Re: Re: ‘Dutch Billys’

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I don’t know if those Waterford Billys were in any way related to the baroque stucco gabled tradition of central Europe, but this is an example of the type of thing from the market square in the town of Luckau in Brandenburg.

I made a great deal of the contrast between the emerging picture of ‘Billy’ streetscapes throughout the main Irish urban centres of the first half of the 18th century and the predominantly un-gabled streetscapes of their English counterparts, but naturally the more you probe a subject like this, the more complex becomes the picture.

We’ve mentioned before that the post-great-fire-of-London series of building regulations present a potentially distorting factor in the evolution of the English streetscape in precisely the decades that we were busily building ‘Billys’, but a further complication arises in trying to interpret just to what extent these specifically London regulations impacted on building practice, and architectural fashion, outside London.

I came across this very interesting terrace in York recently. Four early Georgian houses on High Petergate in the medieval core of the city close to York Minster.

Fairly standard English, early Georgian, stuff . . . from the front!

High Petergate looking east.

. . . but from the vantage point of the cathedral tower, an intact range of four curved gables can be seen crowning the rear elevation.

the High Petergate terrace from the tower of the Minster.

partial rear view.

It’s clear that the five bay house was double gabled (to the rear) and a similar, but different pair of gables (one out of view) crown the rear facade of the pair of houses to the east. I’d have a suspicion that this six bay front facade may in fact be an extension of another similar, originally five bay, facade and that it may also have originally been a single house.

Would these houses have been originally gabled to the front also? . . . . I think you’d have to say yes.

The profiles are not particularly ‘Dutch’, they are of a type usually refered to as ‘Holborne’ or ‘Flemish’ and gables of this type have a long ancestry in the English building tradition. The characteristic S-curve and proportionately small pediment occur frequently on both brick and stone buildings from the Jacobean period.

Having said that, these houses are clearly related to our ‘Dutch Billys’ and the similarities with say 10 Mill Street can’t be denied.

I’m guessing that these High Petergate houses date to about 1700, but If we could be absolutely sure of the date of construction, and knew also the approximate date of the change (if there was a change) to a lateral roof with dormers, over-hanging gutter and heavy cornice moulding to the front, we might be better placed to consider again the possibility that the gabled tradition may have been strong throughout Britain at the time that ‘Dutch Billys’ were emerging in Ireland, before being eradicated there even more thoroughly by the even stronger influence of London ‘Georgian’.

More work to do I think:)

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