Letters and Correspondence
The Barbican Fire
Sir.—The attention of the Executive of this Committee having been given to the Barbican fire of Monday last, which in many ways is a repetition of the worst features of the Cripplegate conflagration of 1897, we think it only right on this occasion to call the attention of the warehousemen and ground landlords, as well as the Public Authorities controlling these areas and the insurance companies, who have considerable influence on building matters, that neglect is being shown, even in the better class of warehouse buildings, to the protection of the vertical surface occupied by the window openings overlooking thoroughfares, areas, and courts, and that it is imperative that such openings in the vertical surfaces should be protected in some form or other. This protection can be effected by using less inflammable materials for window-frames (in many cases by using fire-resisting glazing), and further, by fitting the opening swith fire-resisting shutters or blinds, or by equipping them with drenchers.
It is obvious that in the metropolis the risk of fire spreading from house to house, across streets even over 40 ft. wide (as in the case of the Barbican fire), should be limited by preventive measures, which, although not inexpensive, become absolute necessities in localities where the householder's danger is not a question merely of accident or neglect in his own premises, but where he has to be constantly on his guard against risk from his neighbours.
With more rapid measures, automatic or otherwise, of summoning the Fire Brigade forces and the instant use of first-aid fire-extinguishing appliances, the possibilities of extensive conflagrations would be more remote, and much that this committee must now consider necessary in the form of better building construction might perhaps be modified. But given existing circumstances, the importance of fire prevention by better construction, and more particularly by a reduction of the spread of fire from house to house, is becoming even more essential, now that the City population is decreasing whilst mercantile structures are rapidly taking the place of dwellings.
We take the occasion to emphasise only the one serious question of the protection of vertical openings, although there are many other points which deserve attention, more particularly the protection of all ironwork by suitable covering; the avoidance of building materials which, when heated by fire, are liable to disintegrate on the application of water; improved forms of roof construction, and the protection of sky-lights. But to deal in detail with these would lead too far. We desire to point out that under the present circumstances of the Metropolis, the prevention of the spread of fire from neighbouring property is of far greater importance than in many other cities, and that means exist by which this risk can be reduced.
Edwin O. Sachs, Chaiman.
Ellis Marsland, Hon. Secretary.On behalf of the British Fire Prevention Committee.
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Mr. Caröe On Ancient Buildings
Sir.—I am not an architect, but I am a little of an antiquary, and a great admirer of our ancient churches. For several years I have been engaged of one of the Midland counties, and have already examined between seventy and eighty of them. My experience enables me to appreciate in particular Mr Caröe's remarks on the way in which such buildings should be treated. It was refreshing to find him saying that it would be a gain to our churches "if we could only get five-sixths of the modern stained-glass windows throughout the world bestoned." I have discovered that many of these windows are simply illustrations of personal vanity cheaply expressed in very bad taste. It was also refreshing to find Mr. Caröe, and Mr, Webb after him, condemning the modern abuse of the organ. In our village churches the new organ is often structurally an eyesore despite—in part, because of—its paint and gilding. As a musical instrument it is, in many cases, too powerful for the congressional. It frequently stands upon, or is built against and covers, fine ancient brasses, or obscures some good and much-needed window. It would also be well if Mr. Caröe and his brother architects could persuade the parish authorities to preserve their churches "from the garish tile floor, the meretricious brass lectern, and all the blatant brasswork," &c. I need scarcely add that I thoroughly appreciate the general attitude of Mr. Caröe towards our ancient village churches, and that l only wish the whole of the architects who are in to advise upon questions of "restoration" were equally anxious to avoid "marring the beauty of an ancient building by inharmonious accessories." I may be allowed to mention—à propos of Mr Caröe's mention of the church of Westwell, near Ashford—that the Ampclopsis Veitchii is used most effectively at Thurleigh Church, Beds. There being a central tower, the west window of the nave is an unusually large one—four lights, divided by transoms, and fine Perpendicular tracery above. The plant is allowed to grow over the window, with the result that in winter, when the sun is low, the light is not obstructed, while in summer and autumn the western sun shines in through beautiful tracery of, first, green leaves, then of variously tinted crimson and scarlet leaves.
⁂ In regard to our correspondent's remarks on the size of organs, we may observe that such criticisms are generally made by those who know nothing about organs or church music, and who think appearances are everything in a church and music nothing. Except in a very small church—a mere chapel—a small organ is absolutely useless for any proper accompaniment of congregational singing. The object should be, not to reduce the size of the organ, but to treat the case in an artistic manner.
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Sir.—Some words of yours, uttered many years ago, in regard to stone tracery, have always remained in my memory: "Put plenty of joints, or they will come of themselves," The recollection of this well-turned phrase has bad a salutary influence in my own case when settling the jointing of stonework, and I only wish, Sir, that you would exert your influence with the present generation of architectural students in the hope of securing greater attention to this very important point when sketching and measuring old work.
The otherwise excellent drawing by Mr. C. Wontner Smith of a doorhead in the great church at Caudebec, in your issue of the 12th inst., suffers materially from neglect in this respect.
On comparing it with a drawing made by me in 1882, I find the jointing of the spandrels quite forgotten, with the result that the drawing is rendered comparatively insipid to anyone imbued with a feeling for Gothic methods of construction.
May I also reiterate what you, Sir, have so constantly impressed upon students —the supreme necessity for a scale on all measured drawings.
I wonder if any of your readers, who are not familiar with the charming old town of Caudeb Realise that the exquisite traceried compartments above the hood-mould measure only 3¾ in. from centre to centre, and that the doorway itself is but 2 ft. 4½ in. wide.
Mr. Smith, by the way, might have completed his already interesting drawing by showing also the door itself with its beautiful square-headed traceried panels.
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New Malden Municipal Buildings Competition
Sir.—I think "Acetylene" will find on enquiry that the fees quoted by the five architects referred to were for assessing the competition. Newspaper reporters have a fine disregard for little distinctions of this kind.
A. Saxxon Snell
⁕ ⁕ We may point out, however, that even in that case the system of writing to various architects to ask what they will charge for acting as an assessor is a most objectionable one, and is highly disapproved of the Institute of Architects.
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"Cheshire Cheese" (We cannot answer this question. It is probably, from your description, an obsolete term, of which it would be difficult to find precise meaning now).—J.B.R (below our limit)
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