Magdalen Road at night

Magdalen Road at night
December 2010

Monday, 18 June 2018

Looking at the variety of stringcourses in the neighbourhood


The beautiful Georgian terraces in Southernhay are enhanced by the lines of plasterwork that run along their front walls, making lines indicating the levels of the floors behind.  They also provide a discreet way of advertising the businesses and offices which occupy buildings which were intended as residential property.  

But you don’t need to go into the city to enjoy a rich variety of stringcourses.  The word describes any kind of horizontal feature on the wall of a house or commercial building.  Stringcourses, sometimes written as two words, and referred to by various other names as well (including, for some reason, the name “Belly band”) have been a feature of architecture since at least Roman times.  They are often used, as in Southernhay, to mark where the building’s floors occur.  But architects are not content with a rule which limits their creativity.  Stringcourses can run between the lintels of windows, or mark a centre line running through window frames, or … you name it, there is a stringcourse there!  In some cases, the design of the stringcourse has a practical purpose, to direct some rain away from the wall, making a sort of drip strip.  

As for their construction, architectural imagination runs riot.  They can be made of brick, plaster or stone.  They can be plain or decorated.  Some of the most highly decorated examples are really a frieze on the exterior.  They can be discreet so that you would hardly be aware of them.  Otherwise, they can be really “in your face”.  

This month I am not going to tell you where to look for local designs and styles of stringcourse.  Instead, here’s a challenge; can you find these sixteen designs of stringcourse in St Leonard’s?

  • A stringcourse in the same colour as the rendering on the house.
  • A stringcourse in a different colour from the rendering on the house.
  • A brick stringcourse that is flush with the house wall.
  • A brick stringcourse that is proud of the house wall.
  • A brick stringcourse that uses a different colour brick from the house wall.
  • A brick stringcourse that uses a different brick bond from that on the house wall.
  • A moulded brick stringcourse.
  • A moulded stone stringcourse.
  • A stringcourse which marks the junction of brickwork and render.
  • A stringcourse which is not at the level of a floor.
  • A frieze.
  • A building with two or more stringcourses.
  • A building with a painted black stringcourse.
  • A building with a painted white stringcourse.
  • A stringcourse on terraced houses which is stepped following the slope of the road.
  • A stringcourse on a fa├žade, but not on the side of the building.

 Have fun! (Published in the May-June 2018 Neighbourhood News)

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