The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: London to Manchester in the Spring of 1831

Chimney-tops on villas

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A third great fault in villas is the mismanagement of the chimney-tops: there is not one villa in ten that is not disfigured by them; whereas, being parts essential to every dwelling-house, they might always be rendered agreeable objects. Any attempt to conceal chimneys altogether, in a country where fires are required during three parts of the year, is in bad taste. All additions in the way of chimneypots, not contemplated in the original design of the edifice, will generally be found to disfigure it. The prevalent evils of smoky chimneys should always, if possible, be cured by an alteration in the throat of the chimney below, by lining the flue in part, or wholly, with metal; or, if an exterior addition in height must be made, it is much better to take down and rebuild higher, or on a different plan, always maintaining architectural forms. In general, whatever is put on the outside of a chimney or stack of chimneys, to prevent smoking, may be built in, or concealed by architectural forms, instead of being set on. Few exterior appearances convey the idea of a house being comfortable within, so much as that of handsome architectural chimney-tops, delivering their smoke without the aid of pots, or earthenware, or iron appendages of any description (The new part of the palace at Chatsworth has some scores of copper tubes upwards of 6 ft. high, and sufficiently large, as we are told, to let a boy climb into them. They are painted black, and, to our eye, are quite intolerable. We met with no one who could inform us whether Hiort's cylindrical brick flues, used at Buckingham Palace, which are swept without the aid of boys, and are in general an effectual preventive of smoking, have been used. We would try them, or Seth Smith's metallic linings; but, before trying either, we would thrust the tubes down the flues. Supposing neither of these three plans to succeed, we would enclose the tubes in masonry, thus raising the chimneys 6 ft. or 7 ft. If the flues draw now, in consequence of these tubes, they would draw much better when the influence of the external atmosphere was excluded from them.). Whoever is of our mind, and intends to build a villa, ought to make it a condition absolute with his architect or builder that there shall be no chimney-pots. This very condition will force the architect to design bold architectural chimneys, such as those used in the days of Inigo Jones, and other architects of that age; and he will always take care that in perspective they group in such a way as shall form a whole. It would occupy too much space, to go into the faults of architectural details; prevailing ones in every description of edifice are, the use of detached columns as ornaments, instead of component parts; the employment of half and three quarter columns as component parts of walls; and the placing of pediments where they cannot, by any possibility, be the ends of roofs. Tried by these tests, how few buildings are there that will not be found wanting ? But this must be the case till architects become not only mechanical contrivers but artists and philosophers. To know what is perfection in any art, it must be tried by metaphysical principles. With these ideas, it will not be wondered at, that we have left nine tenths of the villas which we have seen, and from the owners of which we have received the most polite attention, praising or approving of what we could; being silent as to faults, unless asked to point them out; but secretly thanking God that we knew something better, and could make very superior things of them. The time will come, however, when good taste in villas will be as common among their possessors as good taste now is in eating and drinking, and in dress; and good architects and gardeners will be as common as good cooks and tailors. All that is necessary, in addition to what is going on in society, is their multiplication.