New College of the Humanities


Peter Wickham surveys a little-known example of Modern Movement Architecture.

Tom Wolfe might not like it – he might well want to consign it to another of his bonfires – but the crisp, white, flat-topped forms of the Bauhaus (the 'International Style' as Americans called it almost sixty years ago at an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York) gleam afresh on the hills above Tiverton in Devon. As we wonder what might follow Post-Modernism with its jokey, ironic references to preceding architectural styles, there is a revival of interest in the 1930s; and two years short of its sixtieth birthday, a small detached house has been newly 'restored'.

Built in 1934, 'Shrinkhills' takes its name from the steep slope to the south of Tiverton town centre. Those of a military disposition might be interested to learn that during the English Civil War, it was from this vantage point that, in October 1645, the ubiquitous General Fairfax fired on the Royalist garrison of Tiverton Castle across the valley. One round of cannon fire was enough to bring about surrender – then as in the 'high tech' wars of the 1990s, minimum collateral damage was seen to be a good thing. This was not the last time men in uniform were to appear on the southern slopes of the town.

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