Saturday, January 16, 2021

Dartmouth, Devon


Summer days, 3

On one of many recent days stuck in doors, the Resident Wise Woman reflected that it was fortunate at least that we’d managed a trip to Devon and another to Aldeburgh late in 2019. The virus couldn’t take those memories away from us, even if it has deprived us of the trips we’d planned for 2020.† Drifting around the streets of Dartmouth was one of the pleasures of the Devon trip. It’s a town full of architecture pleasures, but here’s one of the more incidental ones: a house near the water and another exemplar of that seaside style I’ve been exploring in my previous two posts.

Well, partly. Actually this is a bit more sophisticated than the pretty but random-looking houses on the front at Lyme. This is Regency sophistication, and plenty of it. The house has the pale blue finish that one could find near the sea at any coastal town. But in other respects we’ve moved away from architectural casual wear and got into high fashion. That pattern of glazing in the window, with narrow panes near the edges (and there are several more of them in the storey above) is classic early 19th century. What you can’t see in my photograph is that the window also has a curving top, enhancing the Regency feel. Also very much of its time (1820s or 1830s) is the cast-iron balcony with its pattern of crosses. This balcony is an interesting combination of solidity – the ironwork looks very substantial – and fragility: the floor is thin timberwork and the brackets, as so often, seem very modest; indeed, diagonal iron rods have been fitted so that the ironwork is fixed to the wall higher up (one of these is just visible among the foliage at the left).

Then there is the doorway. This is a show-stopper. The doorcase alone is special, with its diagonal grooved decoration up the sides and across the segmental top; then a bat-wing design with oval medallion carved between the segmental curved and the fat hood. The door is also impressive, with its pattern of studs. This may be a terraced house, but its doorway make one feel as if to go in would be to enter the home of a person of consequence. For the mere passer-by it at least had the effect of lifting the spirits, something that all good seaside houses should do,.

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† Not to mention any plans we might have had for 2021. Old Czech joke: Q: How do you make God laugh? A: Tell him your plans.

* Pevsner calls this ‘an unusual pattern-book doorcase’. Well, provincial builders did indeed lift their designs from pattern books, but wherever it comes from, this example is certainly unusual.

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