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Oak Timber Beams to Plate Glass - English Architecture - Old to Modern

Updated on October 2, 2015
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Andrew has been writing for decades, publishing articles online and in print. His many interests include literature, the arts and nature.

George and Dragon pub, Flockton, West Yorkshire

George and Dragon pub, Flockton.
George and Dragon pub, Flockton. | Source

English Architecture - Old to Modern

This photo essay is all about buildings, both old and new, and the architecture that meets the eye. Some you'll find beautiful, others perhaps ugly. I hope the images will stir you up in some way and inspire you to look with a keener eye at the architecture that surrounds you as you go about your daily business.

There's no doubt that some modern architecture is just downright ugly, the result of cutting costs and using cheaper materials that don't blend with their surroundings. In the trade they call these buildings 'disposable' and they last no more than a few generations. That's sad.

In an ideal world we'd have beautiful looking creations around every corner, built of local materials and constructed with the community in mind. The reality is much different! Time moves on and architecture has to move along with it!

'Architecture is frozen music' said Goethe, the German writer and artist. That's a fascinating comment and conjures up for me an image of a cold, crystal clear music hall forming into ice as the orchestra plays! Perhaps he was suggesting that a building should make our hearts sing and not reduce us to desperate screams! Or inane chatter.

Each photograph has a brief story, a mix of fact and opinion. I'll tell you where the building is, what it's made of, why it is what it is and in some cases, why I have a personal connection.

The journey starts with a small, quietly impressive chapel.


Steetley Chapel, Derbyshire

The little chapel in its secluded grounds.
The little chapel in its secluded grounds. | Source

This small exquisite chapel is less than a mile away from the coalmine where I used to work. It dates from around 1120 AD and is Norman in style. The Normans were from France and took control of England following the defeat of Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

It's built in three sections : the nave, chancel and semi-circular apse, all in local limestone. Experts consider it one of the finest of its kind anywhere in Europe. I love the three-in-one design, each piece perfectly proportioned.

This chapel is said to be 'the chapel in the forest' where Richard the Lionheart, King of England, met with Robin Hood in Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe. It's certainly old enough that's for sure. What is true is that there are still musket holes in the stone from the English Civil War of the mid 17th century, when Royalists and Roundheads fought to decide the fate of parliamentary power.

I'm not religious in the conventional sense but this little place of worship offers such peace and quiet you could forgive yourself for thinking spiritual thoughts when inside! It's one of the most atmospheric buildings I've ever been in, and has some immaculate stone carvings of Adam and Eve and the Tree of Life inside. You can see more images of the interior if you click here.


The ornate stone carvings around the entrance door. Animals, plants and symbols in various patterns give a depth to the archway.
The ornate stone carvings around the entrance door. Animals, plants and symbols in various patterns give a depth to the archway. | Source

Ye Olde Cock Tavern

In London's Fleet Street, sandwiched between two larger buildings.
In London's Fleet Street, sandwiched between two larger buildings. | Source

Old English Pubs

There are some very old pubs worth investigating in England. You can find out more if you click on this link.

Ye Olde Cock Tavern, Fleet Street, London

I love the way this pub is sandwiched between two larger buildings, giving it a squeezed appearance. Ye Olde Cock Tavern was originally built in 1549 but has undergone many changes since then. It has the narrowest of frontages.

Walking up Fleet Street towards St Pauls is a must for any tourist. You get some wonderful surprises - Ye Olde Cheese, another ancient watering hole is also on this street, as well as Ye Olde Cock tavern which sits venerably between it's modern sidekicks.

This pub was used by the cast of The Da Vinci Code movie for lunch breaks. Tom Hanks and Ron Howard being amongst the clientele.


Chantry Chapel, Wakefield

Chantry chapel over the River Calder
Chantry chapel over the River Calder | Source

Another historic little building fascinatingly placed in the middle of the medieval bridge that takes you into the city of Wakefield, the 'Merrie Citie' as it used to be called, on account of the pubs and brothels that thrived there! Nowadays it's much quieter.

Travellers coming over the bridge would have had to pay and pray - to keep their souls safe - a custom many river towns and cities in England kept for hundreds of years. This chapel is one of only four now remaining. it was built in the 14th century.

What I love about this building is its position and wonderful stone work. Around the roof edge are lots of faces and figures and intricate patterning.

