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Killymoon Castle + Estate Cookstown Tyrone

The First of the Best Two Days

It was the poster boy of the 1970s, gracing the covers of various publications. Half a century later, a new generation of aesthetes is falling in love with the romantically named and romantically styled and romantically positioned Killymoon Castle. Richard Oram and Peter Rankin included a sketch of the south elevation on the cover of their Ulster Architectural Heritage Society Listings for Cookstown and Dungannon. “The Nash block is of ashlar, a strong roll moulding surrounding it at basement level. Behind, the earlier back-quarters are of rubble, castellated, buttresses added and certain windows enlarged by Nash, the roofs of graduated slates… Behind the house, a stable and farmyard, including a substantial two storey block with Gibbsian door surrounds.”

In another Ulster Architectural Heritage Society publication from last century, An Introduction to Ulster Architecture, Hugh Dixon, wrote, “Interest in the picturesque resulted in the Gothick castle style becoming a fashionable alternative to the neoclassical for country houses. Pioneered by Richard Payne Knight at Downton Castle, Herefordshire, the asymmetrical castle was made popular by the Prince Regent’s architect, John Nash, whose large practice extended to Ulster on several occasions. Killymoon Castle is clearly a sham unlike Gosford Castle (by Thomas Hopper, circa 1820) at Markethill, County Armagh, where really thick walls and correct medieval windows show a new more serious approach. Generally more popular in Ulster was the symmetrical castle, a type developed by Robert Adam in Scotland. Adam, indeed, remodelled Castle Upton in County Antrim (1788) in this style, although it has had later alterations. Among the best local designs are Necarne, Irvinestown, County Fermanagh (circa 1825) and the delightfully simple Dungiven Castle, County Derry (1839).”

Brian de Breffny included Killymoon in his Castles of Ireland and featured it on the dust jacket. “John Nash, the celebrated architect of Regency England, also designed a few buildings in Ireland, including some parish churches and four Gothick castles, two of which are Killymoon and Lough Cutra. Shanbally Castle, County Tipperary, which he built about 1812, was larger than either of these. The fourth castle, Kilwaughter, County Antrim, is a not very successful adaptation of an earlier house, and is now in a state of disrepair… Before he was engaged in radically transforming parts of London by such creations as Regent’s Park, Regent’s Street, Trafalgar Square and Carlton House Terrace, and before his work on Brighton Pavilion. It brought him other Irish commissions through the family connections of James Stewart, Member of Parliament for County Tyrone, the satisfied client… The house at Killymoon built by James Stewart’s father, William Stewart, who also built the nearby town of Cookstown about 1750, was largely destroyed by fire about 1800.”

Each publication has a different take on its castellation: the dressing of the original castle to complement the new building; the light hearted asymmetry; and the heralding of the architect’s popularity for designing castles in Ireland. Killymoon Castle was John Nash’s first – and finest – castle in Ireland. Dorothy Coulter, who lives in the castle with her husband Godfrey, knows its history well. “Killymoon Castle was built in 1671 by James Stewart who had bought the lease five years earlier from Alan Cooke, the founder of Cookstown. The Stewarts had come over from Scotland during the Plantation of Ulster. They set up two castles at that time: Killymoon and Ballymena Castle. Six generations later, the Stewarts left Killymoon in 1852. There are six houses built by the Stewarts still in Cookstown Old Town.”

The original building was mostly destroyed by fire in 1802. Dorothy reckons, “Colonel James Stewart built this castle a year later and it must have been a truly wonderful fairy tale to bring his beautiful wife Lady Molesworth to this romantic spot!” She points to his portrait in the central hall. “He met John Nash on his Grand Tour. James frequently visited London to gamble with the Prince Regent at Carlton House. Apparently he gambled Killymoon Castle one night with Prince Regent and lost it on the turn of the cards. I don’t envy him coming back to his wife after that! Fortunately the Prince Regent told him he could keep his ‘Irish cabin’. The other portrait is of his father William Stewart. He brought James back from the Grand Tour as he wanted him to stand for MP for Tyrone and he stood and he had the seat for 44 years. He was well liked. The estate changed hands several times after the Stewarts until timber merchant Gerald Macura bought it in 1916. He wanted to make railway sleepers from felling the trees.”

