Art Deco building, Dublin

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During my visit to Dublin last week I spotted this Art Deco building in D’Olier Street. It’s the former headquarters of the Dublin Gas Company, built in 1928.

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Northampton architecture

After my visit to 78 Derngate, I didn’t have much time to have a look around as I needed to get back on my way down the motorway. But I did manage a brief stroll through the town centre.

This Art Deco style block of flats, Bedford Mansions built in 1935 is immediately opposite the house.

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This is the Guild Hall, a very grand neo-Gothic building, built between 1861 and 1864

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A little further along the road, this neo-Classical church, All Saints. It was built in 1675 to replace an older, Medieval church that was largely destroyed  during the “Great Fire of Northampton“.

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Quite a mix of styles in a relatively short distance!

 

78 Derngate

A couple of weeks ago I had to drive down to Hertfordshire on a Sunday as zi was working down there on the Monday. An 8 o’clock start meant a stay over on Sunday evening. Rather than just belt all the way down the Motorway I decided to break the journey, pulling off the M1 at Northampton, with a view to visiting 78 Derngate, a house where the interior had been designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

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The house was owned by a local industrialist, W J Bassett-Lowke a man of Progressive ideals, Fabian politics (he knew G B Shaw who visited the house and stayed in the guest bedroom), had, for the time (the early 20th Century), rather modern tastes.

One of a row of Georgian houses in the centre of Northampton, Bassett-Lowke’s father  bought the relatively small house for him in 1916 when he got married. Being right in the middle of WWI it wasn’t possible to build a new house (which I guess he would have preferred) so he set about getting it modified so it would be more in line with his Modernist inclinations and he hired Mackintosh, who was living in Chelsea at the time, to help with the interior design.

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The Bassett-Lowkes lived in the house 1926 when they moved to a newly built Modernist home designed by Peter Behrens. It passed through several owners until 1964 when it was bought by Northampton High School for Girls who initially used it for offices and then later as classrooms.   When the school decided to sell off the house it was bought by Northampton Borough Council. A Trust was formed who restored the house and it was opened to the public at the end of 2003. The house itself is quite small so the Trust has also bought No’s 80 and 82 which houses the reception desk,  gift shop, museum, restaurant, art galleries, meeting rooms and offices.

Although visitors can explore the house and garden on their own, there are regular guided tours, which take just over an hour, and it’s well worth joining one. I arrived about 45 minutes before the next tour was due to start so I spent some time looking around the small garden (it was a fine, sunny, autumn afternoon), the museum and the galleries where there were exhibitions of works by a local artist, Roy Holding, and the Northamptonshire Guild of Designer Craftsmen. The guided tour, which started with a short video, was led by a knowledgeable volunteer and was excellent. After the tour I had about 45 minutes left to have a quick look round on my own to take a closer look at the rooms and furnishings.

Bassett-Lowke had a number of structural changes made to the house. A rectangular extension was added at the back to enlarge the kitchen and the dining room and creating balconies for the two bedrooms. It isn’t clear how much of these changes (and, indeed the décor) Mackintosh designed.

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Mackintosh was hired during a period when his architectural and design work had largely dried up, so he must have welcomed the commission.  Bassett-Lowke must have been a difficult client to work for, though. He had had some architectural training and had his own definite ideas about what he wanted and certainly didn’t leave mackintosh to get on with it, organising the work himself. His wife, who it seems had more conventional tastes, didn’t get much of a look in! But  Mackintosh’s touch is clearly evident throughout the house. The décor is a little different  to his earlier work, being more angular and almost prefiguring what became known as “Art Deco” style.

After watching the video which covered the history of the house and an overview of the interior,  the tour started in the garden. We could see the rear elevation which looked very Modernist and nothing like a Georgian property.

This planter looks very “Mackintosh”, but it’s not certain he designed it.

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Moving inside the house, first stop was the kitchen. No Mackintosh touches here but quite modern for the early 20th century. Bassett-Lowke was very keen on having all the latest electrical gadgets including an electric kettle and other appliances, many which had to be specially imported.

