Victorian Shop Fronts in Llandrindod Wells
One of the most important and major elements in town centre streetscapes are inevitably shops and shop fronts. During the last forty years or so changes in shop front designs have radically changed the appearance of many of our towns. Late eighteenth century shop fronts and their Victorian successors have largely disappeared in major towns to be replaced by supermarkets and chain stores. Llandrindod is, however, more fortunate than most since it retains a large number of its original Victorian shop fronts, even though some have been unsympathetically treated while others have been completely removed.
Victorian shop fronts in Llandrindod incorporate elaborate cast iron work, creating to the cornice, decorative iron window and ventilation grilles and panelled stall risers. The original designers were probably aided in their work with the publication during the later 19th century of several pattern books dealing solely with shop front design. Corner sites called for a corner door and special treatment for the whole facade - fine examples are provided by the celebrated Central Wales Emporium and Roma Mansion in High Street with its pedimented and columned door.
The design and detailing of the timber fascias was of great importance creating harmony in relation to the rest of the frontage and to its neighbours. Some of the original Victorian fascias have been treated sympathetically but others have been covered with box signs which in the process have broken any proportion and 'crushed' the facade benefits. Yet fascias are perhaps the most obvious and important element of the shop front requiring careful treatment. With little or no modelling or recession on various planes they can become dull and boring. It is thus important that Llandrindod's many handsome Victorian fronts should be retained, uncovered, restored and reused.
The use of colour on shopfronts needs careful consideration. With thought and care, atmosphere and character can be recreated. Victorian shop-keepers preferred strong and sober colours - syrupy shades of brown, black, deep blues and rich magentas were in general use, but also greens and white. Particular mouldings were not given individual treatment but rather the whole shopfront was painted a single colour. However, a successful and unusual contemporary colour scheme in Middleton Street has the ornate iron work and other detailing picked out in yellow. A good colour scheme should always consider the group effect of the facades, and with imagination will improve the individual property and the whole street.
Lettering and Signs
The Victorians and their predecessors were masters at using signs or emblems to depict particular trades, such as the pawnbrokers' brass balls or the locksmiths' key. In more recent times such features of the street scene have generally disappeared. Llandrindod Wells with its strong Victorian character, offers great potential for sympathetically reintroducing some of the old signs as three dimensional objects in the street. However, it is important that all should be of good and elegant design whether a coffee pot for the coffee house, books of wood or metal, or large wrought-iron spectacles for the optician.
The choice and design of lettering is a fundamental part of shopfront design which should not solely be dictated by personal whim and preference. The more traditional type faces are most appropriate to the town centre and if the lettering is to be painted high quality sign writing is essential. One of the major faults in the use of lettering is choosing a size which is too large and which, consequently, swamps the fascia. Thus, the size of letters and symbols should always proportionally relate to the fascia board.
Reproduced from the booklet
'Victorian Architecture of Llandrindod Wells'
Copyright Powys County Council - Visit http://www.llandrindod.co.uk
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