The Public Records Office Northern Ireland’s Introduction to Stewart of Killymoon Papers, 2007, sheds some light on Lady Molesworth, “In 1772 Stewart married Elizabeth Molesworth, daughter of the 3rd Viscount Molesworth. She was one of the survivors of a tragic fire in London in 1763, where she was living with her widowed mother. Lady Molesworth senior, two of her daughters and six of the servants were killed. Two other daughters were badly injured when they jumped from upper windows – one had to have her leg cut off after landing on the railings below – and a third was badly burned. Elizabeth Stewart became in 1794 a co-heiress of her late brother, the 4th Viscount Molesworth, and inherited a share of the Molesworth estates in Dublin City, near Swords, County Dublin, and in and around Philipstown, King’s County.”

A castle is not a castle without a ghost. Dorothy relates, “Gerald Macura’s 97 year old daughter came to visit us a couple of years ago. She’d such fond memories of the castle and told me how as a six year old child she used to hear ghostly footsteps going up and down the secondary staircase. She had that story built up in her head all those years. I said to her, ‘But there only is one staircase!’ We went on a tour of the house and upstairs she showed me something. There were so many different layers of paint over the door you could only see the shape of the frame so when we looked into that cupboard there was this other door that opened into a set of stairs that went up to James’s room in the top of the circular tower! He had a whole big bedroom suite that went out onto the balcony. She said it was really just the joy of her life getting back to Killymoon; she died not long afterward.”

Dorothy reveals, “My husband’s great grandparents lived over the bridge past those trees and these grounds came up for sale. His great grandfather John Coulter bid £2,000 on the grounds but all the bids were rejected. So six months later the Bank of Ireland put it up for sale again and he increased his bid by an extra £100 and this time it was to include the castle. He was successful so everyone thinks it was a great deal as he got the castle for £100! They moved in with their two sons Tommy and Jacky at the end of 1921.”

A suitably long drive winds through parkland and farmland, past the château-like 18th century stable block to one side, until the porte cochère of the castle finally appears. And there it is, the castle in all its glory, one of the great architectural moments of early 19th century Ireland – still unrivalled in early 21st century Ireland. The genius at work: rectangular, elliptical and polygonal components of varying heights fitting together like the pieces of an intricate three-dimensional puzzle, unified by Gothick windows, Romanesque detailing and a castellated roofline. John Nash added buttresses to the adjoining remaining portion of the old rubble stone castle and remodelled some of its windows to be more in keeping with his cut stone architectural masterpiece.

The interior is equally ingenious. A slender row of stairs connects the porte cochère to the tall spacious central hall. The piano nobile is elevated by a raised basement. “That’s the Stewart and Molesworth coats of arms in the stained glass over the front door,” highlights Dorothy. The central hall is linked by a Gothick arch to the staircase hall with its cantilevered stone stairs flying off in opposite directions like the wings of a dinosaur. John Nash knew how to deliver drama! Another great spatial flow running parallel with the inner halls is formed by an enfilade of four adjoining reception rooms overlooking the sloping lawn and field down to Ballinderry River. The variety of room shapes seems endless. Apses and niches and balconies and vestibules show such a grasp of spatial acuity. Oak detailing and ornate plasterwork define and refine the interior throughout. Window shutters concertina out from hidden cavities in the external walls. One of the reception rooms has 1800s wallpaper which survived a major flood.

Dorothy continues, “American soldiers occupied the estate from December 1943 to February 1944. Officers stayed in the castle while paratroopers were housed in Quonset huts. It was the 82nd Airbourne Division that was stationed here. We have retained one of the brick huts built near the river as a cottage for holidaymakers. One of the castle bedrooms has been restored as an officer’s room with militaria and uniformed mannequins. The cellars are now a military museum with a permanent signal post, muster station and officers’ mess. There was a German prison of war camp at the top end of the town. We’ve a lot of letters from the American and German soldiers – they’re all down in the cellars. Killymoon is part of the heritage of Cookstown. It needs people in it to keep it alive.”

