Last night was particularly cold in Ashley Towers. The giant cast iron radiators in the west wing need 'bleeding', which I think is the right term. Certainly it was the sort of word I used on finding them incapable of even warming-through the Unmitigated Winceyettes. So I dived under the covers with A Lust for Window Sills, a very jolly and enjoyable book about architecture by Harry Mount. In it he tells me that "Chimney pots first became popular under George III in the late eighteenth century. Not everyone liked them". Neither did Tennyson for some reason, but their ubiquity and popularity increased dramatically throughout the nineteenth century. I love 'em. Ranks of orange terracotta cylinders marking the skyline of a terraced street, tall cream clay pots contrasting with red brick on country houses, Mary Poppin's stepping stones. And it starting me thinking. The distinct lack of chimneys, and certainly their pots, is one of the many reasons why new housing estates look so dire. If they've got them at all they're just token squat stacks put there for the occasional token fire. Just a couple of feet more of masonry, and then a nice set of pots, and our skylines would be so much more interesting. And perhaps Dick Van Dyke would come back and dance on them in sooty silhouette. Perhaps not.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)