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The Buildings of Corsham, a talk by Julian Orbach

Julian is preparing the third edition of the Wiltshire volume of The Buildings of England. The Buildings of England series was created by Sir Nicholas Pevsner and is regarded as an unrivalled series of comprehensive architectural guides covering every English county from prehistoric times to the present day. Begun in the 1940s by Pevsner, the 46 volumes of the original Buildings of England series were published between 1951 and 1974. Pevsner’s original volume on Wiltshire was published in 1963.

Julian is an author and lecturer in architectural history. He was architectural adviser to the Victorian Society in 1975-7 and wrote the Blue Guide to Victorian Buildings in Britain, published in 1987. He worked on the listing of historic buildings in England until he moved to Wales in 1987 where he was similarly employed by Cadw. While in Wales he co-wrote three Welsh titles in The Buildings of Wales series, then in 2009 moved to Somerset to revise Pevsner’s volume on South and West Somerset in the Buildings of England series. He lives with his partner in Bradford-on Avon, having moved there in June 2014 to begin revising the Wiltshire volume of the Buildings of England series.

Julian noted that Pevsner is buried in Wiltshire “distressingly” near Swindon. At the beginning of his career Julian worked with Pevsner which coincided with the end of Pevsner’s. The first edition of the Wiltshire volume was a basic revision undertaken by Bridget Cherry in 1975 and very little new material was added. However, Julian considers that Wiltshire has too many good buildings and tried to persuade the publishers, Yale University Press, that two volumes were really needed but he lost that argument although he has been allowed a ‘fatter’ single volume.

Julian Orbach

Julian Orbach

Pevsner oft asserted that “Corsham has no match in Wiltshire for wealth of good houses, and there are a few of really high merit.” Julian’s comment was that he obviously came to it on a good day and that he clearly enjoyed himself in Corsham! Pevsner was concerned strictly with architectural highlights ie the great house, the parish church but in his revision, Julian wants to improve upon the predominantly estate/parish focus. Pevsner left out lots of monuments due to space eg the Hulbert plaques which are of very high quality alabaster. Also, the 1960 sarcophagus and effigy of Lady Methuen carved in rose alabaster by Fritz ‘Fred’ Kormis  in Corsham Church is regarded as notable. Sir Harold Brakspear warrants a big entry in the book because he did so much good quality restoration work and research in Wiltshire. Julian stated that certain aspects of Corsham Court bears comparison with Longleat.

Julian delivered his talk to the Corsham Civic Society on 30 September 2016.

John Maloney

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