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Archery Square Deal + Walmer Kent

Dutch Courage

Holywood and Cultra, County Down. Brighton and Hove, East Sussex. Margate and Westgate, Kent. Deal and Walmer, Kent. Some coastal towns don’t need a committee to be twinned. Each resort itself is dual aspect with a centre and a front. “You can do things at the seaside that you can’t do in town,” went the old music hall saying. Architecture by the sea can also exhibit a frivolity not found so much inland. The 1927 terrace facing leafy Archery Square, a block back from Walmer seafront, is a case in point. These six two storey with attic houses overlook the rather smart Walmer Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. Their white painted brick walls and louvred window shutters appear suitably nautical but it is the roof that turns to pure whimsy. The dormer of each house and the side elevation of the terrace are framed by extravagant Dutch gables. Provençale style red pantiles add a splash of colour to the roof. The architects, Messrs Kieffer and Fleming, are relatively unknown. One other project they did work on is Barrington Hall in Cambridge. They remodelled that house which also has white painted brick walls and Georgian sash windows, but is American Colonial in essence with a columned verandah overlooking the lawn.

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St Eugene’s Church Glenock + Pubble Graveyard Newtownstewart Tyrone

Forever Building the House of the Lord

“Salve!” greets Father Roland Henry Colhoun. “You’re helping build the house of the Lord.” Following an enthusiastically driven campaign, the Priest is the well deserving recipient of grants from the Irish Georgian Society London and the National Churches Trust, London. Yet his Parish of Ardstraw East lies west of the Bann, County Tyrone, that landlocked rural county, next stop Donegal, a place often overlooked. But not so when you’re such a spirited soul as Father Colhoun.

Earlier that day there would be a visit to Pubble Graveyard. It’s a bluebell and buttercup filled haven 1.25 kilometres west of St Eugene’s Glenock, full of buzzing buzzards and racing hares and the bystanding curious. A stone walled enclosure once part of a Franciscan friary, one of its remaining crumbling gravestones reads: “Erected in memory of Margory of Lower Callon who parted this life 23 March 1873 aged 70 year.” Then there is John McLaughlin’s gravestone: he died aged 91 in 1888. Or Mary Morris who illegibly allegedly died goodness knows what age in 1885. All this history is secreted and nestled below the heavy brown heather of Mary Gray and Bessie Bell hills.

John Gebbie records in his 1968 Ardstraw (Newtownstewart): Historical Survey of a Parish, 1600 to 1900, “In this parish were three 15th century monasteries of the Third Order of Franciscans according to a 1603 Inquisition, ‘Corock, Puble [sic], and Garvagh Kerin. Each had three parts of a quarter of land (120 acres) attached of annual value 1/7 Irish money. But they had just recently been dispossessed and lay ruinous, as they do today.’” Father Colhoun explains, “Pubble is the English transliteration of the Irish word ‘pobal’ meaning ‘people, population, community or parish’. In Irish, one of the most common names for a church is ‘teach an phobail’ meaning the house of the community. The reason the townland of Pubble has its name is that the graveyard originally had a church.”

He confirms there were at least four Franciscan monasteries in west Tyrone: Pubble Graveyard, Newtownstewart; Corrick Graveyard, Plumbridge; Scarvagherin Graveyard, Castlederg; and Omagh Friary in Drumragh parish with lands at Shergrim. “I haven’t located the last one – not yet!” adding, “Pubble and the others in this location lasted around 150 years, from the mid 1400s until the early 1600s. As recently as yesterday, I heard of an archaeologist who says that an aerial drone photograph of an ancient graveyard, if taken during a very dry spell of weather, will reveal the outline of old monastic buildings because the foundations or stumps of walls are below the modern day level of the ground.”

“Our parish has one of the oldest post Reformation churches still in use for Catholic worship in Ireland,” continues this most erudite of priests. “There has been a Catholic church on this site at Glenock since 1785.” Typically for a Catholic church, St Eugene’s lies beyond the nearest town of Newtownstewart, on a country road opposite Holm Field. The Priest regularly takes fundraising historic tours of the area. “After the 1829 Catholic Emancipation the bells of St Eugene’s would be the first to ring in the Catholic diocese since penal times.” But is the current church fit for today’s purpose? “Absolutely,” he smiles, “and no matter where you sit, you can always see me!”