“We decided whenever we got married to restore the long end of the castle in the 1970s. Tommy lived down in the back end of the castle.” She continues the tour, “In 2000 we restored the big upstairs library. This room was in ruins – the ceiling was completely down, there were trees growing in it. I said to the builders there’s a ceiling like Nash’s original one here in Kildress Parish Church. They were able to copy the church’s ribbed plasterwork ceiling. The timber floor is new too. The only original features to survive are the windows which date back to the 1600s. One of the bedrooms had no ceiling as well. It was like the planetarium where you could look right up to the sky!”

“We started to restore the roof lantern over the staircase in 2014,” Dorothy recalls. “It had been badly damaged when the Golf Clubhouse was bombed in about 1989.” Since 1889, part of the estate has been Killymoon Golf Club. “Eventually we did get help with the restoration of the roof lantern: the Northern Ireland Environment Agency were very good and we’ve worked with Cookstown Council. Our architects, builders and craftsmen have all been local – real godsends. We’ve been very blessed and are very thankful. Recently, we’ve been working with the Tourist Board promotion ‘Embrace a Giant Spirit’. We won ‘Best Maintenance of a Historic Building or Place at the 2021 Heritage Angel Awards Northern Ireland.”

She adds, “In 2016 we opened the tearoom. On our first day the queue of people stretched down the drive! Our candlelit Christmas dinners have proved a real success. We’re sold out already. It’s a family affair – the grandchildren get their dusters out and we light all the fires. When you see the castle being used for different functions, it brings it to life. We’ve had people visit here from all over the world. We are very busy with group tours too.” Today, afternoon tea is served in the east and south facing Lady Molesworth’s morning room with views (once admired by Queen Mary, wife of King George V) across the 122 hectare estate. Under the shallow dome laced by a patera frieze, potato and leek soup is served in china cups on saucers. Grandfather clocks tick and chime to the passing of time.

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Architecture Country Houses Design Developers Luxury Town Houses

St Elphin’s House + Park Matlock Derbyshire

Age Quod Agis

Margaret Flood, Headmistress of St Elphin’s School 1910 to 1933, wrote a history of the first official century of the school. She opens with, “Although St Elphin’s School was actually founded in the year 1844, its roots go back to a much earlier date. It can, in fact, trace its origin to the year 1697… I myself well remember these great anniversary occasions in the years between 1896 and 1900, the service in the parish church, the dinner on not too mean a scale, with the moderate provision of wine for the guests, and a small barrel of beer set up for the servitors of the repast in the Staff Common Room!” She adds, “In 1904 it was decided to choose the Darley Dale Hydro as the future home of the school.”

Harrogate based architects SDA Jackson Calvert compiled an architectural statement to accompany the 2006 planning application by Audley Villages to Derbyshire Dales District Council for converting St Elphin’s School to senior living accommodation: “A classical villa was built on the site around 1820. In 1884 a new owner demolished the villa and replaced it with a large Victorian house known as The Grove. In 1889 the estate was sold again. The new owner converted the main house and opened it as the Darley Dale Hydropathic Institute and Hotel. After the turn of the 20th century the Hydro Hotel was failing financially and the estate was taken over in 1904 by St Elphin’s School. The site was occupied by St Elphin’s School until March 2005.”

A retirement village of 127 properties has been built around St Elphin’s House in the 5.6 hectare grounds. SDA Jackson Calvert explain, “Apartment buildings D and E are arranged as a continuation of the line of the main house façade fronting onto Dale Road South. Apartment buildings A and B are located on 2 separate terraces parallel to buildings D and E, each stepping up the hill with courtyards between. The proposed number of storeys in each apartment building reflects its location on the site and proximity to the existing main house. A study was also carried out of local vernacular architecture. Riber Village has been a source of reference as have the main house and chapel building on site. Traditional masonry detailing is adopted on all new buildings.”

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Dariana Café + Lounge Bar Dandi Wembley London

Reaching New Heights

Dandi Wembley is like a hotel with all its facilities, only residents stay for at least six months,” explains Lifestyle Director Samir Kerchiched. We’re chatting over Champagne in the Dariana Café on the 16th floor of this exclusive residential scheme. Sunset is streaming in through arched windows, silhouetting the carved chaise longues and evergreen mature trees and splashing fountain. A glazed openable roof intensifies the flood of natural light further. “This restaurant is Persian style serving Middle East influenced food. It offers all day dining, opening at 7am. Breakfast dishes are British classics.” And, as it turns out, it also serves the best launch canapés for the selected chauffeured few.

