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PROVENANCE
& PROPRIETY
Steven Parissien gives the Georgian Group’s view of architectural salvage.

An important part of the Georgian Group’s role is advising house owners on the way to approach and execute the repair and restoration of their homes. Having rehearsed the familiar litany of profane modern fixtures and fittings, however particularly those characterised by the frequently meaningless prefixes “Georgian” or “Regency”, or worse still those weasel words “period” or “heritage” we are invariably faced with the argument that it’s all very well denouncing pseudo-historical features, but what can the house owner buy that is truly in sympathy with the historic fabric of the house?
Take one typical area replacement door furniture. There is virtually no commercial alternative to the crude, brassy-bright fittings which, masquerading as genuine “Georgian” articles, fill the windows of an increasing number of High Street reeailers (see illustration). The few companies which are beginning to produce au
There is a firm which has just begun to
manufacture (on a necessarily small scale) genuine cast iron furniture, using 19th century patterns and existing masters: Joseph Tipper Ltd, whose managing director Martin Poppleton is very enthusiastic. They can be reached at Willenhall Road, Darlaston, West Midlands WS10 8UJ, tel 021-526 5353. It’s a venture that we are keen to back.
thentic reproductions of Georgian and Victorian cast-iron models are necessarily small operations, unable to secure widespread distribution.1
In such a case as historic door furniture, the only real alternative to modern brass seems to be a trip to the local architectural salvage company. The SPAB’s understandable reluctance to countenance the very idea of architectural salvage is all very well n theory, but it often leaves the householder with no practical alternative to
unsuitable modern “reproductions”. Flatly decrying any contact with salvage firms is not really assisting the house owner, who is inevitably thrown into the grasping embrace of the “home improvement” industry; more importantly, perhaps, neither are such denunciations helping to regulate or monitor the more dubious end of the salvage trade.
Clearly, though, accepting the principle of architectural salvage raises two fundamental problems: the question of provenance, and the possibility of inappropriate use. The theft of architectural fittings is proving a serious menace to Georgian houses. of all descriptions. Building society surveys continually affirm that most people appear to want to live in a “Georgian” house, whatever they imagine this to be. Thus, even if their home is in actuality an Edwardian terraced house, “Georgian” is the style most popular for replacement fixtures and fittings.
And not just any “Georgian”: many regard the Neo-classical, Adam style of the later 18th century as representing the epitome of Georgian taste; thus Adam-style fireplaces, mouldings and doorcases are particularly popular, with salvage dealers reporting that “Adam” fireplaces (both genuine and reproduction) are consistently their bestselling item. Fireplaces are inevitably popular targets for thieves, who have become increasingly adept at
Disfigured door in Hoxton, East London, with its even less acceptable neighbour.
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CONTEXT 24

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