“Until the 1960s churches like St Eugene’s were built to face east. The Ascension of the risen Lord was in the east and He will come again from the east,” says Father Roland. “Around 550 AD, St Eugene established his religious foundation in Ardstraw, which is the origin of this parish. As monastic Abbot, Eugene became Bishop of Ardstraw! His name, which means ‘born under the sacred yew tree’, was added to the church at Glenock in the 19th century, many years after its inception. At present, our project of restoration is the renewal of the church windows. There were never stained glass windows in this building. The windows were replaced and repaired down the years, according to deterioration and need. In 1978 the four windows on the sanctuary wall were replaced. In summer 2021, experts spent two days excavating the boxing casing on every window and Queen’s University plans to carry out carbon testing on many of the wooden structures in the building.” Authentic restoration is paramount to Father Roland. “The octagonal baptismal font in front of the altar dates from as recently as 2016,” he explains. “It had been commissioned by my predecessor to replace the old font which disintegrated beyond repair some years before his tenure. Also in 2016, I designed the octagons and crosses in terrazzo flooring to provide an elegant surround to the font and funereal area. Accordingly, the font stands opposite the resting area for coffins. Alpha and omega: on both occasions you are carried into the church.”

At a glance, Dr Roderick O’Donnell, architectural historian, Pugin expert, Country Life contributor and a Vice President of the National Churches Trust, comments, “This St Eugene’s is a typical Roman Catholic development: an early rectangle which grows wings to become a T plan. The 1834 belfry was enhanced by a timber spirelet of 1904. Note the roundhead and Gothick windows of two storey in height. It’s galleried inside and is an important survival of such a church plan.” More in-depth investigation to come.

“Look at the quatrefoil and circular windows,” assesses Rory. “There was clearly a 19th century façade campaign, a highly conscious decision to Gothicise this vernacular building. The adoption of Gothic is making a statement about history, an historicist reference. This simple Irish and Scottish T plan is compatible with the reformed Catholic liturgy. St Eugene’s is an architectural conundrum: the stairs up from the porch suggest that is the earlier part of the building. The ambitious Georgian sashes are an important survival. Then there’s the slate roofed Victorian porch. It’s all charmingly vernacular. Inside, the original altar rails have been relocated to the upper balcony. I think the original towering timber reredos has been cut down. It was probably a majestic piece of interior architecture. But the current crucifix makes a striking statement. The marble and stone altar is much later 19th century.”

Dr O’Donnell summarises, “To find these elaborate galleries in a country situation is quite rare. They are good pre Victorian joinery, of much better quality than those found in churches in the west of Ireland. The fabric suggests the galleries are the oldest internal fittings in the church. Edward Toye added the spire and I believe he probably reroofed the church. Did he Gothickise some of the windows too?” That Catholic architect was improbably the protégé of Apprentice Boy John Guy Ferguson and together they were responsible for some of Derry City’s finest Victorian and Edwardian buildings.

Edward Toye designed the tower of St Eugene’s Catholic Cathedral Derry as well as what is now The Playhouse Theatre and the bank that would become Shipquay Hotel. The latter two are palazzos-on-Foyle, exhibiting eclecticism typical of that era. He also designed a plethora of local churches including St Patrick’s Church Gortin, just nine kilometres east of St Eugene’s Church. Like St Eugene’s, the Catholic church in Gortin is not in the village centre: it is surrounded by fields at the end of Chapel Lane 0.3 kilometres off Main Street. An external plaque confirms the age of St Patrick’s, “Foundation stone of this church was blessed by Most Reverend J K O’Doherty Lord Bishop of Derry on Sunday 9 October 1898.”

Later conversations will be had. “On Irish Georgian Society London Trustee Stuart Blakley’s question about the pattern of windows on the differing elevations,” Conservation Architect Peter Gallagher will respond, “The glazing bars within the replacement windows will follow the existing patterns, responding to the round headed masonry openings and the pointed arches respectively, repeating what Stuart refers to as the ‘fanlight’ umbrella shaped glazing bars in the first and, in the latter, the pointed Gothick shaped arch with Gothick style ‘trellis’ bars.” In the meantime, there will be an early Sunday morning dew soaked photoshoot from Holm Field. Despite its museum-like aura, resembling one of the buildings transported to the Ulster American Folk Park outside Omagh, St Eugene’s is very much a working church. As Father Roland Henry Colhoun might quote, “Omnibus bene tibi erit.”

