Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Burford, Oxfordshire


Bricks come to Burford

For me and everyone else, it has been a year in which travel has been restricted. Like the rest of the British population, I have been in lockdown, or in some voluntary state of semi-lockdown in which I’ve tried to risk unnecessary exposure to Covid-19, or in a state with a little more freedom but still the fear that travelling any distance might take me into an area of the country that is in lockdown or otherwise restricted. One of the compensations for all this has been that it has forced me to focus more closely on buildings that are closer to home. Many of my recent posts reflect this.

I’m fortunate to live not far from an abundance of interesting walls to stare at. Here’s one such interesting wall, one of many in the glorious High Street of Burford, just on the Oxfordshire side of the border with Gloucestershire and near the eastern edge of the Cotswold Hills. Like so many of Burford’s buildings, this one has ancient origins. There’s timber framing of the 16th century (or perhaps even earlier) round the back. But from the street the Bull Inn presents this attractive and arresting brick and stone front.

The date of the frontage must be about 1700 – estimates vary from 1690 to 1715 – during the period when William Tash and his son John were landlords. William Tash took over an inn with a long history. Records of it go back to 1397, although the building was used for a long spell in the 16th century as a butcher’s shop. But in 1610 it was an inn again and later in the century it’s said that Charles II and Nell Gwynne stayed there. By the time the facade was updated, Burford was a prosperous town, a stopping point on the route from Wales to London. The inn’s new frontage helped it stand out.

According to the Bull’s website, it was the only brick building in Burford back then. Even now, nearly all the buildings in this street have fronts of Cotswold stone or timber framing (sometimes rendered) but the Bull mixes stone and brick, with stone used not just on the ground floor but also for the pilasters, keystones and other details above. Those other details add to the building’s eccentricity and, I’d say, charm: very chunky aprons beneath the upper windows and trapezoid stones on the upper corners of the window surrounds. All this, combined with the mix of red and darker bricks makes for a winning result and a real eyecatcher for those with time to stop and look.


mem said...

This brings back lovely memories of a trip that included Burford and also a visit to a little tiny church which was to the south of Burford . It was memorable as being VERY old and sitting alone in a field where there had been a village and now this tiny church was all that remained. I think it was near the Windrush River . I was deeply moved by its survival and its beautiful simplicity.

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

Yes, this combination of materials is very satisfying. Once again, I feel it could have been built from a pattern-book, and that it would be possible to do exactly the same thing again today - perhaps with high-grade concrete in place of the Cotswold stone? Burford should go on my Places-to_Visit list when circumstances allow. Thanks again for this blog - some sanity in a strange world.

Philip Wilkinson said...

mem: Thank you! Burford is a terrific place. The church you mention was probably Widford, only a few miles from Burford in the Windrush valley. It's still wonderfully atmospheric.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Joseph. Many thanks. Yes, do go to Burford when you can. It has a large and interesting church, as you probably know.