Monday, March 25, 2024

Shaldon, Devon


Shaldon, a small settlement across the estuary from Teignmouth, was originally busier and much more important than it is now – it was a centre for ship-building, but was eclipse by Teignmouth when the Shaldon side of the river silted up. So by the 19th century, Teignmouth was increasing in size, becoming the town it is today. Meanwhile, Shaldon turned into something of a backwater, although popular as a quiet place to which people retired or visited to enjoy the sea air. This new role of Shaldon saw the building in the early-19th century of a number of houses in the. cottage orné style, often with thatched roofs and Gothic windows with ornate patterns of glazing bars.

Houses like this projected an image of a kind of idealised rural life, and were occasionally decoratively over the top. Hunter’s Lodge is an example of this trend. Visitors will be foxed by the sign giving the date of ‘c. 1650’. While there may have been a house on this site in 1650, what we see today looks like a cottage orné of around 1800. The pointed windows and doorway and the elaborate glazing with its pattern of tiny hexagonal and diamond panes, point in that direction. So too do the large quoins, which, like the similar blocks around the doorway are made of Eleanor Coade’s artificial stone, which was popular in the Regency period and lent itself to the production of multiple copies of the same three-dimensional image.

The decorative piece de résistance, however, is the horizontal band with its repeated fox heads (below), which may too be made of Coade stone. I have to say, these fox faces inspired whoops of joy when the Resident Wise Woman and I first spotted them laid out in a row like more traditional architectural ornamental patterns, from Greek keys to medieval ‘stiff leaf’. Whatever you think about fox-hunting — and the views on this subject are diverse – how can one not find these foxes charming?

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*For more about Coade stone, see an earlier post from this blog, here.

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