The walk was a huge success - in fact, it was more than that. Thanks to a combination of a knowledgable and passionate guide, gorgeous weather, generous volunteer help, the magical buildings we visited and event a few serendipitous elements (including a choir and bell-ringers) - it was genuinely one of the best events we've ever organised. Nicki and I are usually too keyed-up, and in full-on control-freak mode when we run events to enjoy them fully, but in this case we both had a relaxing enjoyable time.
Anyway, a lovely event. But as we limited the numbers to 50, there were lots of disappointed people. In fact, we had a waiting list of more than 50 who couldn't attend. So, as soon as the event was over, we hastily - and shamelessly - talked everyone (including Dr Bradley) to return to Abingdon and run a Pevsner walk "the second". It took place last Monday, and - if anything - was even better than the first.
Starting in the Mostly Books courtyard garden, Dr Bradley quickly introduced himself, the walk and - importantly - the Pevsner guides. These are legendary amongst those that are passionate about this country's architecture, but the full story of the workaholic German emigreé polymath - Dr Nikolaus Pevsner - was one we had to wait for until the end of the walk, brilliantly summarised by Dr Bradley over wine and strawberries in the Abbey Buildings.
One with the walk. It was out of the bookshop, turn right, up Stert Street to the Abbey Gateway, between the Guildhall and St Nicolas Church. As Pevsner himself said "'99 out of 100 people nowadays do not look at buildings at all unless by special effort… Those who care to embark on expeditions of their own will find that looking at houses can be entertainment as well as an object lesson, a family game...as well as a treasure hunt.".
Dr Bradley used this small corner of Abingdon to illustrate the vast number of styles and changes that can exist in buildings - the stories these changes tell, and the detective work that often needs to be done to uncover how a building has changed. In the picture above, the 'panel' in the abbey gateway wall used to be the window of a Porter's Lodge, and when the lodge was removed and the window bricked up, the inside roof was repaired in the older style.
Above the Abbey Arch for example is a catholic statue of Mary, notable for surviving the Reformation...
...and the side wall of St Nicolas Church, for example, was rebuilt after its damage during a riot in the town.
It was then across the road and down East St Helen Street, to the back of County Hall (Abingdon Museum). Pevsner didn't mince his words about this building in 1966: "Of the free-standing town halls of England with open ground floors this is the grandest". Here is a shot of the back of the museum from the air, courtesy of the Friends of Abingdon Museum:
There are plenty of buildings up and down England with a claim to be linked with Sir Christopher Wren, but the evidence for this building is strong. Built by Christopher Kempster, a stonemason and architect who worked with Wren on St Paul's Cathedral, the building has technology - particular in its windows and floor - that was state-of-the-art for the time (1680).
The Long Alley Almshouse are run by Christ's Hospital, Oxfordshire's oldest charity which traces its origins back to an ancient chantry, The Guild of Our Lady, in 1247 (possibly older).
An impressive porch contains paintings by Oxford painter Sampson Strong: