Category: Ed's Blog
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Now then, I realise I'm very fussy in my history taste and having grown up the son of a furniture restorer and both parents interested in antiques, the notion of a reproduction is a difficult one for me. I find myself snobbish about reproduced prints, preferring a small original painting to any large copy, believing that new furniture will devalue quickly and antique is invariable better. It makes some things quite difficult, but I have a very tolerant husband.

But given this, you can imagine my mild dilemma at the Black and White buildings of Chesterfield. Here you have a host of Tudor style black and white buildings constructed broadly in the period 1919-1938. But I think they are great, special and charming. Please allow me to self-justify my appreciation.

First is that now, in 2017, they are themselves becoming quite old and so have a charm of an ancient copy as opposed to a modern copy. Second is the quality of the work - it is exceptionally high standards of craftsmanship. Third is the variation - this is no copy cat formula - each building is different, each design unique, the direction, turn, cuts and carving individual. This adds to the sense of quality.

The other element I like is the fact that they hark back in a style and character to a time when such buildings were in fact quite ramshackle, but with a strength and confidence that is greater than the originals they celebrate. The use of brick, stone, clay and carving to support, structure and showcase them brings that bygone age to life.

So why and how? The Borough Council was pursuing expansion and improvement in 1913 and so sought parliamentary permission. The Arts and Crafts movement was strong and had significant advocates - amongst them Percy Houfton who was the architectural adviser to the Council. His drive combined with the support from other local architects such as Jackson & Fryer and Wilcockson & Cutts carried the programme forwards. The consequence today is that Chesterfield boasts a charm, distraction and quality that many others towns would really treasure and appreciate and which sets it apart from other similar towns. Further, in an age of technicolor in all that we do, this cool, traditional, calm black and white adds quality, simplicity and uniqueness that is frankly a stand-out quality.

So as you go about your business in town and see the Black and White Buildings rise up, loom over or shining forth, pause, look and enjoy them for they are unique and they are special. I heartily and warmly recommend them.