Sunday, 11 November 2012

Graffiti at Old Beaupre

So, you think that graffiti, illegibly and illiterately sprayed on public and private property by the ubiquitous urban Chav is a symptom of the underclass culture in modern Britain? Think again. Graffiti is as 'old as the hills'; Alexander the Great's army left graffiti in Egypt during their campaign there in the late 4th century BC and it is common throughout the rest of recorded history.

Historical graffiti is a fascinating thing. These were ordinary people making a bid for immortality, literally 'set in stone`. These examples come from the pre-eminent late Medieval-Tudor Old Beaupre 'Castle` which is hidden deep in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan (not far from Cowbridge).

Old Beaupre was the one time residence of the Bassetts, a large landowning gentry family. Sadly, the house, like many of its ilk was allowed to fall into decay or perhaps deliberately stripped of its material building assets like Llanbethly Palace and Boverton House (both of the same period) and now stands as a romantic and isolated ruin. Upon visiting Old Beaupre one is struck by the magnificent Renaissance sandstone carved porch complete with Greek Ionic and Doric fluted capitals and heraldic devices carved as relief-this is truly a physical manifestation of Renaissance architectural themes and an early example of the use of Classical motifs in architecture in Britain. Apart from being a true gem of architectural importance it is the 'prosaic' carvings inside the entrance way to the porch which are of added interest and often missed if at all recognized by the casual visitor.

(These examples took some skill to carve, the oldest being D.T., (1660) and others such as E.B., J.H.,
                                          John Jem, D.W., (1789) and the date 1791 are prominent)

The carvings date from the mid 17th century and span into the 20th and are no doubt the product of local and perhaps more distant visitors. Some names include John Jem, D.W., 1789, D.L.M,. 1840, and D.T., 1660. The relatively early date of 1660 (the year of the Restoration) would suggest that the house was neglected even at this period unless Mr. Bassett gave his consent to D.T., defacing his property. These are in many ways just as interesting as the porch itself as, although we know one Richard Twrch designed the porch these competent but amateurish carvings elucidate the identities of those who's names (or initials) we would otherwise never have known. Sadly, given the porous nature of sandstone the classical motifs and heraldic devices, along with the graffiti are wearing away.

 (Some later examples include J.E., (1911), D.L.M (1840) and also undated examples from W.J., and

Old Beaupre 'Castle` is well worth a visit if you don't mind dodging the cows which invariably seem to be in the fields one has to pass through to get to the ruin.

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