Tuesday, 15 January 2008

The Langton Messiah


One of my favourite local buildings. This is Church Langton rectory in Leicestershire, sitting in front of you as you navigate the village (one of five Langtons) on the Market Harborough to Melton Mowbray road with a small green and signpost out at the front. I find something satisfyingly timeless about it, with sunlight on the Georgian orange brick, the feeling that perhaps the rector is within, preparing his sermon to be preached in the equally satisfying Perpendicular church at the back. Except he isn't anymore. The building, started in 1778 by one of the long line of Church Langton Hanburys, is flanked on either side by pedimented screens designed to make the building look more imposing. They are simply dummies, a nice Georgian trompe d'oeil touch. Where did all the money come from? Well, the father of the builder was the Rev. William Hanbury, a man of great means whose twin passions of music and arboriculture led to a two day fundraising festival here in 1759. Handel's Messiah was performed, a few months after the composer's death in April. The country lanes were jammed for miles with the carriages of the nobility, and once the hotels in Market Harborough were full, accommodation was offered in much humbler abodes. When the trumpets and kettle drums started up the common people became sore afraid, thinking it was the Day of Judgement.

7 comments:

Diplomat said...

Yes - marvelous, and a gripping tale to boot. Quite apart from the perfect proportions and detailing to the house, i have always had a strong appetite for self closing bi-swing gates. The idea of simply letting gravity do the job for you by dint of some basic geometry is what clever design is all about. The result is a pleasing functional labour saving device, requiring no maintenance except a well placed drop of oil or ox fat at Easter.

Diplomat said...

mmmmmmmm - fenestration again I'm afraid. Peter could you go and take a closer look for me, there is certainly evidence of some dodgy secondary glazing at the open window on the first floor and I'm rather disturbed by the sense of poor proportion in the panes - at a glance this seems to be triggered by an over-fat glazing bar. This worries me because, whilst I quite understand the need to replace windows from time to time, it looks suspiciously like something dodgy is going on here. For this mission, should you choose to accept it, I recommend you go at night, with grappling hook and wearing some crepe soled loafers (a la Bond). I suspect that if there has been any disregard of architectural integrity here it will have been by the same occupier who decided to render the gate impotent with a well placed 1/2 brick.

Diplomat said...

Oh - and whilst you're there, could you confirm the presence or otherwise of a 500 watt halogen security lamp, angled to light up the village, fixed above the front door in place of the elegant cantelevered lantern.

Justin Savage said...

I'm with Diplomat. Those top floor windows are late-addition double glazed units certainly; and the glazing bars are all too thick which suggests more ugly DGUs. Not sure about the security light 'though; can't see well enough on my sepia lap-top. Still and all, a lovely house.

A F-A said...

I do hope you won't mind me butting in here: I think the fenestration is of less importance than the existence of the Turdus Merula just visible under the fourth fence rail on the right. This can indicate the fatal presence of Lyme disease spyrochetes - although, to be fair, death from Pasteurella Multocida is more prevalent.

Also the front lawn looks mossy and needs scarifying.

Peter Ashley said...

Blimey. I used to think this was quite a nice house. Obviously I've now got to buy it and start all over again.

Diplomat said...

peter - it's a great house, it's just that we need to keep an eye on the vandals.