Friday, 21 February 2014

Crawford Square, Londonderry

A communal garden set amidst a Georgian or Victorian square is a feature which adds much to the urban landscape. There are numerous examples in London. Little islands of green tranquility in the urban grey. Outside the metropolis they are not as common but most of our substantial towns and cities do have their copycat examples where a local developer or entrepreneur sought to add a sense of gentrification to his commercial venture. The only instance of such a square in Londonderry and unfortunately it was not given architectural symmetry is Crawford Square. True it never was going to have substantial Victorian houses next the Northland Road but it would have been visually pleasing if the remaining three sides had all been developed as an entity.

Whilst it was a handsome villa looked at in isolation what became the Ardowen Hotel at the bottom right hand corner of the square never fitted in. The apartment block which the planners permitted to be constructed on the site of the hotel or, "Bap House," as it was colloquially called and on the site of 24 Crawford Square is a rather bland construction. The gaudy and clashing colours of the paintwork of the houses on the left hand side of the square do not add to the overall aethesetic quality. Gerald Grosvenor, aka the Duke of Westminster, definitely has it right with the decorative covenants which he has imposed upon his London estates. Uniformity is pleasing to the eye.


Clearly I don't remember the communal gardens in their Victorian and Edwardian heyday but even in the early nineteen sixties they were well tended. On a map from the eighteen seventies they are referred to as, "pleasure grounds," and the layout of the paths is clearly visible. Today's patch of green is not as manicured as it once was.


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