Momo, sketch Mayfair and W Hotel have all been sprinkled with Samir’s stardust. “Dandi has its own factory and all the joinery was made there. Everything you see was made in the London Borough of Brent. That’s good for carbon footprint, quality control and efficiency.” Everything breathes luxury and romance from the gold plated fire extinguishers and Parisian style panelling to the views over the roof of London Designer Outlet towards Wembley Football Stadium.

“We have created a theatre of light!” exclaims Ali Reza Ravanshad, Founder of Dandi, with some understatement. “Dandi Wembley has been a labour of love starting with the Persian mosaic lining the entrance lobby. That floor is made up of 1,000s and 1,000s of tiles! We try to do beautiful things that will be here in 10, 30, 50 years from now. We are very proud of everything being made locally. There are not very many qualified joiners in London so we set up a programme in London to train them. This is a collective work: everyone has got a part to play.”

We head off on a tour of the communal areas for residents and guests which stretch over the top two floors. Dariana Lounge Bar on the opposite side of the lobby from the Café is equally glamorous – and sunlit. There’s the Garden Terrace with a barbeque on the 15th floor, as well as the Micro Theatre, Artist Residence Room and Wellness Studio. It’s not just all fun and games: there are also meticulously fitted out workspaces (Dandi Works) and meeting rooms (Dandi Meets). Heaven is in the height and the detail: the lifts are lined with horticultural framed prints that make you wish you weren’t ascending so speedily.

Ali Reza adds, “We are very proud of the team behind this project and the community that has been created here. Our tenants are so engaged – some of them are employed now in the building. They are the wider part of the Dandi family! It took just 91 days to fully let all 355 studio and one bedroom apartments.” We’re off to see one of the studio apartments, all 25 square metres of it. The studio is slickly fitted out: marble kitchenette; sliding breakfast bar, rainfall shower; seamless panelled storage; and bespoke furniture. But where’s the bed? Overhead! The floating bed descends from on high, balanced by invisible pulleys behind the wall. Metal framed windows are a reminder of the building’s previous life as offices.

“Ultimately we want to reimagine city living,” Ali Reza comments. Dandi partnered with Dukelease Properties to deliver this scheme. “Together with Dandi,” says Richard Leslie, Chief Executive Officer of Dukelease Properties, “we have placed huge importance on the quality of the finishes and functionality of the design. This provides an enhanced way of living that is aspirational for our residents.”

“The show will go on! See you at our next project,” ends Ali Reza. We’re on standby for Dandi Battersea launch.

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Architects Architecture Design Developers People Restaurants Town Houses

Amon Henry Wilds + Park Crescent Worthing West Sussex

Rewilding

It’s an anonymous sounding name for such an appealing enclave. The exposed stucco of the triumphal arch entrance and a few of the houses are especially aesthetically pleasing. As the sun sets, the woodland of Amelia Park in front of Park Crescent casts sharp shadows across the Regency style architecture. This Grade II* Listed terrace is as interesting for its intact details – garlanded friezes and Corinthian capitals with honeysuckle leaves – as its adjustments like the filigreed cast iron balconies and a first floor stained glass conservatory.

The façade is forcefully modulated by a robust pattern of setbacks and projections topped by a varying roofline. Pediments rise between stretches of parapet broken by window gaps. Park Crescent was designed by architect-builder Amon Henry Wilds (1784 to 1857). He and his father Amon Wilds teamed up for a few years to form a sort of early Taylor Wimpey. Together they were responsible for almost 4,000 houses as well as public buildings mostly in Brighton. That explains why the 1830 Park Crescent looks like it has been dropped from inner city Brighton into suburban Worthing.

James Henry and Colin Walton write in Secret Worthing (2016): “Park Crescent, at the junction of Richmond Road and Clifton Road, is blessed with a triumphal arch, a splendid monumental entranceway to the crescent itself. The main central arch is designed for horse drawn carriages and the smaller ones flanking for pedestrians. Each arch has four heads, making 16 in total. Notably, those at the main arch are all larger bearded males while the others are smaller and female.”

