11 June 2022

The Carriage House, the Coach House and
the Aesthetic Movement in Buckingham

Edward Swinfen Harris designed the Carriage House (left) and extended the Coach House (right) at the top of Castle Street, Buckingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Edward Swinfen Harris (1841-1924) is the leading architect in the shaping and development of Stony Stratford, his home town. He was a distinguished architect with a national reputation, and the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described him as ‘the only outstanding local architect working in the north of’ Buckinghamshire.

Swinfen Harris was a leading member of the Aesthetic Movement in arts and architecture and he worked mainly in the Arts and Crafts style. His works can still be seen throughout Stony Stratford, and he has also left his mark on neighbouring towns, including Buckingham.

He was commissioned in 1875 to extend the Coach House, an 18th century painted brick cottage at the top of Castle Street in Buckingham, just before the gates of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Parish Church.

Swinfen Harris extended the Coach House in 1875, designing a half-timbered bay with a timber gallery or rare ‘Juliet’ balcony (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The overall design chosen by Swinfen Harris for the extension to the Coach House included a half-timbered bay with a timber gallery or rare ‘Juliet’ balcony at the first-floor level, flamboyantly articulated with four bays of pointed arches, pierced spandrels and a balustrade with a turned baluster.

The prominent features of his design include a substantial brick chimney and ornamenting the street fa├žade are sgraffito decoration panels and ironwork depicting sunflowers and vases. The 19th century revival of Sgraffito, which was revived the Arts and Crafts movement, was an ancient form of incised plaster decoration used to adorn buildings. Sgraffito is an Italian word for decorating by scratching through surface layers to reveal a lower layer and the sunflower was the symbol of the Aesthetic Movement.

Swinfen Harris also designed the adjacent Carriage House to the south-west of the Coach House, and built in 1875. It is designed with a rustic character, and is positioned with its gable facing onto the street. It is an unusual building, a quirky brick and timber house, and it compliments No 11 in its design. It was restored in 1987.

The Coach House in Buckingham is an 18th century painted brick cottage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Swinfen Harris was born at 36 High Street, Stony Stratford, on 30 July 1841. His father was the clerk to the town bench of magistrates, the Board of Guardians and other bodies and Edward was the eldest son.

He was apprenticed to the book trade before being articled to an architect in London. After On completing his apprenticeship, he worked for a time before returning to Stony Stratford in 1868 to make additions to the vicarage of Wolverton Saint Mary on London Road, Stony Stratford, and also to Calverton Limes.

The Aesthetic Movement was a late 19th century movement that championed pure beauty and ‘art for art’s sake,’ emphasising the visual and sensual qualities of art and design over practical, moral or narrative considerations.

Aestheticism originated in England in the 1860s with a radical group of artists and designers, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It flourished in the 1870s and 1880s, gaining prominence and the support of notable writers such as Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde, as well as local prominence in the work of architects such as Edward Swinfen Harris in Stony Stratford, Buckingham and neighbouring towns.

The sunflower was the symbol of the Aesthetic Movement (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Praying with the Psalms in Pentecost:
11 June 2022 (Psalm 108)

‘Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be over all the earth’ (Psalm 108: 5) … Lichfield Cathedral Close (Photograph: Mark Anthony Walden, 2013)

Today in the Church Calendar is the Feast of Saint Barnabas. Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections from the seasons of Lent and Easter, including my morning reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 108:

Psalm 108 is the second psalm in Book 5 (Psalms 107-150), the closing book in the Hebrew psalter. It is sometimes known by its Latin name Paratum cor meum Deus. In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and Latin Vulgate, this psalm is counted as Psalm 107.

Psalm 108 is ascribed to David. This psalm contains numerous verses that appear in other psalms. Verses 1-5 are similar to Psalm 57: 7-11, with slight variation; verses 7-13 are similar to Psalm 60: 5-12.

David begins this prayer with praise and ended it with confidence in God’s strength and ability. The 13 verses in this psalm can be divided into two stanzas:

1, verses 1-5: David opens this psalm with a declaration of commitment to praise and bring adoration to God. He says he begins each day with praise and thanks to God. David expresses his trust, hope and confidence in God, and says God’s love, mercy and truth reach to the skies, extends beyond the earth and reaches the furthest corners of the universe.

2, verses 6-13: David appeals to God to keep him safe from the hand of the enemy and expresses his strong confidence in God. He can trust in God alone for success and victory.

The Midrash teaches that verse 2 (verse 3 in Hebrew numbering) refers to David’s practice of arising each night before dawn and praising God with psaltery and harp, thus ‘awakening the dawn.’

Stephen Fry’s autobiography, Moab Is My Washpot (1997) takes its title from verse 9, ‘Moab is my wash-basin.’

‘On Edom I hurl my shoe’ (Psalm 108: 9) … shoes in a charity event in Carlow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 108 (NRSVA):

A Song. A Psalm of David.

1 My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make melody.
Awake, my soul!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn.
3 I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples,
and I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens,
and let your glory be over all the earth.
6 Give victory with your right hand, and answer me,
so that those whom you love may be rescued.

7 God has promised in his sanctuary:
‘With exultation I will divide up Shechem,
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
8 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my sceptre.
9 Moab is my wash-basin;
on Edom I hurl my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.’

10 Who will bring me to the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 O grant us help against the foe,
for human help is worthless.
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) has been ‘The Time to Act is Now!’ The theme was introduced on Sunday by Linet Musasa, of the Anglican Council of Zimbabwe.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning (Saturday 11 June 2022, Saint Barnabas the Apostle) invites us to pray:

Today is the feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle. May we remember the life and works of Barnabas and seek to emulate his peaceful ways.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint Barnabas (right) with Saint Paul (left) and the Prophet Elijah (centre), in the east window of Saint George’s Chapel in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth … the Church Calendar today commemorates Saint Barnabas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org