The Troublemaker Sacheverell and the Quest for Georgian
Dr Henry Sacheverell was born in Marlborough in 1674, a son of the rector of St Peter’s Church. He became an outspoken high Anglican Oxford don who was impeached and tried in Westminster Hall for publishing a sermon condemning the Whig government for undermining church and state by being too soft on dissenters. The London mob enthusiastically backed Sacheverell by sacking and burning six dissenting chapels. His trial and the subsequent unrest directly led to the government falling from power in August 1710. The 18th century began with controversy but quickly quietened down as Marlborough increasingly became a stop en route to the fashionable spa town of Bath. The Georgian style that Bath inspired took root as Marlborough copied it. The High Street contains many old buildings, a high proportion from the 18th century. Nikolaus Pevsner in his “Buildings of England” comments, “Nearly all that matters is Georgian.”
At that time it was fashionable to build high classical facades to the front of town buildings, which had the deliberate effect of hiding the roofline, which was considered vulgar. The Royal Oak has the base of its roof hidden in this way. Many of Marlborough’s buildings started with heavily pitched roofs “modernised” in the 18th century. Looking behind the roofline can reveal more about a building than the much-altered front.
Wykeham House, in blue and red brick trim, displays lead rainwater pipes bearing the date 1761. It has a pedimented doorway on classical Doric columns, the pediment being the triangular structure above: in the 18th century it was the “in thing” to have your front entrance embellished in this way. The “Ivy House Hotel”, a very elegant mid-Georgian building, also has a pedimented doorway and the “Merlin” has a fine early 18th century front with segment-headed windows and a centre bay flanked with paired pilasters imitating the classical style that was flourishing in Bath.
The use of Venetian windows, those with a central round-arched light flanked by oblong ones either-side, reflects the fashion of the Georgian period. Venetian windows are sometimes known as Palladian windows after the style of the 16th century Italian renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio.