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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged Architecture:

Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses

I dragged my parents to see these beauties today! The Rock Houses of Kinver Edge were the last troglodyte dwellings occupied in Britain. Set high in the rock face just above Kinver, Staffordshire, the Rock Houses are said to have first been inhabited from at least the 18th century, as reported by Joseph Heely who wrote of taking refuge with a ‘clean and decent family’ in an ‘exceedingly curious rock’.

In its hey day around 40 people lived in the little community, on three levels rising up the heath. Carved out of sandstone, the houses were easy to adapt to ones needs. If a room needed to be slightly larger or a new doorway was required, the inhabitants could just chisel away. The Rock Houses were lived in until the 1960s and are now owned by the National Trust. 

Airship Dock at the top of The Empire State Building
Although the above image is fake, there is some truth in the idea that the top of The Empire State Building was originally designed to be a docking station for airships. Alfred E. Smith, an investor in the project, claimed that the airships could “swing in the breeze and the passengers go down a gangplank” and moments later would be out on the street. In fact, the announcement for plans of an additional 200ft being added to the building were a thinly veiled disguise to ensure the structure would claim the record for the tallest building in the world.
Although in 1930 an airship was able to make a three minute connection with the tower and on another occasion an airship was able to lower a stack of newspapers to a man at the top of the tower, ultimately high winds rendered the dock unusable. The docking station now lays up a steep flight of stairs behind an unmarked door one floor up from the 102nd floor observatory. 
[Sources: The New York Times]

Airship Dock at the top of The Empire State Building

Although the above image is fake, there is some truth in the idea that the top of The Empire State Building was originally designed to be a docking station for airships. Alfred E. Smith, an investor in the project, claimed that the airships could “swing in the breeze and the passengers go down a gangplank” and moments later would be out on the street. In fact, the announcement for plans of an additional 200ft being added to the building were a thinly veiled disguise to ensure the structure would claim the record for the tallest building in the world.

Although in 1930 an airship was able to make a three minute connection with the tower and on another occasion an airship was able to lower a stack of newspapers to a man at the top of the tower, ultimately high winds rendered the dock unusable. The docking station now lays up a steep flight of stairs behind an unmarked door one floor up from the 102nd floor observatory. 

[Sources: The New York Times]

The Eccentricities of The 5th Duke of Portland

William John Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, the 5th Duke of Portland, was a 19th century British aristocrat who, like all proper aristocrats, was renowned for his eccentricities. Terribly shy and introverted, Portland lived a reclusive lifestyle. His valet was the only person who saw him in his quarters, whilst the army of workmen employed to renovate his home, Welbeck Abbey, were ordered, if perchance they were to catch a glimpse of their master, never to acknowledge his presence. One workman who saluted Portland was immediately dismissed. His rooms all had two letterboxes, one for incoming and another for outgoing mail; his staff received their orders via written notes and any contact with the outside world was conducted by letters through which maintained an extensive correspondence with a wide-ranging network of family and friends.

Portland frequently took nocturnal walks around his estate, following, at a distance of forty yards, a female servant carrying a lantern. On the rare occasion he would venture out by day he would don two overcoats with a large collar and a tall hat, and would carry an umbrella with which he would attempt to conceal himself if anyone addressed him.

Most curious, however, were his architectural alterations to Welbeck Abbey, which cost an enormous amount of money and required thousands of workmen. Whilst the Abbey’s immense 22acre kitchen gardens, the huge riding house and stables, and the roller skating rink built for the servants are impressive, it is undoubtedly the complex labyrinth of subterranean tunnels and secret chambers, all painted pink, that are most intriguing.

Reportedly totalling 15miles in length, the tunnels connect a number of chambers and above ground rooms. One connecting the main house and riding house is 1000yds long and wide enough for several people to walk side-by-side, whilst another, more elaborate tunnel, over one mile in length, wide enough for two coaches and intended to emerge near Worksop, had to be abandoned after a part of it which ran under the lake failed. The skylights used to illuminate the tunnel can still be seen from a nearby footpath and in aerial photographs. Included amongst the chambers are a 160ft high great hall, which was used as a picture gallery and ballroom (although not by the 5th Duke), a library, an observatory with a large glass ceiling, and a billiards room.

[Sources: Welbeck Abbey | 5th Duke of Portland | Images: 1: The Duke of Portland | 2: Welbeck Abbey | 3: The Grand Ballroom : 4: A Subterranean Tunnel | 5: Entrance to the Short Tunnel | 6: Library]

Virginia House: The House that Moved Homes

The house which would become Virginia House was originally built in the 12th century and served as a priory until Henry VIII split from the Catholic church and closed the hundreds of monasteries and nunneries around Britain. Over the next four hundred years the house would change hands numerous times, with each owner adding a personal touch; such as knocking down the surrounding monastic buildings and adding curvilinear Dutch gables to the front façade around 1620. The fortunes of the house rose a fell throughout the centuries with one owner entertaining Queen Elizabeth I there and another, in the early 20th century, being forced to sell it.

In 1925, Alexander and Virginia Weddell bought it at a demolition sale. They had it dismantled and rebuilt part of it in Richmond, Virginia, where they hoped the west wing would serve as a museum for the Virginia Historical Society. 

The company that was to demolish the Priory felt the stones would crumble in the process, so they decided to make a small explosion in the middle of the building and send only those stones that survived the blast to America. To their amazement, most of the stones fell intact. The more fragile ornaments were packed in boxes with sand to cushion them. The ship bringing the stones to America had to turn back to port as it was taking on water. Consequently, when the stones arrived in Richmond they were soaked in seawater and had to be washed and dried. The first group of stones arrived in Richmond in the spring of 1926. 

