Past Remains

A view of yesterday from today

Grosvenor Mansions, Sidmouth, Devon

This is one of those lovely and slightly quirky buildings that really caught my eye. I didn't know anything about it at the time, apart from the fact that it was built in 1929 according to the date plaque. It wasn't until several years later that I found a website dedicated to the architect R W Sampson, who designed Grosvenor Mansions along with many other buildings in Sidmouth during the early 20th century.

Situated right next door to the parish church of St Giles & St Nicholas, the building comprises private residencies and ground-floor shops on the corner and front of Church Street. I can't help wondering what Sidmouth residents thought of this new edifice built right up against the churchyard wall, and if some thought it was an eyesore in the way that many of us might feel today if a post-modern office block was placed there, or whether they lauded the new addition for the new century. To me it looks as if it's always been there and blends in beautifully with the old stonework of the church and the surrounding trees. 


The building doesn't appear in the British Listed Buildings, which seems to be the case for many of Sidmouth's buildings of architectural and historical merit. Sidmouth is very rich in fabulous buildings, and some have been missed out, possibly because they didn't meet the criteria of age when the others were listed.

As I mentioned on the Fortfield Chambers article, which was one of Mr Sampson's designs and where he had his architectural practice, I find this era between the two world wars as being particularly interesting. It was a time when the influence of the Arts & Crafts movement of the 1890s was still felt. Mock Tudor, Neo Georgian and Elizabethan style houses were being built as 'Homes Fit For Heroes' schemes were under way for those who fought during World War I, and Art Deco was coming into it's own with the added influence from Ancient Egypt after the discovery of King Tutenkhamun's tomb in 1922; these various styles & influences being a hot bed for experiment and innovation.

I love the modern take on the bottle-glass panes influenced by the windows of early Victorian shops. Lovely chunky gables above the windows with tiling that matches the roof, pretty brackets beneath the casements, with smaller dormer windows above. The curved corners, along with their corresponding windows, are an absolute delight. The gables are almost organic, like mushrooms sprouting from an old log.

A little tale of sorrow and regret! To begin with I only had four photos for this page so I eventually made another visit and took some more. Actually, I made two visits. Unfortunately, after finishing the film and rewinding on the first re-visit, my camera jammed solid and I couldn't retrieve the film. Sadly, that camera is still jammed and no longer working, but the photos I lost were easy to retake with my new one. However, in the spirit of  'the one that got away', I swear that the lost ones were the best I'd ever taken! ;) 

On my further visit I noticed this plaque, which was built into the wall dividing the building and the churchyard, below. The top of the pretty wrought iron chair is part of an alfresco area belonging to the cafe next door.

Below, a view from the churchyard, which I took when I visited the church and paused to watch several squirrels playing and chasing each other around the trees.

These photos and a few more can also be seen in the Photo gallery album.

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