The great British artist JMW Turner painted the bridge and chapel on one of his Yorkshire tours in the 18th century. Although only a watercolour sketch it's nonetheless a jaw-dropping work of art.

The river Calder runs west to east through many industrial towns and cities on its way to the tidal river Trent. At the height of the industrial boom it was a badly polluted water course but is now healthy, thanks to new regulations and a decline in the textile industry. Kingfishers and herons are regularly seen near the Chantry Chapel feeding on smaller fish.


Jacob's Well, York

Wooden doorway to Jacob's Well in York.
Wooden doorway to Jacob's Well in York. | Source

Jacob's Well, York

This is a medieval building, timber framed with brick and stone walls. What struck me were the wonderful carved wooden porch brackets and canopy at the entrance. They're so nicely done. The wood I think is oak, which should last another few hundred years.

At one time this house was an inn but was restored to its former glory later on in life.


Ancient House, York

Ancient beams and posts, York
Ancient beams and posts, York | Source
A horseshoe cloister in Windsor Castle, oak and brick.
A horseshoe cloister in Windsor Castle, oak and brick. | Source

Ancient beams and posts

You can see the framework clearly on this old house. The wooden beams above are in a classic crook shape, with curved timbers and cross pieces forming the capital A. Many medieval houses were built in this way, the frame being completed and lifted up into position as one whole. The bricks and other fillers were then placed between.

I really like the way the three post beams stand on stones (padstones) keeping the old building up with the help of that rather long crooked timber.


Kettlethorpe Hall, West Yorkshire

Kettlethorpe Hall, built in 1727
Kettlethorpe Hall, built in 1727 | Source

Kettlethorpe Hall

This small two storey house was built in 1727 out of local stone and stands in its own grounds very close to a large estate of modern brick houses - making for quite a contrast! I often pass by the perimeter fence and took this photo on a clear spring day. The freshness of the stone really stands out.

A former home to a prominent local family, Kettlethorpe Hall is now split into two private dwellings. I love the central chimney pot feature which is a work of art in itself.


City of York Gatehouse

The city of York has managed to retain many historical buildings and features, including this impressive fortified gatehouse entry, which dates from around the 13th century. York has four of these 'bars', each a part of the ancient wall that surrounds the old city. You can still walk along this wall, originally constructed by the Romans but added to over the centuries. It is the longest intact wall of any city in England, a reflection of York's importance as an administrative and military centre.

I love the symmetry and circular towers of this old gatehouse, with the cross-slits built in for firing arrows at the enemy!!

You have to marvel at the sheer amount of stone and timber work York has to offer the visitor. I don't know how it survived into modern times - I guess you have to congratulate the people of York for having the foresight to preserve as much as their history as possible.


Westgate House, Huddersfield

Is this shop old or modern?
Is this shop old or modern? | Source

I was fooled completely by this unusual looking shop in the town centre of Huddersfield. From a distance it looks really old, almost medieval, but as you get closer the modern aura becomes apparent and all is revealed.

This building was way ahead of its time. Constructed in 1923 it's made of pre-fabricated units stuck one on top of the other and capped off with a flat roof.

I like Westgate House, it has a unique outlook on life even in its current guise as a Bronx retailer.


The Shard, London

The Shard in the centre of London
The Shard in the centre of London | Source

The Shard, Southwark, London

We visited London just before this incredible skyscraper was finished. Also known as the Shard of Glass it's the second highest freestanding building in the UK at 306 m or 1004 feet. No way would I go up there!!

What's so stunning about architect's Renzo Piano's creation is the outer skin of glass. On a sunny day it gleams - not so good if you're an airline pilot or a falcon - but spectacular for those close by or miles away.

How is it constructed? Inside is a concrete tower around which the steel skeleton rises and the shining exterior is fixed.


The Old House, Lower Lydbrook, Gloucestershire

The Old House or Sarah Siddon's Cottage, Lower Lydbrook, Gloucestershire
The Old House or Sarah Siddon's Cottage, Lower Lydbrook, Gloucestershire | Source

Just a short walk from the beautiful River Wye on the England/Wales border is this very picturesque cottage standing above the main street through Lower Lydbrook. It dates from the 16th century but could be much older.

