29 APRIL 1955, Page 11

City and Suburban

By JOHN BETJEMAN DRIVING out into Ian Niall's subject during the sharp spring sunlight of last Saturday and Sunday, 1 could Government subsidy. I dare to suggest that the enormous subsidy be forthcoming.

CO-OP. ARCHITECTURE Quite a lot of the chain stores, notably Smith's, Boots, Marks & Spencer's, and even on occasion Woolworth's, have made efforts to make their latest buildings and shop-fronts harmonise with the towns where they are. Smith's have pre- served a Georgian shop at Wokingham, and they are pioneers in decent modern shop design. Boots have a pleasant-looking building in the town of St. Peter Port, Guernsey. But there is one vast organisation which consistently refuses to co-operate, and that is the Co-operative Society. Their building in the centre of Bristol is the ugliest prominence in that attractive city. In the little town of Hungerford they have ruthlessly jammed a flashing fascia into part of a superb Georgian brick house. In Henley their white-tiled facade, resting on a sheet of glass, is the only blot in a beautiful street. The great organisation of the Co-operative Societies should live up to its name and employ an architect instead of letting out the job to those enemies of all but their own bank accounts, the shop-front fitters.


The recent sun has brought out the warm and varied glory of old English brickwork. It is amazing to see how many colours and patterns there are, from the dark brownish-red little bricks of the East Riding and Lines and Middlesex to the sunset flame of red and orange in Kent, the pale pink of the Midlands, and the intricate patterns made with red brick and blue and purple glazed bricks in chalk counties as late as early Victorian times. It is sad to see. year after year, many old buildings and many pleasant, modest newer ones covered in cement paint, either white ,or cream. Not content with destroying in this manner their old brickwork, owners try to compensate for the loss of colour and texture by painting their windows and doors post-office red (very popular in the North Country, and possibly political) or royal blue (popular in the South, and possibly political too). The, only colours to paint the exterior woodwork of any house in villages or country towns are white best of all, or whitish-grey or whitish- buff. And, in a brick district, leave the brick alone.

PUBLISHER'S PROGRESS Martin Seeker, who is seventy-two this month, is being turned out of his premises in King Charles II Street. off St. James's Square. The old house where he publishes and sells books under the name of The Richards Press is to be pulled down. He is moving to the Royal Opera Arcade, which is now presumably safe from destruction. Sccker was the first man to publish Compton Mackenzie. If you look at his list printed in the back of any of those broad-margined, dis- tinguished-looking books he published in the Twenties, you will realise what an eye he had for the good author. Hecker. D. H. Lawrence, Norman Douglas, Robert Graves. Gilbert Cannan, Oliver Onions and Frank Swinnerton are some that occur to me at once.