Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Going Potty

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.

12 comments:

Diplomat said...

How about - moulded fake brickwork/stonework chimney stacks in fibre-glass c/w pot, so light they can be planted onto a cheap truss roof without the need of a supporting chimney structure - don't laugh it's true!!!!!!!!!

Peter Ashley said...

Excellent concept Diplo. We obviously must talk, but we won't say anything about it to anybody just yet.

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

We've still got ours, despite a firebomb landing on our neighbour's roof during the Blitz. What I like about them is that they are covered in decorations that can't even be seen unless you're crawling about on the roof.

Peter Ashley said...

You're right. What I like about them is the fact that they're so small and in proportion as you look up at them, enormous terracotta giants when they're on the ground next to you.

Thud said...

Working on stone or brick stacks with their collections and accretions of pots in all their varieties is a joy...really!

Jon Dudley said...

Chimney pots! Dontcha just love 'em. As you say, frighteningly large on the ground, perfectly proportional on the rooftop. And all so different. The home of those two bizarre marionettes of childhood TV. Flobadob!

Vinogirl said...

Ha, Thud. I seem to remember 'Bob the Builder' helped on the top of your Victorian beauty.
I even like the pots as jardinieres
on the ground...very 70's I know!

Peter Ashley said...

Elsewhere on this blog I've talked about the inimitable illustrator Tony Meeuwissen, and he once did a Christmas stamp that was three terracotta chimney pots decorated as the Three Kings. With the pointy crowns that chimneys sometimes have. Brilliant.

Toby Savage said...

I watched, sipping hot tea, as our builder carefully removed one of our chimney pots 27 years ago as it was surplus to requirements. It is now overflowing with Snowdrops and I can see it from where I sit, huddled over the electric fire.

Peter Ashley said...

Oh Toby, what a lovely image. I shall go and huddle myself over a glowing brazier immediately and roast my chestnuts.

North Bucks Retronaut said...

Sadly,fibreglass fakery does not seem to be confined to chimney pots:I know of a substantial Hertfordshire country house ,presumably listed ,and now serving as a management college , where a spire, which I think used to surmount a clock tower was removed only to be replaced by such a replica,and what I suspect was the original was standing (and decaying )in a field alongside the road from Hemel Hempstead to Leighton Buzzard with a For Sale ticket on it 4 or so years ago. It may still be there.It would make one hell of a dovecote!
What price the preservation of historically important buildings and associated traditional crafts with which to maintain them,eh ?

North Bucks Retronaut said...
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