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|Building Dating & Analysis|
The Georgian House today
Window with elm beam
Chimney piece and cupboards
Blind fret decoration
Shell backed cupboard
The Georgian House - Swain Street |
Looking at old houses is to experience a form of time travel. This is particularly evident when visiting the Georgian House in Swain Street. Its facade is classically Georgian and suggests a date of c.1750. It was without a doubt an important building in 18th century Watchet (its origins however are much older).
Entering through the front door you are immediately aware of the impressive staircase (18th Century) and particularly the small period fireplace.
There is little doubt that both the fire surround and the staircase are mid 18th Century and of pine.
This Georgian fire surround survives in excellent original state (The cast iron and tiled inset is in the late Victorian manner).
Moving to the back of the house takes us back a hundred years to the mid 17th Century. Much altered it is difficult to interpret and has had many alterations.
The fireplace with its elm bresemer has at some date undergone some changes but the chamfered elm beam is certainly 17th Century and original.
It seems likely when the rather grand house was built facing Swain Street that this earlier part was retained as part of the whole and may well have been larger. This would have served as perhaps a laundry and food preparation area for the servants of the house. This remnant could well have been part of a number of cottages that ran at right angles to Swain Street.
Returning to the entrance hall it is important to note that the fire surround relates directly to what is now the dining room. This room in the context of Watchet is quite remarkable. This well proportioned room with its generous shuttered windows is dominated by an imposing fireplace with picture panel and flanked by two recessed 'shell' backed cupboards.
The moulded frame above the mantle shelf may well have contained a painting, perhaps of a ship or a maritime theme. Interestingly the present owner has a framed ship portrait by the marine artist George Gregory which seems appropriate.
The fireplace below the shelf has a pleasing blind fret decoration although the inset marble is of a later date.
The restrained and considered chimney piece and cupboards have a good symmetry typical of the Georgian period and dates from 1750. The cupboards with their shaped shelves and 'shell' backs were typical features at this time and were produced as free standing cupboards and corner cupboards.
The whole is constructed of pine at a period when this type of timber was better quality than that used in the Victorian period and has a much tighter grain. The paneled cupboard doors below the alcoves would have been complimented by additional doors above (these doors are in the house and have been used to construct a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms prior to the present owner).
It is reasonable to assume that the pine was originally painted perhaps in blue or green.
This is a rare feature not only in Watchet but in West Somerset as a whole.
The stripped pine paneled shutters to the windows appear to be original features.
The door frame is quite clearly directly related to other features to continue the theme.
The dentil cornice of pine (not plaster) and is consistent.
The owner suggests that the area below the dado rail may have been paneled possibly, what do you think?
There is evidence of two doorways leading from the hall which is a little confusing. However we know that the house was a bank in its past. The arrangement of the hall may suggest its use as a waiting area.
This was an important building in Watchet and by no means typical. Was it a private residence or as seems possible a place of commerce when originally built. The society is at present engaged in pursuing the history of this fascinating slice of Watchet's past.
The property is now an award winning bed and breakfast and the owner has lavished much care and attention in restoring it. We are grateful for his enthusiasm and assistance.
As with all projects undertaken by the society it welcomes comments, suggestions or criticism.
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