Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Monday, January 13, 2020

When in Rome?

Roman arch, Lincoln, UK
I have never been to Rome - we passed the turnoff once on our way down the spine of Italy, savouring medieval villages on our way to the seaside at Positano. It just felt too big, the driving too nuts,  and the time too short, to appreciate adequately the Roman, Renaissance and Baroqueness of the place. We have promised ourselves a return of three weeks to a month. One day. Perhaps guided, to a degree.

Roman amphitheatre, Verona
We have encountered Rome's greatness, and felt the remarkable expansion of its empire, in travels here and there over the years. Today, something made me want to cast about to collect some of the images we have taken away over time.

Rome is enduring. Certainly history of art and architecture courses over the decades have taken me there, and dragged me through a mind-boggling agglomeration of antiquities and more.

Last night, a documentary on Acorn hosted by Mary Beard (Dame Winnifred Mary Beard - titles omitted in the interest of conciseness- Professor of Classics at Cambridge) kept us there for a bit, and will draw us back.

theatre, Pompeii
Today, I found this. So I'm now registered for this free (with ample option to transfer to credit status, for a fee, of course) online course offered by Yale,  an Introduction to Roman Architecture - with all the external motivation provided by assignments, reading response deadlines, and the like. Playing school. But a way to get myself out of the mid-winter study slump.

Forum Baths

a glimpse of the forum
We visited Pompeii in 1995. The summer's most brutal hot day saw exhausting bumper to bumper traffic chugging down to the beaches on the Amalfi coast, while we enjoyed open road heading to Pompeii.
Amphitheater, Pompeii

 Sure, it was hot. But there were water vendors, and cool spots inside stone buildings. And Pompeii, pretty much to ourselves.

 Roman streets, public buildings, dwellings, the like of which we'd never seen. Remarkably realistic frescoes, mosaics, colonnades and pergolas, statues and fountains. Life lived well.

Unless you happened to be among the conquered.


Roman Baths, with later overbuilding, Bath, UK
And that's what, in year 43 of the common era, the native Britons became. England's green and pleasant land is still traversed by 'Roman roads', modern thoroughfares along shockingly straight roads built during the Roman occupation, and littered with a startling number of Roman stone ruins, and other traces of their advanced society imposed on the wild Celts.

Roman stone construction, baths in Bath
We spent seven weeks in England and Ireland last spring. A treat was a return to Bath, with a few days under 'our own' roof. I posted in December about an iconic Bath destination. However, the Roman baths likely win out in the iconic category. Granted there are layers of history built atop the Roman baths, but they are there, and a wander through the darkened caverns reminds us how sophisticated these builders were, and how well they lived.
There was once a Roman wall at York, this is later
The Romans also built military roads throughout Britain - straight being their trademark. Here's a Streetview peek at the Fosseway, a Roman road running through a niece's village, on the way from Exeter to Lincoln.

And this is purported (by folks in the Gloucester village where we stayed with family) to be a Roman well. Might be newer, Medieval maybe. A newbie.

following the Roman road alongside

But there's no need for speculation along Hadrian's wall, built from one side of the country to the other, separating Roman Britain and the wild Scots (they just couldn't deal) over 14 years beginning in 122 CE. After 2000 years, sections of the wall (which weren't repurposed as churches, homes and barns) still stand, along with remains of mile castles and turrets.

Cawfields Roman Wall and mile castle, Hadrian's wall
Vindolanda, Northumberland, UK
At the urging of Lincoln friends, we visited Vindolanda, a Roman fort and settlement, and home to ambitious scholarship and a world-class museum. This truly is an amazing place. As evocative as the empty stones of the wall sections are, the excavations, preservation and interpretation of years of Roman occupation at the site are astonishing.

replica altars with inscriptions
This link will help...I'm a bit speechless remembering it all. 
open air museum - temple, Domus exhibit

As a result of all this Roman research, I signed up for that Yale course. It's a MOOC, Massive Open Online Course, and that means I won't be sitting down any time soon with my tutorial leader. I'll keep you posted (unless I start to skip class, and will be embarrassed to admit it.)

graceful lines at Campbell House, Toronto
And secondly, I gave thought to how this relates to my self-imposed Ontario architecture mandate. And here it is:

British home-builders of the mid 18th to mid 19th century (and Canadians of the 1820s to 50s) began to apply plans, elevations and decorative details found in ancient Greek and Roman buildings to domestic and public buildings.

