Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Hell Hall !

Now that Balintore Castle has been rendered wind- and water-proof, the long outstanding task of reconditioning the remaining windows has begun. After a good clean, loose woodwork has to be screwed, followed by re-glazing, puttying and painting. You don't want to know the cost of a new bespoke sash window, so re-use is good conservation and good economics.

entrance tower with reconditioned windows

The entrance tower, with its reconditioned windows, looks so different. While contemplating the tranformative effect on a building of mending broken windows, my mind went back to a favourite book of childhood: Dodie Smith's "The One Hundred and One Dalmatians" with its superlative black and white illustrations by twins Janet and Anne Graham Johnstone.

Hell Hall : before makeover

Pictured is "Hell Hall": the black-painted and distinctly unhealthy erstwhile Georgian residence of Cruella de Vil. This image haunted me as a child. The text refers to the broken windows acting as intimidating staring eyes. What distinguishes Georgian architecture is its extreme symmetry. The unbalanced bays of Hell Hall tell us that all is not well.

Hell Hall : after makeover

Also pictured is a white-painted Hell Hall redemptively re-glazed by Mr. and Mrs. Dearly and turned into their canine-friendly family home at the end of the story. Interestingly, I suspect the naming of the Dearlys is a conscious nod to the Darlings - the parents in Peter Pan. For me "Hell Hall" has been over-restored: the "before" is the more sinfully appealing! :-) Thankfully, you cannot totally whitewash an "evil lair" and Hell Hall retains its asymmetry.

However, the play on black and white: Cruella's hair is half white and half black;  the dalmatians have black spots on a white ground; Hell Hall is transformed by the paint colour change from black to white and indeed the two-tone theme of the illustrations themselves, is satisfyingly thematically.

So while Balintore is being re-glazed, fans of Cruella de Vil can rest easy that I won't be painting it white. And don't let me get started on that other Dodie Smith book, richly imbued with a sense of place, "I Capture The Castle".

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