Virginia House was completed in 1928, and in 1929 it was presented to the Virginia Historical Society with the Weddells retaining lifetime tenancy.


[Image One: The house in England : Image Two: The House in Virginia : Images 3-5: (courtesy of Vintage-Royalty) The House now]

(Source: vahistorical.org)

A Curious King and His Castle(s)

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular and beautiful palaces of Germany, situated in southwest Bavaria. It dates back to the 19th century, when it was constructed on a rugged hill near Hohenschwangau and Füssen. The castle was built specifically for one person and yet that one person spent a total of 11 nights in the castle itself. 

The castle was built for King Ludwig II in 1869 as an homage to his muse, the composer Richard Wagner .. Ludwig [had] not only beautiful tastes, but also a beautiful and gentle mind.  The theme of the castle was based on the German legends of the Swan Knight. Neuschwanstein literally means “new swan stone” and swans play a [major] theme throughout motifs and murals within the castle.  This even includes a curious little private grotto, a stalactite cave, that is located between the living room and study. These were in romantic vogue at the time, so naturally King Ludwig had to have one!

The reason the castle looks so impressive, is that it was curiously designed by a theatrical professional, Christian Jank, and not an architectural expert. It is so magnificent that it was one of the finalists in the selection of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

The reason behind the curious construction of this wonderful place?  Well, King Ludwig was a bit … odd really.  But in the most romantic and harmless sense! and little freedom of action.

He was a constitutional monarch [and] For this reason he built a fantasy world around him in which – curiously far removed from reality – he could feel he was a real king. From 1875 on he lived at night and slept during the day.  He even traveled at night, most of the time in period costumes and with the latest technology for his sleighs and elaborate coaches. He often had curious dinner parties with long dead monarchs such as Louis XIV and even had a special, disappearing table constructed so he and his “guests” wouldn’t be disturbed by the servants changing the courses. He obsessed with legends of the Holy Grail, tried to strangle his brother as a youth, and you may remember him from this previous reblog about his curious death.

EDIT: It has been brought to my attention that the images of the Grotto (images 2 and 3) are in fact NOT part of Neuschwanstein Castle but in fact a feature of another of Ludwig’s architectural feats: Linderhof Palace, which is similarly beautiful! That said, I’ll leave the images as there are because they still demonstrate Ludwig’s … quirkiness!

[Image sources: Image 1Image 2 (Grotto) : Image 3 (Grotto) : Image 4 (King’s Bedchamber) : Image 5]

(Source: curiousmatters.wordpress.com)

Hameau de la reine

The Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet) is a rustic retreat in the park of the Château de Versailles built for Marie Antoinette in 1783 near the Petit Trianon in the Yvelines, France. Designed by the Queen’s favoured architect, Richard Mique and with the help of the painter Robert Hubert, it contained a meadowland with lakes and streams, a classical Temple of Love on an island with fragrant shrubs and flowers, an octagonal belvedere, with a neighbouring grotto and cascade. There are also various buildings in a rustic or vernacular style, inspired by Norman or Flemish designed, situated around an irregular pond fed by a stream that turned the mill wheel. The building scheme included a farmhouse, (the farm was to produce milk and eggs for the queen), a dairy, a dovecote, a boudoir, a barn, a milland a tower in the form of a lighthouse. Each building is decorated with a garden, an orchard or a flower garden. The largest of these houses is the “Queen’s House” at the center of the village. One primary purpose of the hameau was to add to the ambiance of the Petit Trianon, giving the illusion that it was deep in the countryside rather than within the confines of Versailles. The rooms at the hameau allowed for more intimacy than the grand salons at Versailles or at the Petit Trianon.

Abandoned after the French Revolution, it was renovated in the late 1990s and is open to the public.

Sources: Image 2 : Image 3 : Image 4 : Image 5

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ferdinand Cheval (born 1836 in Charmes-sur-l’Herbasse, Drôme, France; died 19 August 1924) was a French postman who spent thirty-three years of his life building Le Palais idéal (the “Ideal Palace”) in Hauterives. The Palace is regarded as an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture.

Cheval began the building in April 1879. He claimed that he had tripped on a stone and was inspired by its shape. He returned to the same spot the next day and started collecting stones.
For the next thirty-three years, Cheval picked up stones during his daily mail round and carried them home to build the Palais idéal. He spent the first twenty years building the outer walls. At first, he carried the stones in his pockets, then switched to a basket. Eventually, he used a wheelbarrow. He often worked at night, by the light of an oil lamp.
The Palais is a mix of different styles with inspirations from Christianity to Hinduism. Cheval bound the stones together with lime, mortar and cement.
More Images and the unusual shaped stone Cheval tripped over that provided the starting point for the Palais.

Ferdinand Cheval (born 1836 in Charmes-sur-l’Herbasse, Drôme, France; died 19 August 1924) was a French postman who spent thirty-three years of his life building Le Palais idéal (the “Ideal Palace”) in Hauterives. The Palace is regarded as an extraordinary example of naïve art architecture.

Cheval began the building in April 1879. He claimed that he had tripped on a stone and was inspired by its shape. He returned to the same spot the next day and started collecting stones.

For the next thirty-three years, Cheval picked up stones during his daily mail round and carried them home to build the Palais idéal. He spent the first twenty years building the outer walls. At first, he carried the stones in his pockets, then switched to a basket. Eventually, he used a wheelbarrow. He often worked at night, by the light of an oil lamp.

The Palais is a mix of different styles with inspirations from Christianity to Hinduism. Cheval bound the stones together with lime, mortar and cement.

More Images and the unusual shaped stone Cheval tripped over that provided the starting point for the Palais.