Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Identifying Architecture in the Fylde and Wyre: Doorways and Doorsteps

When you’re archaeologing, uprooting rubble and masonry from some bovine-occupied meadow, it generally pays, from a dating perspective at least, to know something of past architectural styles. With this in mind we’re going to introduce our reader to a few examples of local design, kicking off with the drawing below showing the side door to the Bank of Scotland, London Street, Fleetwood:

Don’t let anybody tell you that Fleetwood’s architecture consists solely of Victorian vernacular fishermens' cottages. This monstrous tomb of a doorway (the perfect accompaniment to the over-the-top building surrounding it) is what’s known as baroque.
Baroque is similar in many respects to neo-classicism, all pillars and capitals and ancient Grecian and Roman forms and stuff, only with an excess of ornamentation that generates its own distinctive in-your-face style designed to add grandiosity to the already pompous – pretty much what you’d expect from a typical bank stamping its authoritarian presence on the humble fishermen of our little harbour town really.
Oddly enough there aren’t too many examples of Baroque in Britain. This ornate style of architecture was actually Europe’s response to the puritanical whitewashing of ornamentation during the Protestant reformation. The Jesuits on the continent in particular commissioned churches of an extravagantly flamboyant nature, whilst in Britain the protestant return to simpler, unadorned styles as advocated (whether you liked it or not) by Oliver Cromwell and others of his ilk, put the mockers on its introduction for a very long time.
The Baroque style was brought to Blighty by Thomas Archer, who travelled extensively around Europe in the 18th century picking up ideas and, basically, nicking them.
Now, a few moments ago we mentioned Neo-Classicism. What’s Neo-classicism, you ask? (Or perhaps you don’t.)
Fair enough, next illustration:

As you’ve probably gathered, that’s the front door to the Royal Oak Pub, Lord Street, Fleetwood. Note the faux columns on either side, the Neo-classical Georgian fanlight, the old fashioned quoins (they’re the big blocks at the edge of the walls), the ionic capitals and the triangular top to the doorway reminiscent of ancient Greek temples.
Neo classicism means simply New Classical, or to put it another way, a modern interpretation of ancient architecture. Inigo Jones (no relation to Indiana) in 1613 took one of the first of the now-famous ‘Grand Tour’s (you’ve seen enough programmes about that particular subject by now not for me to rehash it, I’m sure) and discovered four works entitled collectively ‘Quattro Libri Dell Architettura’ by Andrea Palladio. These volumes were a treatise on proportion in architecture based on the principals laid down by Vitruvius in the first century B.C. and became the basis for neo-classicism.
Did anybody understand that? Neither did I to be honest, and I wrote it. Let’s just say that it’s all based on ancient classical architecture (with a few nominal alterations to make it contemporary) and gave rise to Greek revival, Gothic revival and Romanticism, and leave it at that. (Although, the door to the Royal Oak is hardly a fine example of Neo-classicism so it was probably a bad idea to include it really, but I’d already drawn it up, so it’s going to stay for now.)
Let’s have one last door-related Fleetwood illustration for the time being then.
This is the doorstep to the jewellers on Lord Street:

As you can probably see, it’s a mosaic, stemming from the Arts and Crafts Movement…er…school. The Arts and Crafts movement was basically an attempt to return to a more natural human design, away from the industrialisation of the Victorian period. (Think hippies only with a bit more talent.) Ideally the work would be created entirely by human hands without the help or intervention of any mechanical aid etc.
It also tended to involve lots of swirly stems and leaves and stuff (although the leaf in the middle of our drawing was a genuine one that had blown off one of the trees on Lord Street and I couldn’t be bothered moving it out of the way.)
Enough. I can feel a headache coming on and it isn’t even mine.


Ann ODyne said...

oh just beautiful drawings!

I am surprised that the bank of Scotland would pay the extra for fiddly bits though. They must not have been Proddies.

There are plenty of those pretty tessellated tile doorsteps in Melbourne, suburbs, and regional Victorian cities, on homes and shops.
Interestingly, in recent/current times, the Romans still run the show - every tiler I have ever had was an Italian.

Jayne said...

Did the arts and crafts movement birth the Art Nouveau style or borrow from it, as such?
Next request - can you taste test any ales they have on tap in the Royal Oak, please and thank you :)

Brian Hughes said...


Oddly enough, all the tilers I've ever met appear to have been American, because they were all cowboys.


Arts & Crafts isn't/wasn't so much a style as an ideology, so some of the stuff it produced would have been contemporary with artistic memes, hence the allusions to Art Nouveau etc.

As for going into the Royal Oak, not a chance since the smoking ban. The place (like all other pubs) stinks of sweat and stale beer now.

John said...

Can I please say it? Huh?

Okay, here goes...

if it ain't Baroque, don't fix it!!



John said...

Kidding aside, thank you again for showing the layman just how muc hwork is involved in real archeology.

I raise my hat to you!

JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


I'm now trying desperately to think of a Baroque Obama joke, but it's too late at night so, fortunately perhaps, I can't.