I love the look of this fairytale cottage, with its characterful stone chimney and rich red brickwork going this way and that. The timbers are oak and nicely weathered. The whole building is a poem I want to live inside.

The actress Sarah Siddons is said to have lived here at some time.


The plaque on the outside wall of the George and Dragon telling the story of Murder most foul!
The plaque on the outside wall of the George and Dragon telling the story of Murder most foul! | Source

This incredible pub dates from the 15th century and has quite a history, some of it dark. You'll find it on the Huddersfield Road in the village of Flockton.

According to the plaque on the outside of the building (confirmed by the landlord inside the building) King Henry VII stayed here on his way up to north Yorkshire which is remarkable enough. But the pub is notorious for being haunted by the ghost of a woman who was murdered centuries ago by someone using a fire poker!

The building itself is in fine condition with original beams and fireplace inside. Stone, beams and white finish give it a neat appearance from outside but there's no escaping the fact that here is an ancient hostelry of some repute!!


Huddersfield Railway Station, West Yorkshire

A mighty facade for a humble railway station!
A mighty facade for a humble railway station! | Source

This station entrance is just too much! It's like something out of a Cecil B DeMille movie, one of those epics set in ancient Rome.

I think what the architecture represents is the idea of success, power and imperial strength. It was built at a time when the British Empire was in full swing and the railways an integral part of its continued expansion. Hence the grandeur of this stately building.

To me it's a disappointment. You can see many buildings of this type - heavily imperial - in cities all over Europe. What they should have done is built something in the vernacular style, something with true northern English character in it. Nevertheless, Huddersfield station with its six great columns, is impressive.


Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery, Yorkshire

Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery
Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery | Source

Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery

This building reminds me of a giant bomb-proof defence shelter, as used in the second World War. It looks strong!! It could easily double as a nuclear fall out shelter, heaven forbid. It was constructed in the 1930s.

But inside there's an almost cosy feel, with lots of wood and marble. Upstairs the roof top window lets in lots of natural light.

Built at a time when straight lines and solid looking structure was all the rage this library looks heavy, it won't be moving any time soon.


Hepworth Art Gallery, Wakefield, Yorkshire

The Hepworth.
The Hepworth. | Source
The Hepworth sits alongside the River Calder.
The Hepworth sits alongside the River Calder. | Source

This brand new art gallery opened in 2011 and sits right by the River Calder, in fact parts of the building are actually in the water. The Hepworth tends to divide opinion - as you can see it's sharp geometric design mostly appeals to the modernist, which in turn completely puts the traditionalists off!

'Too severe, looks cold, like a set of concrete shoe boxes.'

'Love those clean lines and the way the light plays on the smooth exterior.'

People either love or loathe this building. I hated it when it first appeared but have since got used to its subtle changing greys. I can't say I like it though, I would have preferred some texture and stone work on the exterior. The interior in contrast is just what an art gallery should be - lit mostly by natural light, clean and minimal.


Priory Gatehouse, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

The Gatehouse to the Priory Church in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
The Gatehouse to the Priory Church in Worksop, Nottinghamshire. | Source
Worksop Priory Gatehouse
Worksop Priory Gatehouse | Source

This is a 14th century gatehouse, originally built to allow people in and out of the Priory grounds. It was also used as a hospital and retreat. Although slightly weathered in places, and altered here and there, it retains something magical and profoundly humble. As the traffic moves past, as new buildings are erected then demolished decades later, as modern faces walk by each day, it stands as a reminder of a simpler age.

I used to play around this building as a child and spent many hours climbing the steps, hiding in the shadows of the arch and running down the cobbled path to spit on the Spitting Stone - said to keep Old Nick the Devil at bay!!


The Globe Theatre - Shakespeare's Globe, London

The Globe Theatre, London
The Globe Theatre, London | Source

The original Globe Theatre of 1599 perished in a fire caused by a cannonball accidentally flying off during a performance of Henry VIII and although another theatre was built some years later it was demolished in 1644.

This replica Globe was finished in 1997 using English oak and original pegs and joints, plus reeds for the thatched roof, keeping as much as possible to 16th century traditions of construction and modern methods of fire prevention!

I think this building is a triumph. It allows Shakespeare's plays to be performed on the kind of stage they were originally created for. That's incredible. This area of London was a hotbed of theatrical activity back in William Shakespeare's time and it's only right that we have the chance to experience theatre as it was then, now. It gives modern audiences a taste of what the Bard of Avon himself would have feasted on.

