070226.Monkton Combe, St. Michael’s Pevsner Architectural Church Chat

February 26, 2007 at 12:25 AM | Posted in Architecture, Cathedrals and churches, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, Monkton Combe, Overcast, Pevsner, roofs, somerset, Towers, Trees | 6 Comments

070215.78.Somset.MonktonCombe.St Michaels
The church is a small structure, 50 feet in length and 16 feet in breadth, covered with tiles; at the west end in a little stone turret hangs two small bells. It is dedicated to St. Michael.” -John Collinson, History of Somerset, 1791.

The original structure in the 1924 area guide was considered to be an “ancient Norman” one, and the parish minutes of 1757 give a glimpse of the small church structure having a chancel with at least two pews in it. “About the beginning of the XIX century,, when this little old church, after long neglect, needed extensive repairs, the inhabitant instead of repairing it, pulled it down and out of its materials build a new church of about the same size, seating only 95 persons, but to their minds no doubt more comfortable. It was erected in 1814 and did not last long. The Rev. Francis Pocock, being appointed vicar of Monkton Combe in 1863, found this church in a dilapidated state, and…for the needs for the parish, and had the courage to undertake the entire rebuilding of the sacred edifice.”– D. Lee Pitcairn and Alfred Richardson, An Historical Guide to Monkton Combe, Combe Down and Claverton (Bath: F. Goodall Printer, 1924) 28-29.

It was first suggested that an aisle should be added to the edifice, but this, it was found, could not be done, and it was finally decided to raze the old structure and erect and entirely new building. Mr. C. E. Giles, of London, designer of St. John’s, Bathwick, was the architect, and the builder was Mr. S. G. Mitchell of this city [Bath]. The church was opened on Tuesday, July 4th…capable of seating 300 worshipers.” —Bath Chronicle, July 6, 1865.

St. Michael. 1865, by C. E. Giles, enlarged in 1886 (GR), rather terrible piece of architecture. Inside a Venetian later C16 painting attributed to Schiavone (on loan). –Plate. Chalice and Cover 1634; Spoon 1797.” – Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1958), 229.
070215.56.Somset.MonktonCombe.St Michaels.1865.d.CE Giles.rd1886
Typically unforunate with Victorian churches and other structures is its Welsh Slate roof. If I may add something to this list of quotes it is that I agree with Pevsner here. This is why the people of Monkton Combe can’t have nice things….

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070225.Claverton, Exit Ralph Allen, Pursued by Pyramidal Mausoleum

February 25, 2007 at 1:49 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Cathedrals and churches, cemeteries - churchyards - and tombstones, Chisel Marks, Claverton, Conservation, doorways, Overcast, Restoration, somerset, Tabernacles, Towers, Trees | 11 Comments

BDP to the moon!

Copy of 070205.36.Somset.Claverton.St Mary the Virgin Parish.Churchyard.RalphAllenMausoleum
I’m not sure who designed this mausoleum for Ralph Allen and various other family members but this is where he lies. He did not have children so his estate went to distant relatives, which is why his house ended up belonging to a rich Roman Catholic cardinal and then became a Catholic school. This is in the small parish churchyard of St. Mary the Virgin in Claverton, which is below Claverton Down. Again, I don’t know why he was buried here in this town versus Combe Down or Bath proper, but true to his life, he used his death to advertise his life in stone. As you can see, the pyramid has required many tie rods over the years, the repair supports almost become a structure in themselves. (The structure was recently restored in 1965.)
Copy of 070205.39.Somset.Claverton.St Mary the Virgin Parish.Churchyard.RalphAllenMausoleum
Copy of 070205.40.Somset.Claverton.St Mary the Virgin Parish.Churchyard.RalphAllenMausoleum
Copy of 070205.38.Somset.Claverton.St Mary the Virgin Parish.Churchyard.RalphAllenMausoleum070213.30.Somset.Bath.Bath Before Beau Nash.Ralph Allen

070224.Combe Down, Where the Other Half Lives

February 24, 2007 at 12:46 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Combe Down, Overcast, somerset | 3 Comments

070215.11.Somset.Bath.CombeDown.Village.JohnWoodtheElders.QuarrymenHouses
So yesterday we visited the boss-man’s second house…er, mansion. Today, we’ll see the utopian housing Ralph Allen built for his masons, which provided part of the incentive to work for him since he didn’t pay them as much as they would have been paid elsewhere.

These eleven terrace houses are part of the early “model” housing scheme of De Montalt Place, which almost sounds sinister. It’s dated 1729 and was designed by John Wood the Elder, one of his first commissions in this city after finishing his apprenticeship in London (he was a Yorkshireman by birth). Built by Richard Jones, Ralph Allen’s foreman and later clerk of works, his house (Dial House) lies in the centre surmounted by a pediment and the 1729 date but retains the same number of windows as each of the other houses (although it is clearly a bit wider, has a porch and a private chapel.) Jones would go on to complete (and claim to have designed / co-designed) Prior Park and the Sham Castle of previous posts.

Here’s another recap of Ralph Allen Week thus far:
070213.30.Somset.Bath.Bath Before Beau Nash.Ralph Allen

Born in Cornwall, Ralph Allen (1693 – June 29, 1764), transferred from a post office there at age 17 to one in Bath. Two years later in 1712, he became the Post Master of the city. He shortly reorganized the entire postal service and became very wealthy doing so. Surprisingly, however, he saved his money and refused to invest in the quarries that surrounded Bath (and that he would become famous from) until the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which allowed stone to be shipped to the Thames.

Shortly, He owned nearly all of Combe Down, creating a cart rail-track that took the stones down the hill from the quarries to the canal warf in Bath’s Dolmeads section where it would be shipped out. He was also able to keep costs down by paying his workers less. This was not necessarily cruel since he, unlike most other quarry employers, employed year-round, and had John Wood the Elder build model terrace housing for them in 1729.

In addition to these organized and economical applications to selling stone, he promoted the creamy-colored stone through his own constructions, such as this Sham Castle (1767), his Palladian Mansion of Prior Park (1742) with its Palladian Bridge, and in supplying it for free for prominent public buildings such as the General Hospital (1738-1742). To introduce stone to new markets, such as lucrative London, he sold it at a discount with guarantees that he would personally cover the cost of replacing the stone if it failed. Unfortunately, it often did and London’s smoggy environment frequently caused him to empty his pockets.

He died at age 71 and is buried in a mausoleum in Claverton (down the opposite slope from Bath of the Claverton Down hill). The old rail line that went from his quarries, past his mansion, and down to his warf is now Ralph Allen Drive, as well as one of the city’s secondary schools. A statue for the Lower Assembly Rooms was also carved in his honor (not sure where the statue is since the structure was demolished), paid for by the City of Bath Corporation.

070222.Combe Down, Steep Grassy Slope of Prior Park

February 23, 2007 at 1:38 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Chisel Marks, Combe Down, Gardens & Parks, Light and Shadow, Mansion, Pevsner, somerset | 6 Comments

061026.024.Somset.CombeDown.Prior Park
“Built as his villa in 1735-c.1750 for Ralph Allen. It is built of Bath stone and was meant to be Allen’s proof of the suitability of the product of his Combe Down quarry for work of the highest order. Prior Park certainly is a composition in the Grand Manner, the most ambitious and the most complete re-creation of Palladio’s villas on English soil. The architect was John Wood the Elder. But after a quarrel between him and Allen, the completion was entrusted to Allen’s clerk of works Richard Jones. The house was to consist of a corps de logis connected by galleries with two pairs of pavilions. It lies on the hillside, and its grounds extend down a green combe to the old village of Widcombe whose church is the final closing accent of the vista. Halfway down however the vista is crossed by the Palladian Bridge, a copy made in 1750 by Jones of Palladio’s famous bridge design in the Burlington-Devonshire Collection at the R.I.B.A. This was later published in Bertotti-Scamozzi’s Palladio edition. The drawing had been copied before (in 1736) at Wilton. The bridge is roofed and has two pedimented end pavilions with arched openings and an open colonnade of four Ionic columns between.” – Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol, (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1958), 114.

The house (not featured in this post) was based on Colen Campbell’s first design for Wanstead House in Essex (labeled Wanstead I) and was a giant showcase for Bath stone. Allen had made his money by reorganizing the postal system and then investing that capital in Combe Down, Bath quarries, where the soft cream colored stone was found. The material was not favored in fashionable circles, which is why he constructed his mansion to the popular design published by Campbell, insisting that John Wood the Elder design the column diameters to 1.5x those at the actual Wanstead.

After Catholic Emancipation in 1829, the structure was purchased by Bishop Baines, who used the mansion as his humble abode. When it burned in 1836, the bishop raised funds to restore his house by purchasing another mansion, Hunt Street House on the Mendips, which had been mothballed near its completion in 1770s after the owners ran went bankrupt. Had this mansion been completed, it would have been in the top three of Georgian mansions. The bishop stripped this newly purchased abandoned house and moved its grand staircase, plasterwork, and several other architectural features to his mansion, heavily subsidizing them. It has since become a Roman Catholic college.
Ison 075Ison 070
Untitled-1

First two plans are from Walter Ison’s Georgian Buildings of Bath (the second being one by John Wood the Elder on the relationship between the three buildings and the valley) and the final five plans of Wanstead-based mansions with Prior Park second from the bottom is from Summerson’s Architecture in Britain: 1530-1830.