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The kitchen would have been the domain of Lotte, the Bassett-Lowkes’ servant. She was Austrian so an “enemy alien” during the war, so I don’t know how they managed to keep her employed.

Moving upstairs to the dining room

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Mackintosh’s main contribution to this room was the walnut cabinets to either side of the fireplace.

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Across the stairwell and we were in the living room (the house is only two rooms wide)

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This screen beside the staircase is probably Mackintosh’s “tour de force”.

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He designed the décor, an angular pattern representing trees, which is predominantly black, making the room rather dark.

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Mrs Bassett-Lowke did not like it so it was changed to a much lighter design, which was shown in a display on one of the rooms on the top floor of the house

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Up another floor and into the main bedroom. There wasn’t much furnishing in here.

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but the guest bedroom on the next floor has been recreated.  This is where G B slept when he stayed in the house. The striped décor is very striking and must have looked so radically different in 1917. It could easily have been designed in modern times.

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Mrs Bassett-Lowke did not like it at all.

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Across the corridor the bathroom had all the mod cons for the time

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I spent almost 3 hours in the house, much longer than I expected. It was certainly well worth the diversion!

Whitby Museum

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The weather on the Wednesday of our holiday was rather mixed to say the least. It rained during the morning but the afternoon promised sunny spells. So we decided to go into Whitby, look round some of the shops and old streets and visit the Whitby Museum in Pannett Park. The weather certainly was mixed. At one point we were standing in bright sunshine getting rained on!!

The museum is in a lovely setting – Pannett Park on the west side of the river in the area developed during the Victorian period. It’s a fascinating Victorian museum – old fashioned, but in a good way!

It has a rather eclectic collection of local fossils, natural history exhibits, model ships, carved jet, toys, costumes, items relating to social history and local notables, including Captain Cook.

These are just some of their collection of fossils found in and around Whitby, many of them from the local alum quarries, including this Ichthyosaurus

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a marine crocodile

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and many others.

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There’s a large collection of jet jewellery and other objects. I particularly liked this chessboard

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I also liked this clockwork model of a jet workshop. Put a coin in the slot and the workers started to carry out the various tasks involved in jet manufacture.

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The museum website tells us

the jet workshop model (over 120 years old)….. was made by George Wood, a jet worker, in 1889 and this model stood for many years in the doorway of Elisha Walker’s jet shop at 97 Church Street in Whitby. The heads of the 6 jet workers were carved from the bowls of clay pipes and were caricatures of George Wood’s fellow jet workers. It is driven by clockwork and the men treadle their machines such as polishers, turners, finishers, grinders, working the jet, whilst the foreman’s head turns periodically to see that everyone is working hard!

There was a statue of Captain Cook in the room devoted to maritime history

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Whitby was a whaling centre and their were exhibits related to this rather gruesome industry including these rather viscous looking harpoons and flenshing tools

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These are narwhal tusks

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and a complete narwhal skeleton

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I found the display about shipbuilding in Whitby interesting on two counts. First of all I’m always interested in industrial history. Secondly we were staying next to a former shipyard owners house and above where his shipyard once stood.

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We learned that an old building we passed walking to and from the town centre was a former sail making and repair loft that had been located next to the Whitehall shipyard.

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There was plenty more to see and we ended up spending a couple of hours looking around – longer than I expected – and could probably had stayed longer.

After, dodging rain showers, we had a look around the park

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Walking back to the town centre we passed Bagdale Hall, the old building that is now a hotel and restaurant

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where I spotted this rather attractive Art Deco statue in the courtyard

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Beverley

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I’m working in East Yorkshire this week, staying in Goole. I had an early start on Monday so had booked to stay over on Sunday evening. Sunday looked a promising day and I didn’t fancy being stuck in front of the telly watching the Wimbledon men’s final (I don’t get tennis I’m afraid) so I decided to drive over the Pennines early afternoon and find something to do. The small, historic town of Beverley is about 30 minutes further east from Goole and as I’ve never been there before (only seen it signposted off the motorway when driving over to Hull) I decided it might be a good bet to keep me occupied. I wasn’t wrong.

