of anything-goes diversity, with vibrant patterns and colour in abundance – in some ways the 1860s were not unlike the 1960s in this respect. This example was built in 1869, by which time there was plenty of polychrome brick around and many builders and architects had the style down pat: red brick for the walls, pale cream or white for what in an earlier era might have been stone dressings; blues for plinths and for emphasis elsewhere, perhaps around the arches; stepped or corbelled brickwork to stand for mouldings, capitals, dentil courses. Add big windows to bring plenty of light into the work space and suitable roof trusses for a wide roof span, and you have a large flexible space for whatever job is being done inside – carpet-making in Kidderminster, locomotive building in Worcester, casting in Wallingford or Leiston. Job done, stylishly, on a budget.
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*Now in Oxfordshire, but I stick to the old counties for reasons previously explained. 


Chris Partridge said...

Well, there’s a coincidence. My grandmother was Mrs Wilder. I will remember my grandfather taking me round this foundry when I was small and showing me the way the cranes intersected to pass pieces round the factory. The firm made agricultural machinery for 200 years before globalisation killed it at the end of the last century.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Chris: Thank you for your comment. What a coincidence. And what a shame that another old British firm was killed by globalisation. It would be good if Wallingford commemorated this buildng's users in some way and marked the foundry's significance. I couldn't work out what the building was until I looked it up later.

per apse said...

Wallingford's on my list of 'must visit' places - thank you for adding more pressure! But you might have added to your list of possible functions for the building - non-conformist chapel.
Perhaps even double ended pair of chapels (suit Methodists/Primitive Methodists, Strict Baptist/Gospel Standard Strict and Particular Baptists (!) or any of the plethora of mid-C19 varieties of Church and Chapel, competing with one another. Keep the good work going in these unhealthy times - greetings and stay well.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Per apse: Thank you! There are quite a few incidental pleasures in Wallingford plus a couple of interesting churches and bits of the once important castle. Worth a visit when you are able.

Nonconformist chapel was my first thought when I caught site of the foundry end-on. But I soon saw the length of it and I was soon. thinking it was something industrial, especially when recalling other polychrome brick factories of the period.

Evelyn said...

So I'm not the only person who sees parallels in consecutive decades of centuries! I have a tendency to to call mixed architecture eclecticism. Perhaps because the city I live in- Denver, Colorado in the U.S.A. has this eclectic and mixed together architecture more as a rule than an exception. I really want to put bay or rather bow windows on my ranch style home. People smile here when I say that- elsewhere they have a tendency to roll their eyes and move off. Growing up and living a good part of my life here has given me a true appreciation for experimentation with architecture and mixing it is just another art form.
The Castle Lady