070221.Dolmeads, Former Ralph Allen Wharf

February 21, 2007 at 1:55 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Bridges, Canals, Chisel Marks, Combe Down, Light and Shadow, river, River Avon, somerset, Waterfront, Widcombe | 5 Comments

Copy of 061216.066.Somset.Bath.WidcombeThis is the former wharf at the base of Combe Down hill between Widcombe and the Dolmeads where Ralph Allen sent his stone to. The locks connect the Kennet and Avon Canal with the River Avon. The river could transport his stone to Bristol and the canal could carry the stone via connections to the Thames. The site is now the Bath Hotel, I believe.
Copy of 061216.069.Somset.Bath.Widcombe
Copy of 061216.070.Somset.Bath.Widcombe
Copy of 061216.068.Somset.Bath.Widcombe

070220.Combe Down, The Blob — Quarry

February 20, 2007 at 12:03 AM | Posted in Bath, Chisel Marks, Combe Down, Overcast, roofs, somerset, University of Bath | 8 Comments

061022.009.Somset.Bath.Combe Down.Quarry Houses

Combe Down is littered with former quarry sites–mostly dating from Ralph Allen’s time. Everyone seems to have one in their backyard. Sometimes they appear overnight. “Mom, am I imagining things or did the hill face move closer to the house?” You get the picture.

Bath has several different types of oolitic limestone, each named for the hill it was quarried on but I’m not going to get into details now. Most of the quarries in Bath, however, are underground. In fact, Combe Down is mostly tunnels and the quarries were more or less labyrinth underground cities with the stone being carted out by horses (leading to the tunnels being filled with stone-carved water troughs.) Even part of the U of Bath campus on neighboring Claverton Down hill used to be a quarry.

Technically, if a quarry is underground then it becomes a mine (even though the tunnels aren’t for metal) but the Combe Down tunnels retained their “quarry” name to avoid mine legislation.Today, however, these quarry tunnels are legally mines and the larger concern facing the government is filling them in.

Sinkholes used to constantly appear and collapse roads and structures on this hill, so that now the government is spending millions of pounds to secure and fill the tunnels, so I hear. It’s an odd cycle.

Tune in tomorrow for more Ralph Allen Week on Bath DP.

060219.Bath, A Room with a View

February 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Posted in Architecture, Bath, Columns, Corinthian Order, Ladders, Mansion, Overcast, somerset | 7 Comments

Copy of 061004.2.Somset.Bath
Located southeast of the Abbey, the Ralph Allen Townhouse has an 18th Century façade built on land leased (probably for 99 years) in 1727. The pictured east-facing addition was quite elaborate and the architect can be assumed to have been John Wood the Elder who only wrote “the Designs, as well as a Model for this Addition, were made while I was in London.” The house was Allen’s primary residence until he moved to Prior Park Estate in 1745, at which point the house became his offices. To improve his view, Allen had constructed the Sham Castle from yesterday’s post.

The addition is now completely surrounded by other buildings and this small court is gated off. If you visit and want to see it, I believe you can borrow the gate key from the neighboring real estate office. (The elevation of the Town House was from Walter Ison’s Georgian Buildings of Bath.)
Ison 064070213.30.Somset.Bath.Bath Before Beau Nash.Ralph Allen

Born in Cornwall, Ralph Allen (1693 – June 29, 1764), transferred from a post office there at age 17 to one in Bath. Two years later in 1712, he became the Post Master of the city. He shortly reorganized the entire postal service and became very wealthy doing so. Surprisingly, however, he saved his money and refused to invest in the quarries that surrounded Bath (and that he would become famous from) until the completion of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which allowed stone to be shipped to the Thames.

Shortly, He owned nearly all of Combe Down, creating a cart rail-track that took the stones down the hill from the quarries to the canal warf in Bath’s Dolmeads section where it would be shipped out. He was also able to keep costs down by paying his workers less. This was not necessarily cruel since he, unlike most other quarry employers, employed year-round, and had John Wood the Elder build model terrace housing for them in 1729.

In addition to these organized and economical applications to selling stone, he promoted the creamy-colored stone through his own constructions, such as this Sham Castle (1767), his Palladian Mansion of Prior Park (1742) with its Palladian Bridge, and in supplying it for free for prominent public buildings such as the General Hospital (1738-1742). To introduce stone to new markets, such as lucrative London, he sold it at a discount with guarantees that he would personally cover the cost of replacing the stone if it failed. Unfortunately, it often did and London’s smoggy environment frequently caused him to empty his pockets.

He died at age 71 and is buried in a mausoleum in Claverton (down the opposite slope from Bath of the Claverton Down hill). The old rail line that went from his quarries, past his mansion, and down to his warf is now Ralph Allen Drive, as well as one of the city’s secondary schools. A statue for the Lower Assembly Rooms was also carved in his honor (not sure where the statue is since the structure was demolished), paid for by the City of Bath Corporation.

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