Sam Wanamaker the American actor and director was the driving force behind its creation, which probably wouldn't have appeared if not for his enthusiasm and energy. Sometimes it takes a foreigner to stir things up on home soil!!


Could You Be An Architect?

© 2014 Andrew Spacey


Submit a Comment
  • Sumona Ireen profile image

    Sumona Ireen 

    6 years ago from New York, US

    Really nice hub with lots of information.

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you for the visit and comment AliciaC. It's amazing how many architectural gems from the past have survived!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 

    6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I enjoyed this hub very much! I love looking at British scenery. Your photos and the comments on each building were very interesting. Virtual tours are so much fun, especially when I can't go on a real tour!

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    I'm so glad you kept your feet dry! Let's hope we get some crisp dry weather to keep the old buildings looking their best.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    6 years ago from SW England

    No, fortunately. Lots of flooding on the levels nearby but nothing here in town even though we're next to the canal!

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you Ann. Yes, the Hepworth divides many people, still not sure myself!

    Please go ahead and give us a country cottage/farmhouse/old barn/medieval church Susex/Somerset special!! That would be great.

    I hope you're not caught up in all the flooding down there.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    6 years ago from SW England

    Some beautiful buildings here. We certainly are spoilt for choice in our country. I love art deco buildings, the clean lines and colours, as well as the older historical ones. Not so sure about the Hepworth Centre though, despite the fact I like her art.

    There are many wonderful buildings in Somerset too and in my native Sussex so I might try a hub or two on those, now that you've inspired me!

    Great photos and a beautiful hub. Ann

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    A pleasure. Thank you for the visit and comment. It always amazes me how durable some of the really old buildings are, surviving all manner of attack - from weather to human activity!!

  • vespawoolf profile image

    Vespa Woolf 

    6 years ago from Peru, South America

    This was a fun Hub and I enjoyed reading your commentary after each building. We saw the most beautiful architecture in Europe, and many of our favorites were in England, Ireland and France. It certainly beats the new buildings in my opinion! Thank you for sharing.

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    So many thanks for the visit Chitrangada. I have a natural attraction to really old buildings, there is just something about their character - built by local people with real knowledge of their materials.

    I appreciate the votes and shares.

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Good to hear from you - thanks for the comment and visit, much appreciated. Yes, the Shard is spectacular.....but have you heard of the new London building that can fry and egg if you stand opposite it at a certain time of day in summer? Reflected light and heat!! Is it called the Mobile or the Cell Phone? I think they have to change the colour of the glass.

  • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

    Chitrangada Sharan 

    6 years ago from New Delhi, India

    These majestic monuments are breathtakingly beautiful!

    You have given some very interesting details too. I love ancient architecture and I would love to visit these some time in future.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful pictures! Voted up and shared!

  • Imogen French profile image

    Imogen French 

    6 years ago from Southwest England

    Some wonderful buildings here. The old buildings were certainly built to last weren't they, and were made with so much more love of beauty and attention to detail. I too have an intense dislike for the boxy concrete excuses for buildings that popped up everywhere in the 60s and 70s, but am quite impressed by some of the modern buildings of late - the Shard, for example is quite awe inspiring. Thanks for putting this hub together and sharing your pictures and love of architecture.

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Lovely to have a visit and comment!! Thank you. Yes, that old pub is just up the road from where we live. It's an amazing place.

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    6 years ago from Southern Illinois

    I love seeing old buildings. The architecture is amazing. Thank's for taking us on a journey. I would love to visit England...My favorite, The George and Dragon Pub....

  • chef-de-jour profile imageAUTHOR

    Andrew Spacey 

    6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you for the visit and comment brownella. The old timber buildings are so attractive - you can almost hear the stories they have to tell! I hope you get to olde England - you must see York, Stratford and Warwick, and Chester, they are full of exquisite architecture.

  • brownella profile image


    6 years ago from New England

    Great hub, I love the personal stories you've attached to the spots. I have never been to England (though it's on my to see list) but I have a weakness for architecture so I'll be sure to check some of these spots out when I eventually get there, especially Steetley Chapel. Thanks for sharing :)


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