Richard Knill Freeman
Below is a report of a talk Freeman gave to the Manchester Architectural association in 1861, when he was 20 years old. He is complaining about the sham nature of contemporary architecture and looks back to the “life and vigor” of medieval architecture.
MANCHESTER ARCHITECTURAL ASSOCIATION -
After the transaction of some preliminary business, the Chairman called upon Mr R Knill Freeman, to read the paper for the evening on the subject of domestic architecture. After alluding to the fact, that the architecture of a people has ever been a medium through which we are able to judge, not only of their mode of life, habits &c., but also, to a great extent, of their character and intellectual position ; and having referred to the state of the country prior to its conquest by the Romans, the adaptation by them in some measure of the arrangements of the Roman villa to the requirements of this climate, and the subsequent imitation of this arrangement by the Saxons and Normans, the essayist gave a brief outline of the peculiar characteristics of the castles, manor houses and towns of the thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and called attention to those works which yet remain in proof of the perfection to which many branches of art were brought. Comparing the towns of the past and present, he remarked -
"Very quaint and pretty must these old Gothic streets have been with their overhanging upper storeys, high roofs and gables, and picturesque chimneys. Rows of buildings, in which, not only was the general effect pleasing, but care was bestowed on the minutest details. The carving, whether in timber or stone, had a life and vigor about it which we, while the reign of stucco and cement continues, shall in vain search for. The question may here be asked, have we made advances in this department of architecture? Are we, who exist in the present enlightened period, surpassing in excellence and beauty of our towns, the productions of what some are pleased to term rude semi-
After alluding to the suitability of Gothic architecture to the domestic requirements of the present age, and referring to the specimens of modern villa Gothic, by which the suburbs of our towns are disfigured, the paper was concluded by a review of some of the causes which lead to the debased style of buildings by which we are at the present time surrounded. After a short discussion, a vote of thanks having been presented to Mr Freeman for his essay, the meeting was concluded by the announcement of the business of ensuing evenings.
The Manchester Guardian, 31 May, 1861