Thursday 18 May 2017
7 for 7:30pm, Humanities Research Institute
Co-sponsored with the Sheffield branch of the Historical Association
Emma Stafford (Leeds) Classical allegory in the Victorian-Edwardian north of England:
Sheffield has a number of Classically-inspired buildings, and this is one of my favourites. It is the Unitarian Upper Chapel on Norfolk Street, near the Crucible Theatre (another design inspired by the buildings of the ancient world).
The chapel dates from 1847-8, and stands on the site of a much older house. Its present appearance is the work of John Frith, who based it on the Travellers’ Club in London.
These are some of its features:
· The roof has the unmistakable low triangular shape of the pediment of the Parthenon in Athens. It does not, however, boast the sculptures for which that temple is famous: there is only blank brickwork. You can see the little “guttae” like small cubes lining the edges of the pediment.
· The upper-storey windows have a round arch shape, which isn’t found in Greek architecture as they hadn’t yet discovered how to build them! They are flanked, though, by Corinthian pilasters. A pilaster is a column shape – usually half the diameter of the whole column – attached to a wall rather than free-standing.
· The front door is sheltered by an imposing porch. This has four Ionic columns with a frieze above which bears only the name of the chapel.
It’s not uncommon to find two or more orders of architecture in the same building: the Parthenon itself has Doric columns as its peristyle (outer edge) and Ionic columns inside.
A walk round Sheffield city centre will reveal many more Classical buildings – especially if you look up above the shop fronts!
In view of the fact that the subject seems once again, or, if we're being honest, as always, under threat both nationally and locally, this is a question that needs answering afresh. I tried for thirty plus years and never really found, to quote a recent commentator on Social Media, 'the 'holy Grail' of 'what is it about classics that makes . . .' However, there's a new answer lurking a click away behind the graphic below with something of a new twist. Any contributions or comments on this score would be very welcome and assured of publication. More on this topic to follow.