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Windsor Castle + Sir Christopher Wren Hotel Windsor Berkshire

Wrenaissance

It’s a merry jumble of pre Georgian and Georgian and neo Georgian buildings spanning centuries of sash windowed elegance. At the core of Sir Christopher Wren Hotel in the Royal County Town is a red brick two storey eight bay house with a three bay pedimented breakfront containing a Tuscan porch facing onto Thames Street. A painted inscription claims the building dates from 1676 and was the home of the architect of St Paul’s Cathedral London. Its façade looks younger: stylistically early 18th century. Sir Christopher Wren also likely designed the Guildhall in Windsor.

The house became locally known as The Haunted House when it fell vacant in the early 20th century before it was bought by the Misses Outlaw in the 1920s. Clearly unperturbed by any ghostly rumblings, the two sisters ran turned it into the Riverholme Restaurant and Guesthouse. Changing hands over later decades, the hotel expanded to back onto the River Thames. Sarova Hotels purchased the hotel in 2011 and carefully restored it. The riverside brasserie in Sir Christopher Wren Hotel is the best place in Windsor for afternoon tea. Save, perhaps, for an invite from Her Majesty to sup at nearby Windsor Castle.

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Forage + Folk Omagh Tyrone

Going West

The higher the gradient the grander the building is the general rule on High Street Omagh. Top of the town are the asymmetric twin peaks of William Hague’s French gothic Sacred Heart Catholic Church and below this crowning glory, John Hargrave’s neoclassical courthouse with its Tuscan portico. Tyrone County Club is on the upper climb. Designed by Belfast architect Godfrey William Ferguson and built around 1900, it is a distinguished symmetric building with a sandstone ground floor, two brick upper floors and a dormered attic storey.

The ground floor central much glazed Palladian doorcase below a first floor canted oriel is a commercial unit which is now a chic deli and café. Owner Kate Golding-McKeogh, who also runs The Kitchen café in Omagh, has enhanced the original period interior, adding Shaker style display cabinets and rich floral wallpaper. “This Listed Building became available and we jumped at the chance to take over these gorgeous premises and just ran with it!” she relates.

“We bake all our own pastries and breads inhouse and everything is sourced from local producers,” Kate confirms. Her sister Donna also works in Forage and Folk. “We have plenty of healthy options like our vegan Wellington,” explains Donna. “Macaroons are one of our specialities.” A sweep of the shelves takes in the best of Irish suppliers: Abernethy butter; Attyflin Estate cider vinegar; Ballycross Apple Farm pink lemonade; Durrus Farmhouse cheese; Keogh’s crisps; and Tom + Ollie piri-piri stuffed olives. Kate concludes, “We wanted to look into new ways of branching out and to bring something unique to the town.”

Many of County Tyrone’s charms are well hidden. Who knew for example that the 18th American President’s ancestral homestead nestles in the rural countryside between Omagh and Dungannon? Republican Ulysses Simpson Grant, 1869 to 1877, worked to remove the vestiges of slavery. The President’s maternal grandparents’ 18th century two room cottage in Derganagh is perfectly restored and furnished, overlooking the family’s six fields: Burn Field, Dam Field, Glen Field, Near Meadow and Far Meadow.

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Zaha Hadid Architects + Modern Art Museum Shanghai

The World From An Aeroplane Known

The only club you’ll find these days on Upper Street is the sandwich variety but what Islington lacks in nightlife it more than makes up for with the daytime artisanal individuality that’s packed into Camden Passage. This pedestrianised paradise may be parallel with Upper Street but that’s where the connection ends: the only chain you’ll find on Camden Passage is a handmade piece of jewellery. The Segal family run restaurant Frederick’s has graced Camden Passage for more than half a century. Its spacious light filled contemporary interior, lending regularity of form to fitness of function, comes as a revelation after the decorative three bay Victorian street front.

We’re here for lunch and a launch in the private dining room which opens onto an anticipatory strip of lawn. “This is our first event out for a year!” welcomes Patrik Schumacher, Principal, Zaha Hadid Architects. “We’ve gathered some friends to celebrate with us the remote opening of ‘ZHA Close Up – Work and Research’, Zaha Hadid Architects’ first exhibition in mainland China. We got our first professional breaks in China – we’ve so many projects there now.” During a Le Chêne Marchand Sancerre reception we’re treated to a live screening of the sell out exhibition at the Modern Art Museum Shanghai.