A successful entrepreneur, Wilds Junior didn’t have an entirely unblemished record. His St Mary the Virgin Church in Brighton, despite coming in well over budget, was so badly constructed it eventually became structurally unsafe and had to be rebuilt. This design was based on the ominously sounding Temple of Nemesis. Park Crescent has fared rather better. The townhouses – especially the full six bedroom six level properties – are much sought after.

Closer to the coast than Park Crescent is Worthing’s funkiest street, Rowlands Road. There’s Baked Worthing with its window sign: “Tuesday’s Flavours: Brownies, Brookies, Blondies and Vegan Brownies”. And Pizzaface, perfect for a kerbside Silly Moo Craft Cider and Funghi Pizza with shiitake, oyster mushrooms and truffle. Not forgetting Reginald Ballum, an antiques store stacked high with metal baths.

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Architecture Developers Hotels Luxury People Restaurants Town Houses

James Street Restaurant + Brick Belfast

Magic Not Realism

Francis Scott Fitzgerald knew you can’t repeat the past but it’s nice to reminisce. Belfast has a long restaurant tradition. Here are a few that have disappeared… Christies (now occupied by Coco brasserie). The Garden Restaurant (Eighties bling). Larry’s Piano Bar (obligatory table top dancing). Mint (getting haute). Nick’s Warehouse (served the famous Nineties £10 express business lunch). Planks (very wooden interior). Roscoff (Northern Ireland’s first Michelin star restaurant). Saints and Scholars (two storeys near Queen’s University). Speranza (the first Italian in the Province). Truffles (upstairs elegance opposite the City Hall). Happily, there’s been a continuing upward trajectory ever since.

Brick is what Belfast does best when it comes to architecture. And terracotta detailing. And a bit of stone. One of the best brick buildings is St Malachy’s Catholic Church on Alfred Street. Designed in 1841 by master of the eclectic Thomas Jackson, this Tudor Revival work underwent a £3.5 million restoration in 2008. It boasts the ultimate wedding cake plasterwork ceiling. You half expect a gargantuan lump of icing to drop on you mid mass. “Oh holy servant of God, you chose to live life as a poor man to show God’s love shining through the poor. You gave away everything to gain the treasure that only comes from God.” That’s the dedication to St Benedict Joseph Labre in the hallway of St Malachy’s.

A few blocks away, occupying the ground floor of a red brick four storey gabled Victorian corner building which couldn’t be more Belfast if it tried is the restaurant James Street. There’s no need to go à la carte when the concise set lunch menu has such riches. A starter of crispy squid and jalapeno mayo artily sits on a bed of squid ink. Roast parmesan gnocchi main is jazzed up with crisp globe artichoke, butternut squash and date. Toffee tart takes the rough with the smooth: granola and barley ice cream. There’s only one place in BT2 to sip cocktails though and that’s in the nearby Observatory on the 22nd floor of Grand Central Hotel, owned by second generation hoteliers the Hastings family. Linenopolis cocktail, named after one of the city’s historic industries, is a dizzying concoction of mango vodka, apricot brandy, prosecco, passionfruit, lemon, cream, whites and Seltzer.

James Street’s General Manager Paul Vaughan says, “Northern Irish hospitality is unique. It has such diversity. Belfast has three Michelin starred restaurants. The food offering is very diverse for such a small city. Here at James Street we pride ourselves on sourcing the best quality local produce.” He’s originally from Downings in County Donegal. “The Olde Glen Bar just outside the town is the best place to eat in Downings.”

Owners Niall and Joanne McKenna have tempted Ryan Stringer, the Executive Chef of Ely Wine Bars in Dublin, back to Belfast to take over the James Street kitchen. Dublin’s loss; Belfast’s gain. “I’m absolutely delighted to be back in Belfast to take on this new role at such an iconic restaurant,” comments the Dungannon born culinary star. “I’ve personally admired James Street for nearly two decades now. It has an outstanding reputation for incredible food… I’m keen to keep doing what James Street does well while introducing some of my own style and experience.” That experience includes stints at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Kristian Baumann’s 108 Restaurant. Oxford and Copenhagen’s losses; again Belfast’s gain. A Street named desire. Sometimes, you can repeat the past.

