Magdalen Road at night

Magdalen Road at night
December 2010

Friday, 23 November 2012

Have you looked at glass, and other things?

Three years ago, I started to write this column for Neighbourhood News.  I expected to write six articles, enough for one year.  Three years later, this (eighteenth) article is about a selection of little things that didn’t fit into an individual article.  In some cases, there are more questions than answers!

We’ll start with glass and windows.  Every house has windows.  Most businesses do, although some of the warehouses on our industrial estates lack natural light.  Around St Leonard’s there are windows of various shapes. Some are square and some rectangular, others are circular and there are other curved outlines.  Within those shapes, the panes vary as well.  Apart from picture windows with no panes, most windows have their panes divided into rectangles.  But the fancier shapes demand fancier patterns for the panes, and in several of our local streets, there are ornate fanlights, divided by ironwork.  So, look out for the variety of shapes that can be seen around us.

We have a few local buildings with coloured glass.  The companies who supply glazed doors these days offer a range of standard coloured glass panels.  In earlier generations there was more variety.  During the late 19th century and first half of the 20th century, many houses were built with coloured glass above or around the front door, and there are plenty of examples around the neighbourhood.  Houses of that era sometimes have a fixed window with tinted glass, often with a rough surface making it translucent. 

Businesses – and a few homes – have patterns etched on the glass to make a decorative feature.  Look at the windows next time you walk through the village to see the variety of decorations and labels there are.

Most of the stained glass in St Leonard’s church dates from the time of its construction in the 1870s. 

Earlier in the series, I wrote about chimneys in the neighbourhood.  There is an ornate chimney pot on Trews Wear Court which I hadn’t noticed when I wrote earlier.  There are fireplaces in two of the first floor reception rooms of County Hall, but I wonder whether they have ever been used.  Does anyone know?  On the other hand, as I noted earlier, Bellair does not have any chimneys, because they were in the wings of the house which have been demolished.  (Incidentally, I have met people who did not realise that the grounds of County Hall were open to the public – do use this pleasant open space on our doorstep!)  There are a few local houses where the brickwork of the top of the chimney is turned through 45 degrees relative to the house walls; does this have any significance other than an architect’s whimsy?

After I wrote about balconies someone asked me whether there was a male counterpart for a Juliet Balcony; perhaps Romeo has a patio?  Sadly, there is no such item, but there is a town of Romeo in the United States, and there are suppliers of builders’ material in the town.  So, if anyone is travelling in that area, perhaps they could buy a ladder from the store, to help Juliet on her balcony?

I grew up in a country village, and many of the older timber-framed cottages had tie bars across them with the characteristic iron plates showing on the wall.  They are somewhat scarcer in cities, but there are two tie bar plates to be found in Lansdowne Terrace.  Two houses at the east end of Magdalen Road also have tie bars; for one, the plates are painted to match the wall.  There are others in various places.  But for a really good selection of tie-bar plates, look at the house in Southernhay East, visible from the northern entrance to the offices with a dozen plates.

I have had five questions about stone.  (1) Does anyone know what kind of stone was used for the house at Mount Radford?  The pub sign shows a stone-faced building, but what stone was used, and where did it come from.  (2) And what happened to the stone when it was demolished?  (3) The front garden walls of the terrace in Barnfield Road appear to be made of a hard limestone; does anyone know where the stone came from?  (Is it Beer stone?  Or Bath stone?  Also the facades are stone; are these houses of stone construction?)  In Colleton Hill, the paving slabs are made of a stone which is definitely not granite.  (4) Does anyone know where the stone came from?  Finally, there are a few gardens whose front paths are lined with large flinty rocks.  I suspect that this has come from East Devon.  (5) Did someone bring a load of these rocks to Exeter to decorate gardens?

From the Neighbourhood News, Nov-Dec 2012