Monday, January 4, 2021

Frampton-on-Severn, Gloucestershire



If the Herefordshire farmyard in my previous post presented a pleasant contrast between timber and brickwork, this large barn near the Severn at Frampton is a tapestry of materials: timber framing, basket-weave infill, weatherboarding, brickwork, a stone base, a shingled roof. It’s not unusual in the Vale of Severn to see in one glance several different building materials, though it is surprising to find such a mix in one building. It’s not difficult to imagine how it happened. The different materials were probably added in stages, as repairs and changes became necessary. Stone is not present close to the site, and transporting stone is costly (even though the river makes transporting heavy goods straightforward), but it’s worth getting stone for the base. On top of that you put a strong oak frame, filling in the gaps at first with wattle and daub, with perhaps some sections of woven, basket-like infill to give good ventilation. At some point the wattle and daub needs replacing. Brick is now made locally so that’s a good, durable material for infill, so some parts get brick ‘nogging’. Then you extend the barn, now all in brick, on a lower stone plinth. The weatherboarded end may represent another repair at some stage. All this is pure guesswork, of course, and it could have happened in other ways, but the effect is one of effective and pragmatic bricolage. 

There’s something visually satisfying about the resulting patchwork (or patch-up work). Maybe that’s because most of what’s there has been there a long time, and the building looks as if it has grown old gracefully. In addition, the barn has been carefully repaired in recent years so that it’s sound, as well as beautiful. And there’s also the fact that all this variety makes up the distinctive sight of a characterful and ancient great barn, giving it a noble, indeed monumental, appearance. This is, in essence, an industrial building, made that way because its original users knew it would work that way. But it is a world distant from the structures put up on most farms now, let alone on most industrial estates. Frampton – and the world – are better places for such things. 

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

It's interesting how it progresses from ground level with the most "civilised" material, stone, first, then the possibly less "civilised" brick, then the "primitive" material used since prehistoric times. Out of these, wattles of the right size are unlikely to have been sourced locally, whereas stone was transported from the earliest times over very great distances e.g. the mixed stones at the Anglo-Saxon churches at Deerhurst and Brixworth, the Caen stone of Norwich Cathedral, and the Bluestones at Stonehenge. Given the necessity to build something, the successive builders seem to have made every effort to obtain exactly what they wanted to create a thing of beauty as well as being severely practical. I suggest that this expresses the concept of "architecture" rather better than cold theoretical "important" buildings such as... But I won't be insulting in these difficult times.