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Hidden City Café + London Street Derry

Urban Legend

High above the River Foyle, London Street stretches from Bishop’s Gate Hotel to the 17th century St Columb’s Cathedral, the oldest building within Derry’s city walls. It’s an intimate historic enclave close to those famous city walls. “The walls are still there, wide enough to drive a car along,” Ian Nairn observed in Nairn’s Towns, 1967. London Street is a little bit Galway, a little bit Dublin, and a lot Derry. Hidden City Café is another of its delights. At the corner of Bishop Street Within and London Street, a Roy Lichtenstein cartoon style poster on the street corner entices passers-by, “Maybe it’s the food! Maybe it’s the conversation! Maybe it’s the coffee! Maybe it’s the experience! Maybe it’s the music! Maybe it’s the… Shhhhhh! It’s a secret! Don’t tell anyone!” Or maybe it’s the Magic Mushrooms: toasted sourdough, seasonal mushrooms caramelised in balsamic, thyme, black truffle and truffle infused porcini oil. A gourmet high.

On the fuchsia pink dragon wallpaper in the bathroom hangs a framed 1692 prayer found in Old St Paul’s Church, Baltimore. Centuries later, it still resonates. Here are the highlights: “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember, what peace there may be in silence… Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans… Be yourself… Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself… You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.”

Café owners Justyn and Bronagh McNicholl confirm, “We’re following our passion in creating an ethical environment, dishing up delicious flavoursome food, drinks and welcomes, all to the soundtrack of some stonking good music.” There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options on the wide ranging menu. The McNicholls support local producers like Ann Marie’s Vegan Cakery, Broighter Gold Rapeseed Oil, Donegal Prime Fish and Rough Brothers Beer. Live music and drag acts on Friday and Saturday evenings bolster the bohemian vibe of Hidden City Café.

A sign outside the cathedral explains, “This street was first recorded as London Street in 1811, most likely celebrating the role of the London Companies in building the Plantation City. The red brick building to the left of the cathedral gates is the former Cathedral Primary School of 1893 which was designed by John Guy Ferguson in a Flemish Gothic style with a corner circular stair tower. Opposite it on London Street is the Church of Ireland Diocese Office, built in 1838 as a Presbyterian Meeting House. The terrace of 19th century houses behind you is also notable.” Bishop Street Within leads down the hill to The Diamond, continuing as Shipquay Street which terminates at the Foyle Embankment. Halfway down Shipquay Street is the Craft Village, a cute 1990s insert development of neo Georgian shops and cafés below townhouses in the air. Like all Irish villages, it has at least one thatched cottage; this one contains a coffee shop and art gallery. London Street and its environs live up to the catchphrase ‘LegenDerry’.

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James Taylor + Georgian Islington + Greenwich London

Tailored towards Perfection

A couple of Lavender’s Blue readers who live in one of the houses in this article have undertaken thorough and academic research into the architect under examination and, wishing to remain anonymous, have agreed to share extracts of the detailed outcome of their work. This article concentrates on the architect’s residential development oeuvre in London.

Firstly, some biographical and career development detail from our worthy contributors: “To expand the sparse information available about James Taylor the architect (circa 1765 to 1846) we need to look farther into his background. According to The Taylors of Weybridge by Katie Hotine (1985) his father, also called James (1747 to 1797), was native of Little Crosby in Leicestershire, a tenant on the ancient, vast estates of Sir William Molyneux, the Catholic 7th Viscount Molyneaux (1684 to 1759), who built Croxteth Hall near Liverpool. Sir William became a Jesuit priest and was succeeded by his nephew Charles William Molyneux. James Taylor senior married Ann Harrison in 1764 and left the Sefton parish for London in 1771.”

“James Taylor senior seems to have been successful, so when his son showed youthful promise at Old Hall Green Academy near Ware in Hertfordshire, young James, aged 12, was sent to the English College in Rome. He remained there until 1783, when illness prompted his transfer to the English College of Douai, 80 miles southeast of Calais. He moved to London in 1786 and took a house in Bandyleg Walk, Southwark (now Great Guildford Street, behind the Tate Modern Gallery), where he established a small Catholic mission in 1788.”

