Tuesday, 26 May 2015


A fortnight ago I went to Oundle.  It's a particularly attractive small market town in Northamptonshire, about 10 miles or so west of Peterborough in the valley of the Nene.  What makes it attractive is the visual unity.  There isn't necessarily unity of style, but then nothing too extreme - all of the Victorian and after architecture is polite, and there is a unity of scale.  Lastly and most importantly there is unity of materials.  Everything, well almost everything, is built of stone.  Limestone.  Including the roofs, which are of Collyweston slates, a limestone that can be cleaved like slate. There are a few grand houses, but again like so many small places in England there is nothing really extraordinary about the architecture.  There is nothing as consistently 'architectural' about Oundle as there is about Stamford.  Judging by the architecture, I would guess that Oundle's heyday was probably in the 17th century.  The rather imposing Talbot Inn in New Street dates from 1626.
One of things, however, that does make Oundle unique is the presence of a large public school, and whereas at Oakham, Uppingham or Stamford the schools are quite nucleated, here in Oundle the school is more diffuse in the urban structure.  In certain parts of the town school buildings tend to predominate, but visually they are good neighbours being well mannered Gothic Revival.  The parish Church, St Peter, has a beautiful tower and spire - a very suave piece of Decorated Gothic.  The Roman Catholic church a the far end of West Street, which is by Arthur Blomfield, 1878-9, started off belonging to another denomination ('The Buildings of England' does mention which one), and like the school buildings is a well-mannered piece of Gothic Revival.  A satisfying design, in fact, from a less than front-rank Gothic designer.

The Talbot Inn, the elegant War Memorial to the left looks, to me, as though it's by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

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