Breakenridge House, Niagara on the Lake

Pattern books offered architects and builders  ways to 'soften' the long-standing symmetrical, typically 5-bay Georgian form. The arch appeared in elliptical fanlights, curved porticos and additions, and applied decoration like urns, orbs and swags. Delicate mullions 'lightened up' doorcases, pillars and pilasters added gentle gravitas.

Niagara on the Lake is a great spot to spot Neoclassical architecture, as it was rebuilding from the ashes after the fires of the War of 1812,  at the time the style was king.

blind arcading, Niagara on the Lake

MacPherson House (by 1830) in Napanee is a delightful local (to me, anyway) example of how graceful Neoclassical influences lightened up the stolid Georgian form.

This is such a great place, do visit.
This is the lovely lovely French-Robertson House at Upper Canada Village (formerly at Milles-Roches.) Its pale yellow clapboard shows off the delicate neo-Classical details.

Enough Neoclassical Ontario for one day. If you want more, here's the seminal text in PDF format. Print away. Author Leslie Maitland cites the legacy of the style as "a taste for historical accuracy and a love of lucid design."

Okay, my work-out here is done. Best go start work on that Roman Archi course. As Seneca said: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Odd Little Place

Something calming about this place. Reflective. Perhaps I should share a church each Sunday.

This is the lovely old church of Saint Nicholas Oddington, Gloucestershire, a Norman church with a newish Early Gothic nave and chancel (added after a visit from King Henry III, king from 1216 to 1272). We visited there for the bluebells, with D's sister and her husband, in April 2019.

And I go back today in photos.
St. Nicholas Oddington is a short walk from the village; it's speculated that the neighbourhood which once would have encircled it was abandoned in time of plague. No hint of the terror of that time left behind. The yew-filled churchyard beckoned, its tipping stones lovely in the green.

But the family was keen to show us the wonders within. The church had been in ruins for years, restored in the 1900s. It's grand for its time, an abbey near what was once the residence of the 13th century Archbishop of York.

The brochure provided for the visitor (thank you Friends of St. Nicholas) shares much more history than a mere wander would glean. The church was built in Saxon (!) times, belonged to St. Peter's Abbey in Gloucester, but was ceded to the See of York in 1157. There was a lot going on in this bucolic bit of England, back in the day. The Archibishop of York was also the Lord of the Manor of Oddington, and Henry III often stayed at his place. This visit prompted the major expansion in the 1200s.

I have always loved yews, and continue to do so, even after learning that yews were planted in churchyards to grow through the eyes of the dead to hold them in place, thus becoming a symbol of death. (And it that doesn't  give you an insight into the mindset of the folks for whom the Doom painting was instructive...)

Don't believe me, check out these folks.
 St. Nicholas Oddington is famous for two monumental events - one religious, the other villainous.

Behind Trish is the Doom Painting, emerging from the preliterate days when clergy needed imagery to scare their flock into being good. The Doom painting (there are others throughout England) is one of the largest surviving. Imagery includes Jesus surrounded by saints, angels sounding a trumpet to raise the dead, who are rising from their graves to meet Judgement. Some are heading to heaven, others dragged to hell welcomed by Satan.
There are other paintings in the church, all of "exceptional national importance." Many of the Doom paintings were deliberately defaced during the Reformation, so these medieval paintings are a precious rarity. Oddington's is an especially fine one.

For more on the Doom paintings, click some of these links: Doom Painting, photos at this site, and even Trip Advisor has something to say.
 Now, I'd mentioned villainy. Modern-day villainy, not the Reformation kind. In 2016, thieves removed the copper roof over the main nave, and a rain-storm caused considerable damage to the irreplaceable Doom painting (weren't they at all worried about Judgement?)