“Unsuited for the priesthood, young James Taylor trained as a surveyor and married Ann Green by licence in 1789 at St Mary’s Church Islington. A young man with great drive, Taylor was able to purchase a desirable plot beside an old inn at Park Vista, Greenwich, and build a short terrace of three houses. The central one became the Taylor family home. It is slightly salient from the other two and has an additional fourth floor surmounted by a pediment. This carries an oval date stone inscribed ‘Park Place 1791’. Park Place faces south over Greenwich Park and its rearward view originally extended to the Thames.”

“By 1790 he had bought part of Clay Pitt Field in Islington, west of the New River from Robert Vincent. He was able to raise mortgages and arranged to have 10 modest houses built that became Charlton Place (north side). On the opposite side of the street, Taylor soon started building a further 14 houses that became Charlton Crescent.”

Next, our contributors critique these schemes, “At first glance it might be assumed that Taylor’s houses in Islington and Greenwich are typical of late Georgian architecture. Considered in their historical context, they reveal a distinctive Taylor style. This drew inspiration from features already common in the grander mid Georgian terraces of the West End of London, Bath and elsewhere but was adapted to the needs of smaller dwellings. Grand classicism was reduced to quiet simplicity, preserving mathematical proportions of windows, doors and an exactly calculated volume of room space, to create a feeling of balance and harmony on a human scale.”

“The most obvious Taylor features are symmetry expressed in the terrace façade, round headed windows at entrance level with proper Palladian glazing bars, semicircular fanlights above the doors and lightwells (colloquially termed ‘areas’ or more properly ‘airies’) in front of the basement level. These features arrive at a satisfying conjunction in New Terrace, where the regular three by three fenestration falters only in No.50, but is immediately redeemed by the double bays that complete the picture there. Taylor’s solutions were copied and adapted in various Regency and early Victorian terraces, but never with the flair apparent in his early creations.”

The researchers note that James Taylor’s first project in Islington was the three storey Charlton Place built in parts from 1790 up to 1805. Charlton Crescent opposite dates from 1791: “The crescent has a radius of seven chains (141 metres) and rises over two metres along its length. It is a possibly unique example of a bilaterally symmetrical ‘palazzo’ arrangement in a rising crescent. Door transoms mostly have a modest round fanlight style that echoes the shape of companion windows…”

“Concurrently with Charlton Crescent construction, Taylor was also developing another terrace around the corner that he called New TerraceJames Taylor retained No.7 (now 56 Duncan Terrace) for his own use from its completion in 1793 until 1803… Unusually, the original York stone pavement in front of New Terrace is raised well above street level so that the basement floors would be above the level of water in the New River. That early aqueduct, dating from 1613, ran just beyond the vaulted cellars until it was arched over in 1861. The raised pavement originally extended to steps rising directly from the street. In 1963 it was lowered by two feet opposite No.50 to improve illumination for its basement flat and steps reinstated to their present position.”

“These nine houses have an aura of restrained astylar elegance, following a ‘palazzo’ rhythm of one-three-one-three-one in its façade elements. This pattern is accented by the discreetly salient central house, with its shallow central pediment. The tympanum has an underlining string course and an oval date stone. Its level moulding extends along the terrace as a parapet capped with simple coping that hides low valley roofs, some converted to roof terraces late in the 20th century. The salient terminal houses at either end are accented with a cornice moulding of the coping and an additional string course. The central and terminal houses were further distinguished by small balconies embracing all first floor façade windows. The other houses had simple balconettes fronting individual windows as a precaution for child play. These ironwork embellishments were removed before the 1930s and replaced with neat and appropriate horizontal rails.”

“On each house, the double sash windows in the façade form a regular three by three fenestration grid. All houses have two round headed windows with Palladian astragals at ground level, where the third element is formed by a fan lit Georgian door. Each door has six raised and fielded panels, central brass knob and knocker, and post 1840 letterboxes. The leaded tracery fanlights are surmounted by attractive Coade stone ‘macaron’ keystones that follow three designs. No.50 has the cheerful bearded face of an old man. Nos.51 and 53 have a young female head with coronet. No.52 and Nos.54 to 58 all have young male heads with pomade and helmet. The fanlights are braced by moulded Coade stone impost blocks joined by a frieze across the door. Each block has three anthemions on the fascia and one on the return. At No.50 they have two rosettes on the fascia and one on the return.”