26 February 2021

Knox on Trollope on Butterfield

Mr Cheesemeadow the Architect paid his first visit to Barchester during the episcopate of Bishop Deadletter. The West front of the Cathedral had long been crumbling; and the chapter, instead of being content to reface it, had the whole front rebuilt by Mr Cheesemeadow, whose name then stood high in public estimation. As Mgr Knox goes on, "I am glad to say that Mr Cheesemeadow built in stone; but he chose for his purpose a dull, yellowish stone which took a great deal of polish when dressed, and the result was a a very shiny and monotonous surface. Nor have subsequent generations been able to discover the meaning or the usefulness of the two large peppercorns (as they are generally called) with which he decorated the corner towers. Meanwhile, he failed to discover the beginnings of that settlement in the foundations of the building, which called for such expensive underpinning when Dean Plumbline had to deal with it at the beginning of the [twentieth] century."

Cheesemeadow appears again in Knox's Barchester Pilgrimage as the architect of a house built for Ludovic Lufton at Lufton. The great architect built in the manner of the time; "that is to say, it was large, draughty, and uncomfortable within, and as ugly outside as red, blue, and yellow bricks could make it. A stranger, confronted for the first time with its appearance, is led to suppose that a Norman baron must have employed a fifteenth century Venetian architect to build it."

I fully understand the sentiment. How often, dear reader ... please Own Up ... as you have strolled, uxorious, across the Parks to fetch her tea for your wife during a break in the cricket, have you raised your eyes to Keble Chapel ... and then as hurriedly looked away again? Yes, you are aware that Butterfield himself described all that riotous polychromy as "gay", but you also recall that Sir John Summerson, no mean architectural critic, acidly remarked upon Butterfield's "sadistic hatred of beauty".

Since Butterfield did very little Country House work, I wonder where on earth Knox was able to experience the draughty discomfort to which he alludes with ... apparently ... such feeling.

Inigo Jones, incidentally, no fool, did not scruple to bung a deft and chaste Palladian West Front onto Gothic S Paul's in London. "Unity by Inclusion", as Sir Ninian Comper might have said. 

I think perhaps he did.


Sue Sims said...

Yes, but I like Fair Isle jumpers...

E sapelion said...

Butterfield, as far as I can see from Wikipedia, built only one country house. Fairly early in his career he built Milton Ernest Hall, for his brother in law. There are a few glimpses of it, unfortunately not including the front, at https://www.carehome.co.uk/carehome.cfm/searchazref/20001015MILA

Banshee said...

I like it! Very cheerful in the dark winter, I'm sure. Is it two colors of stone, or two colors of brick?

I suppose that it soon would have been dark and coal-soot dirty, back in Victorian times.

It reminds me a lot of the Smithsonian Institution's "castle."

PM said...

You will find here


the legend of a secret society at St John's with degrees of membership depending on which type of brick the member purloined from Keble, beginning with ordinary membership for a red brick and the highest degree for a blue brick (few in number and high off the ground). I cannot, of course, vouch for the veracity of this legend.