A grant provided for a new steel roof, a roof alarm and the restoration of the painting. I wonder, Mark, would this happen in Canada? Volunteers now keep a close eye on the old church, opening most days for visitors to be awed. There's even more history to be had, but I'm exhausted (and you may be bored?)

"richly carved pulpit is Jacobean"

The church, which has no electricity or heat, was parky on the April day we visited, so the bluebell woods beckoned, in the pale English sun.

"chancel rails and altar table are Cromwellian"

Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (any argument?)

old St. Mary Magdalene, Picton (museum)

Now Canadian content rules are adamant on this point, so let me conclude with images of a few of my favourites among our Ancestral Roofs.

Hazzard's Corners Church (annual service)

St. George's Anglican, Trenton (active)
Old Hay Bay church (recently resided)

St. Alban the Martyr (deconsecrated and awaiting a future)

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Queenscliff is so Bracing

 This, for a lot of reasons.

Because I have kept company with la grippe for the holiday season, and have gone a bit barmy.

Because the Phillip Island International Challenge classic motorcycle races (with which himself is deeply embedded) are set to be run south of Melbourne in a bit over a month.

Because daily coverage of the terrible bush fires in Australia has my heart breaking, calling forth our short but intense visit in 2018, and the lifetime bonds it forged.

And because, in a monumental sort-out recently, I came upon the walking tour booklet Queenscliff, a Living History. And later, the website of Heritage Council Victoria. I have now left the building.
Queenscliff Inn 1905

Queenscliff was the first Australian town we visited after we left the PI track, a tiny ferry trip across Port Phillip Bay from Sorrento. And in the hot greyness, our first day together alone since the intensity of the races, we fell into Queenscliff and its history, in this 'Queen of Watering Places', elevated in the 1880s from its humble fishing village origins into a Victorian beachside resort. The general wealth-making and increasing mobility resulting from the discovery of gold in Victoria, spawned a place whose guesthouses, hotels and mansions remain, although its popularity had faded by the 1920s.

The first street we encountered, Hesse Street, was less than inspirational, although lunch at the 1905 Queenscliff Inn was refreshing and cool. A wander introduced us to the 1887 Post Office (looks more Edwardian Classical, but the guide confessed to many alterations) and the Vue Grande Hotel, which started out in 1881 as a grand Second Empire confection, rising from a 1927 fire as Spanish Mission.
Vue Grande Hotel  (1927 rebuild, Mission Style)
I'm enjoying Life in Victorian Britain by Michael Patterson. He blames Queen Victoria (and the railway) for the democratization of holidays at the seashore. Queen Victoria was a lover of the outdoors, and her seaside retreat at Osborne established a trend, among her subjects of all classes, for a seaside holiday.

Lodging in humble cottages, guest houses and hotels, Brits travelled the expanding railway system to Blackpool and Margate and dozens of other spots. Victorians on holiday - sensibly attired in corsets and big hats, white shirts and jackets. The only concession to holiday abandon might be a gentleman's straw boater. The bathers took to the water in bathing machines, a bizarre idea today. There's one below, restored at Osborne. Queen V's own.

It's fascinating but not surprising to see the trend playing out in Queenscliff, this very remote corner of 'the Empire.' I hope they dressed more sensibly. Queenscliff was in easy reach of Melbourne by rail by 1879, or by paddle-steamer.

I believe many of the cottages we admired were in fact permanent residences in their heyday, but give every indication of the holiday lifestyle now, with their lovely gardens and verandahs.

I found a statement of significance from the tactfully described "evolved... and not externally intact" Caribou Cottage, at 22 Gellibrand Street. It was built in the 1870s as a residence, but took a turn as commercial premises as well. Its rather over-sized classical fittings prompted this: "a highly decorated facade with a highly unusual composition, and somewhat awkward application of Classically-inspired detailing." How many cottages do you know with "vermiculated quoining", Classically inspired columns...and window architraves with keystone and projecting cornice?"

 The cottages along Gellibrand Street (the sea-view neighbourhood which includes a fort) have been modernized in some instances, their details removed. This craftsman style red brick/weatherboard appeals, with its brick-walled garden, as does the dainty metal roofed Victorian with treillage verandah and white picket fence nearby.

