Saturday 11 August 2007

The legacy of Empire - # 196

Why, around 1900, did English architects adopt these forms found on our Edwardian villas and club houses? Puzzling over the pleasing shapes and little pointed architectural roof decorations I suddenly remembered a book I have, "Soldier Artist in Wartime India 1941-45". James Fletcher-Watson went to India and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to build military defences. He painted the scenery and published the story in a very fine book in year 2000.

Above is his painting of the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, and a tomb beside it.

So it's quite clear that the pointy things on our old club houses and Edwardian villas, and the graceful curved cupolas, like at Brooklands, were brought to England by Britons who went out to India at the height of Empire, appreciated its forms, and brought the ideas home.

I did not know this, but photoblogging helped me to discover it for myself.


  1. I find myself discovering all sorts of things in pursuit of photoblogging. Perhaps there should be a degree track.

    --steve buser
    New Orleans Daily Photo

  2. All down to the Raj then? Very interesting commentary and photo. I agree - we learn so much as we pursue our blogs. Yours is a particularly historically fascinating one, Chuckeroon.

  3. Ah, the "loots" of colonialism (joking!) We were at an old cloister in St. Gallen this afternoon, and saw some Egyptian mummies/sarcophagi there. How did Egyptian mummies end up in Switzerland? Somehow, I don't think Egypt sold them to the abbey.

    I try to convince people that I'm learning a great deal through this whole blogging process. Sadly, some just look away as though a little embarrassed for me.

  4. Been out of circulation for a few days Chucker - so belated thanks for the compliments and the Strand on the Green photo.

    @z - I think anything you get out of this blogging process is worthwhile. I can't stand people who take negative stances, who judge themselves by the things theyx think aren't worth bothering about. Take this series from Chucker - it does make you think and of course you can take it further and come up with your own opinions/research. It's also good for stirring up memories and associations - Fletcher-Watson's simple but clean and communicative watercolours were favourites of mine when I was learning the technique way back in the 70's

  5. A friend of mine (a British expat living in NYC) collects old postcards of colonial African sceneries. He would love this one.

  6. Opps! This postcard is of India, not Africa.

    Okay, maybe my friend won't like it so much. :-)