Monday 13 October 2008

20 Pont Street, SW1

Large areas of the Cadogan Estate between Sloane Square and Knightsbridge are covered in houses that strive for variety, with asymmetrical fronts, spiky gables, bay windows and porches sticking out in every direction. The style was originally called Queen Anne, but was compulsorily rebranded Pont Street Dutch by Sir Osbert Lancaster.
The effect of this relentless variety is, unfortunately, a feeling of uniformity. The massing of blocks that makes Georgian terraces so impressive is lost. There is a certain dreary repetitiveness in the universal use of terracotta and the standard height of the buildings.
It's the little things that make Pont Street Dutch so richly enjoyable. At 20 Pont Street, built some time after 1878, the gable is relieved by a couple of dragons, angrily hissing and pawing the air.

The capitals of the columns supporting the porch have female faces wearing bizarre headresses with ram's horns spiralling out.
The faces on the sides, hidden under the balcony above, are even more disturbing. The one on the left is a grinning satyr, the horns clearly growing out of his skull, and the one on the right is mysteriously veiled, as if to protect her from the horrid sight of Oscar Wilde being taken away in a black maria from the Cadogan Hotel opposite, after his arrest on a charge of gross indecency.

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