Monday, 14 September 2009


Buildings follow naturally from geology, and there is a heap more written about them. So far as my own part of the world is concerned, George Sheeran is an outstanding guide, both on the actual buildings and their history. I had only recently finished his Brass Castles, Ryburn 1993, when I saw a group of bearded gents rambling round our neighbourhood taking an interest in the buildings (which are mostly the work of Bradford woolmen, although nicked by Leeds since the end of the West Riding as an actual, rather than historical, entity). An enthusiastic younger man was leading them and to my great delight he turned out to be George Sheeran. His Good Houses Built of Stone, Allanwood Books 1986, is another marvellous account of buildngs in Leeds and Bradford, 1600-1800. The Buildings of Bradford, Tempus 2005, takes the story on for that city.
Over the other side of the Pennines, I learned a great deal from Charles Reilly and the Liverpool School of Architecture 1904-1933 by joseph Sharples, Liverpool University Press 1996. This was published to mark an exhibition about Reilly at the Walker Gallery. My younger son Olly was beginning to take an interest in architecture at the time, and books like this led to lively family discussions. The one thing we all agreed about was approving the striking cover. My copy has a leaflet about the exhibition inside, and thios slipped out before scanning just enough to look as though Reilly's fedora has somehow expanded out of the book. He did have a big head.
There are a lot of engrossing series about buildings, among which Sir Nikolaus Pevsner's Buildings of England, Penguin, various dates, contributors and in recent years updaters, stands supreme. The volumes on the Northern Counties are all good, as of course are the Victoria County Histories, again many dates, if you really want to delve and have lots of time and a big shovel. More accessible are the volumes in the paperback Lost Houses series, published by Jill Raines at various dates in the late 20th century. I've got the ones for the three Yorkshire ridings, Newcastle and Northumberald. Aah, for what has gone! The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England has also produced some Roll Royce books on the North, among which I treasure Rural Houses of West Yorkshire 1400-1830 HMSO 1986 (very very good on yeomen houses and low halls) and Houses of the North York Moors, HMSO 1987. Smith Settle's 3 volumes on Building the West Riding (plus North and East separately, all by Lynn Pearson, are all comprehensive, well-illustrated and readable. Published 1994-5.

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