Some overgrown empty lots hint at demolitions, as do a few unimaginative new builds. The guide recalls that a row of nine cottages were built on the street in 1853/4 by George Admans for the Colonial Government, to house sea pilots, the health officer and his crew.

classic metal clad bullnose verandah roof

A street we did not venture onto, Stokes Street, is home to a gorgeous unspoiled 1890s streetscape of terraces and brick/weatherboard cottages - even a shop. Thanks for the return Queenscliffe visit Google cam!

Alas, there was not time to explore further; had an arrangement with our accommodations on the Great Ocean Road.

From sublime to ridiculous, and visits to three of the seaside hotels on Gellibrand Street, The Queenscliff Hotel, The Ozone Hotel (formerly Ballieu House) and Lathamstowe.
Queenscliff Hotel c1887
 Here's a tour of the area courtesy of Streetview.
 Imagine the street narrower, tree-shaded, strolling well-dressed pedestrians and the occasional carriage clip-clopping by and the sedate seaside holiday experience at one of these grand hotels.

The red brick Queenscliffe is "a very early and well-integrated Australian example of the English 'Queen Ann' architectural style." Cast iron balcony and verandahs, a polygonal tower with coned roof and bellcast shape, and most interestingly, the shaped Dutch gable reflecting, according to my heritage sources, northern European Renaissance style of France and the Netherlands.

The interior is said to be essentially intact. Didn't think to look.
Ozone Hotel (prev. Baillieu House) 1881-8

The former Ozone Hotel was built in 1881, a grand asymmetrical, two storey stucco-clad structure, with wings added in the 1880s. The so-Australian cast iron verandah and balcony, and four-storeyed tower with bellcast roof and iron cresting, announce its French Renaissance influence. A tony destination to be sure, but Queenscliff was fashionable with wealthy Victorian Victorians.

At the time of our visit in 2018, an 'executive apartment' was for sale, and today I found this advertisement for an STA. So, with the wealth floating around out there, might we be hopeful that this high-maintenance girl has a good future?

inviting entry

The prestigious Lathamstowe was built by a brewer, the philanthropic Edward Latham in 1882-3 as a seaside holiday home for Anglican clergy and their families. Heritage sources describe it as "a pair of Italianate residences in a duplex arrangement [identical facades on two separate streets] combined with a corner tower." There's a good photo from the corner, which I failed to get, here (a third of the way down the page.) Streetview also made the effort.

Another Italianate beauty in stucco covered brick. The form of the building, with two-storey semi-octagonal bays, arcaded loggias on two levels, the mansard topped tower with tripartite windows, bull's eye windows, slate roof and iron cresting, is matched by the detail. The fluted columns are of  cast iron,  topped with Corinthian columns.

Ontario  readers will enjoy this. I've just learned that the "Italian buckthorn" hedge surrounding the hotel is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, despite its classification as a noxious weed. (Wouldn't happen here.)

 The roof is flat, designed for promenading and enjoying the sea view (the verandahs weren't enough?) Astonishingly they were clad in sheet (20 tons of it.) Water was collected and stored in underground tanks - was that a good idea?

Lathamstowe and Ozone hotels from Queenscliffe Foreshore Reserve

Before we leave Queenscliff, here's a link to a good post about Queenscliff history, and some great photos. Scroll to the last one to see why the town got its name.

the Needles, Isle of Wight in the short distance

Incidentally, if you wondered at all about the title; there's a seaside holiday link I'm enjoying today, having just opened a calendar of vintage railway posters, purchased at the National Railway Museum in York, for such a day as today.

credit: Wikipedia

There is a treasure trove of wonderfully executed advertising posters commissioned by various British Rail lines in the 1920s and 30s, to encourage train travel to holiday destinations. Slogans like "It's Quicker by Rail" and "Skegness is so Bracing" are part of British life, and our home.

 Mind you, the iconic little Jolly Fisherman character skipping along the beach (by John Hassell, 1908) of the original GNR tourism posters (part of my man's Lincolnshire growing up days) looks dressed more suitably for our blustery April '19 family day on Mudeford beach, than for sunburn and donkey rides on the sand.