“The Chinese are just loving Zaha Hadid Architects’ work,” promises Shai Baitel, Artistic Director, MAM Shanghai. “This exhibition shows how it is global and timeless. The work is never compromising, always creating a new language. Today’s dessert is inspired by Zaha Hadid: geometric shaped pastries brushed with a very bitter Iraqi oil!” He proclaims, “Multisensory is all good!” as we receive a spray of Zaha’s fragrance.

Zaha continually pushed forward; she was always evolving,” Shai summarises. “Geography versus movement translates into this scent. It contains Indian and Saudi oud; the mixologist is French; and it is made in Italy. Zaha was enigmatic: she was very feminine but never married. This fragrance is genderless.” And what fills the air is an abstract fifth dimension built upon organisation and articulation; organised articulation; articulated organisation.Órla Constant has flown in from Lady Kitty Spencer’s wedding to join our table. “Kitty wore three wedding dresses on the day: all Dolce + Gabbana. She was like a sublime Cinderella!” As for Zaha: “I was so privileged to have met her. She’s left such a legacy.” Órla is Relationship Director of Centrepoint. “Prince William chose us as his first charity. He’s very emphatically linked to us and the young people. He’s an amazing ambassador. We’re really out there as a charity!”

Zaha Hadid Architects Director Woody Yao also joins our table. He’s back from the 10th anniversary of the opening of Roca Showroom in Imperial Wharf which he designed with fellow Director Maha Kutay. That opening party seems like a hot minute ago. “I joined Zaha’s practice in 1994,” Woody relates. “She was one of the most genius architects of all time. The way we move around is all about Zaha genius. She stuck to her authentic voice. Zaha inspired generations of architects. She’s in our DNA! Technology changes; so does the way we do drawings but we carry that same spirit. We’re more like a movement than a style.”

“Architecture frames social interaction,” writes Patrik in his 2012 Volume II The Autopoiesis of Architecture. “The design environment matters: it frames all interactions. Only on the basis of the designed environment as complex systems of frames can society be reproduced on the level of complexity it has attained.” One chapter is titled “World Architecture within World Society”. Today is a global adventure: the world from a virtual aeroplane known.  Everywhere outside Frederick’s­­­, floodlights rake the sky.

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Ireland’s Blue Book + Bishop’s Gate Hotel Derry Londonderry

Merry Girls

“The sun always shines on the righteous!” claims hotelier Astrid Bray and sure enough the clouds fade to reveal an unblemished cobalt blue sky over the Capital City of Northwest Ulster. For once it’s not “foundering” as the locals would say. Depending on your persuasion, the name of this place is a four syllable binational portmanteau (Londonderry), a three syllable aristocratic surname (Londond’ry) or a rationalist nationalist two syllables (Derry). The city is one of two in Northern Ireland to share its name with its host county; Armagh does as well (Antrim doesn’t count as it is a mere town and county).

We’re here for Sunday morning sunny side up (eggs benedict with halloumi) breakfast at Bishop’s Gate Hotel next to one of the arched entrances to the Walled City. This much praised hotel is a member of Ireland’s Blue Book. We’re no strangers to the collection. Recent jaunts have included Belleek Castle, Ballina, County Mayo; Astrid’s favourite Bushmills Inn Hotel, County Antrim; Castle Grove, Ramelton, County Donegal; Coopershill House, Riverstown, County Sligo; Castle Leslie, Glaslough, County Monaghan; Dunbrody House, Arthurstown, County Wexford; The Merrion Hotel, Dublin; and the truly majestic Marlfield House, Gorey, County Wexford.

Sisters Margaret and Laura Bowe are joint châtelaines of Marlfield. Laura is Chairperson of Ireland’s Blue Book. “Now entering its 47th year,” she explains, “our collection of properties and restaurants continue to offer luxurious, memorable and unique experiences across the length and breadth of the island of Ireland… We are very proud of our chefs and patron chefs, with many of our restaurants boasting one and two Michelin stars.”

