Monday, 10 May 2010

Sign up to save Blackburn's history!

We're doing everything we can to save the old police house in King Street, Blackburn, dating from the 1780s. And we'd very much welcome your support. It's threatened with demolition to make way for a short link road. But there are alternative routes for the road.

Save Britain's Heritage joins the campaign  
Poster photocall - see the photo gallery

The message is clear: Blackburn can have the link road and keep this historic building.

A student at the University Centre at Blackburn College has drawn a set of interior visuals of how this building could look if it was restored. They will be on show with other students' work from Thursday 17 June 2010 in Room UC 320, University Centre Building, Barbara Castle Way for two weeks. There will also be a petition that can be signed to help save this building.  Location map (University Centre is marked UC).

Photo: Andy Marshall
The threatened building is right on the edge of Blackburn's historic Georgian quarter and there's a great chance to make a neighbourhood where people will want to live, work and spend time. But to do that we need to keep and restore our historic buildings, not replace them with tarmac.


We'd like to know what you think, especially if you live or work in Blackburn, so please leave your comments below or email them to, or write to us at 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5DX. Thank you.   

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Harmony of house and landscape

Sharpham Hall (1770) commands a promontory on the River Dart downstream from Totnes. The photographs show how well the Dart still deserves its Victorian ephitet of 'The English Rhine' and demonstrate the impressive results of an interventionist planning system. Britain is a densely-populated island and this part of south Devon is far from a wilderness, but development pressures have been kept at bay so effectively that at night not a single electric light is visible in the view from Sharpham. Suitably, given its tranquil location, the house is now run by a charitable trust as a retreat.

Click on the images for larger versions. (Photos: Robert Bargery).      

Decorated stone at Sharpham

Sharpham Hall in Devon, by Sir Robert Taylor (1770) offers a good example of decorative treatment of Portland stone. At Sharpham, as at most Georgian country houses, the most important rooms, and hence the ones with the highest ceilings and tallest windows, are on the first floor, so the architect is faced with the problem of how to give the less important ground floor sufficient visual weight. To hold its own in the composition it needs to be made to resemble a plinth or base, so the joints between the blocks of stone on the ground floor are recessed through chamfering, in a process known as rustication. The recesses create shadows, as here, and therefore give an illusion of solidity and strength, even though in actual fact the chamfering means that there is slightly less stone in this 'masculine' part of the facade than there is higher up.

To enhance the effect, the faces of rusticated blocks are sometimes tooled. Quite often they are vermiculated, ie given a surface pattern that resembles worm casts. Or you might see fluting (narrow concave bands) or corduroy work (narrow convex bands). Less common is the effect here, known as punching, where the surface is covered with regular small indents. The intention is partly to create ornament but partly also to reinforce the impression of strength by adding multiple small shadows to those made by the chamfers.  

Above the rusticated blocks at Sharpham you can see a projecting moulded string course, which marks the transition between the ground and first floors. And above that, the Portland stone is left smooth, so well cut that the joints between the blocks are barely visible. (Photo: Robert Bargery).