The town grew up around a monastery that was founded at the beginning of the 8th Century and there’s been a church here ever since. Today the town’s main attraction is the Minster which was built between 1220 and around 1420.

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Although it has the size and grandeur of a cathedral, it isn’t the seat of a Bishop, and only has the status of a Parish Church.

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The town has an attractive shopping street. Unfortunately it is mainly populated by the main high street chains. There were plenty of pubs and places to eat – a reflection of it being a tourist destination.

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Most of the buildings in the town centre are Georgian and Victorian but there are some traces of the town’s medieval heritage. The North Bar is one of them.

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It’s the last remaining gateway that protected the entrance to the town and at one time had  a drawbridge. There were originally five but the other four are long gone.

A short distance away is another Medieval Gothic church, St Mary’s. Like the Minster, a fine example of Gothic architecture. It dates from the 12th century and so predates the minster. It underwent a major restoration between 1844 and 1876 under the successive supervision of Augustus Welby Pugin, his son E. Welby Pugin, and Sir Gilbert Scott. So it’s appearance probably reflects the Victorian take on Gothic like many other churches (including our own Wigan Parish church)

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There’s a medieval building more or less opposite St Mary’s – now converted into an up-market shopping centre

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Lot’s of attractive Georgian buildings around the town.

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There are also examples of other architectural styles. This is the local library built in the early 20th Century. I’d probably describe it as Edwardian Baroque

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The old Corn Exchange, from the same period.

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And an Art Deco style façade in amongst the Georgian buildings on the corner of the Saturday Market and main shopping street, Toll Gavel.

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An interesting town, well worth the diversion (as the Michelin Guide would put it). It rather reminded me of a smaller scale version of York, minus the medieval walls.

Meridian House, Greenwich

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I spotted the tower of this rather splendid red brick Art Deco style building while I was in Greenwich last week so wandered over to have a closer look.

The tower belongs to Meridian House, the former Greenwich Town Hall which was built in 1938-9 to a design by Clifford Culpin. Its original use was as a municipal facility including offices, and included a civic suite and public hall but was sold off by the London Borough of Greenwich in the 1970s and now houses the Greenwich School of Management and private flats.  The Borough Hall is occupied by “Greenwich Dance” .

The elegant clock tower is the building’s  most prominent feature and was apparently influenced by the work of the Dutch architect W. M. Dudok, paricularly the Hilversum Town Hall. It was designed not only to function as both a clock tower but a public observation tower so local residents could view the Royal Naval College and the Thames.

According to Pevsner the building was

“the only town hall of any London borough to represent the style of our time adequately”.  (Buildings of; England, London 2: South)

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Trinity Court, London

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I was down in London for a day on business this week. I had a breakfast meeting in the morning but having woken up early I had a few hours to kill. I didn’t really fancy hanging around the rather horrible Travelodge I was staying in (I’ve vowed never to book in one again!) so decided to go out for a bit of a wander and do some “street haunting” around Bloomsbury.

Wandering down Grays Road I spotted this rather attractive Modernist / Art Deco building so stopped to take a couple of snaps on my phone.

It’s a simple design with interesting ironwork on the balconies and front door

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The Modernist Britain website tells us

Trinity Court is an eight storey apartment block, rectangular in plan, with the shorter sides parallel to the street. The front and rear elevations project slightly at each side giving a Roman ‘I’ footprint to the building. The main elevation features a central entrance with double doors, with decorative tracery in the windows. Above the doors the entrance features a stepped pediment carrying the building name.

and that it

was built between 1934 and 1935 to plans drawn up by the London-based architectural practice of F Taperell and Haase.

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My pictures, taken with my phone with the camera playing up (a software problem I resolved later that day) aren’t that great. But there’s some good ones here.