Guests at Bishop’s Gate Hotel are greeted by a framed picture of a quote by the sage Madame Lily Bollinger, clearly not the abstemious sort: “I drink when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I’m hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.” Equally educational are a series of framed architects’ drawings illustrating the genesis of the architecture of the hotel and other significant buildings in Derry.

Originally two townhouses dating from the 1800s, the site was purchased by the Northern Counties Club at the end of that century. International architect Alfred Forman transformed the private residences into the members’ club. The new owners have retained a clubby feel to the hotel with well stocked bookshelves displaying photos of Northern Counties Club visitors such as Winston Churchill, William Butler Yeats and Derek Hill. And they serve great grub.

Like all cultural tourists to the city, we ask our waitress for directions to the Derry Girls mural. “Not a bother!” she enthuses. “Just like a lollypop lady I’ll direct you!” Her shortcut is through the rear of the hotel. “This room used to be a garden and that’s a covered up well in the corner. The house where the hotel is now was used to hold prisoners during the Siege of Derry. They were able to travel underground from here to a well on Shipquay Street and from there across to boats on the River Foyle to escape.”

Before the very much larger than life mural, we’re off for alfresco mid morning coffee in the Hidden City Café. Outside seating is in the adjacent Garden of Reflection decorated with Tim Ward’s glass artwork. The west bank enclave surrounding Bishop’s Gate Hotel has a real Georgian Dublin meets bohemian Galway vibe. So much history. But the question on everyone’s lips is when is the third television series of Derry Girls coming?

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St Eugene’s Cathedral Derry Londonderry +

The Mother Church of Derry Diocese

It was as if the three greats of Irish ecclesiastical architecture were drawn over two centuries to this elevated site high above the River Foyle by some spiritual force. And one English great in the background. Building by James Joseph McCarthy. Spire by Edward Toye. Sanctuary by Liam McCormick. Inspiration by Augustus Welby Pugin. It’s a precipitous mountain of a church built in part of Newry granodiorite and Mourne granite.

A noticeboard outside the main entrance reads: “St Eugene’s Cathedral was solemnly opened on 4 May 1873. The cathedral cost a little over £40,000 to build, of which £4,000 was raised in America and the rest was donated by the people of Derry. William Roddy, Editor of the Derry Journal, said in 1899, “Do not let us forget that this is a cathedral built out of the pennies of the poor, the sixpences of those not quite so poor and the shillings of those we were better-to-do.”

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Jean-Georges + The Connaught Hotel Mayfair London

People in Glasshouses

A storm is forecast and The Dorchester roof terrace is closed so there is only one place to go for caviar lunch: The Connaught. What do Marlfield House County Wexford, George V Paris and The Connaught Mayfair London all have in common? A glorious conservatory. That liminal space between the great outdoors and the greater indoors. In The Connaught’s case, lit by interior architect John Heah’s new stained glass in the fanlights that matches the hue of the Negronis. There’s an abundance of stained glass too in designer Sir John Blundell Maple’s original Edwardian interior, even in the loos. New York based French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s eponymous restaurant is the perfect place to while away an afternoon. The only clouds of mist that erupt are from Japanese architect Tadao Ando’s water sculpture in front of the hotel entrance.

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Wilmont House + Sir Thomas + Lady Dixon Park Belfast

Magic Mushroom Off Season

Originally Belfast’s grandest pair of semi detached houses, built in the 1850s for banker James Thompson Bristow and his son, Wilmont House was combined into one house by the Dixon family in the 1920s. Its name comes from a previous house on the estate built by William Stewart circa 1740. Wilmont House is generally attributed to Thomas Jackson, a Waterford City born Belfast based architect. His prolific output was typically eclectic for its day ranging from the wedding cake gothic of St Malachy’s Church to the robustly rusticated Italianate Scottish Amicable Building. Wilmont House is much more reticent: balanced red brick elevations discreetly softened by sandstone dressings. If it falls under the Italianate genre, it only does so as a Belfast variant.

A high two storey main block, a low two storey ancillary block and a three storey campanile type tower all fit more or less into one rectangular footprint (except for south and east facing bow windows and north and south facing porches), neatly threading together the polite and service rooms of the house. Tall chimneystacks, some a storey in height, rising over slate hipped roofs, form a stimulating roofscape. Wilmont House is the centrepiece of a 54 hectare estate on the outskirts of Belfast.