About Adrian's Books

A description of Bradford Facades: Made to Measure
and
An Eye for Detail - Adrian Dark’s Sketches: Wessex and Beyond

Bradford Facades: Made to Measure

Adrian Dark's Vision of a Wiltshire Town
Why This Book?...

There can be few towns, if any, that have a visual record of their buildings such as Adrian Dark has given us for Bradford on Avon. From the written descriptions of Pevsner and the Lists of Buildings of Architectural and Historic Interest we can turn to drawings that show the buildings as they are. No words can tell us what these drawings bring instantly to the eye.

This volume, the result of many years of careful measurement and meticulous draughtsmanship, records the buildings of the town from late Saxon times up to the present day. As a guide to the changing styles, from the late medieval vernacular to the local variations of national styles, it gives an invaluable survey of architectural history. The Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust has worked for fifty years to repair and maintain the town's heritage. Adrian Dark is one of its long-serving members and his measured drawings include records of buildings that were once threatened with demolition. Not only have they been saved but we can appreciate the whole range of historic architecture by which they are surrounded.

While creating, over several decades, the hundred measured drawings in this book, Adrian has been gradually filling many sketch-books on his travels around Bradford on Avon. We believe we could not do justice to his artistry without including a representative range of his little sketches in the book.

We are very grateful to Adrian for making the drawings and for allowing us to publish them in this book, so that they are available for all to see. We are also grateful to Godfrey Marks for curating an exhibition of Adrian’s drawings some years ago from which grew the idea for this book, to Annette and John Seekings for promoting the idea of the book and for much effort in putting it together, to Mike Pugh of SerenArts for converting the raw material into a handsome book, to Peter Leach of JFDi Printing for advice on book design, and to Standbrook Guides for allowing us to use their map of the town. And last, but certainly not least, we thank all those who have made this book possible by subscribing to it. Their names are recorded on the facing page.

Foreword by Simon Jenkins...

Small country towns are England’s signal contribution to European architecture. As they grew from market crossroads to early industrial centres, mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries, they became cities in microcosm, an amalgam of rich and poor, commerce and gentility, pretention and humility. Their wealth was the wealth of a nation but their people were born of local soil, as their buildings were of local brick and stone.

Bradford-on-Avon is an exquisite example of such a town. Its prosperity was based on cloth, driven by Cotswold wool and an abundance of fast-flowing water. Its growth coincided with the happiest period of English architecture, when street facades were rebuilt as minor evocations of classical townscape. The simplest street was dusted with dignity and a plain merchant’s house was reborn a palace.

Bradford has the added blessing of contour. This supplies it with a gallery of views, of corners, twists, alleys and sudden vistas of river, church, hillside and dell. It is the embodiment of the picturesque, yet still a busy, workaday town, with a sense of busy-ness and purpose to its streets.

These qualities are precious, and ever more threatened. They depend on those who care for them to defend them. The enemy is not development that might destroy Bradford wholescale, but that chips away at its character by attrition. Preservation is relentless attention to detail and the courage not to be ridiculed for it. This book is a testament to such detail.

Adrian Dark: A Bradford Boy...

As curator of the 2005 exhibition of Adrian Dark's drawings mounted by Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust, of which he has been a member for many years, I am delighted that his work is to be celebrated more permanently by this book.

Adrian was born in Bradford on Avon in 1939, and has lived here all his life, except for 4 years as a student in London. His father had been a coal miner in Somerset until the 1926 General Strike when he moved to Spencer Moulton's rubber works (and came home even blacker from carbon powder!). Having failed the Eleven Plus exam while at Trowbridge Road Junior School, Adrian applied successfully to Adcroft County Secondary Technical School of Building in Trowbridge, as one of the handful of local day-boys among all the boarders. There he learned basic trade skills, specialising in painting and decorating, acquired five GCE O. Levels, played in the soccer first XI, captained the rugby first XV, and became the Day Boy Prefect.

Then he served a four-year apprenticeship in painting, decorating and signwriting with R. J. Austin, whose workshop was in the 1718 Quaker Meeting House in Bradford (demolished in 1965 to make way for St.Margaret's Hall carpark). After studying at night school he gained passes in City & Guilds Painters & Decorators Work and Industrial & Commercial Decorating. In 1961 he was accepted for a four-year course in Interior Design at the Northern Polytechnic, Holloway Road, London N7.

From 1964 to 1982 he worked as Architectural Technician with the partnership Thurlow, Lucas & Janes, Architects, at Melksham, and was involved in shopfitting projects all over the south west. He did the initial survey for the conversion by Avon Rubber of Abbey Mill in Church Street to four storeys of newly fashionable open-plan offices, with kitchen and directors' dining room on the top floor; and he was entrusted with supervising the construction work. After eighteen years at the partnership, his family was struck by tragedy. The loss in 1982 of his schoolboy son Matthew in a local traffic accident persuaded him to work independently nearer home. So he became a high-class painter and decorator, and was much in demand until his retirement in 2004. To this change of career we owe

 

his 1:50-scale drawings of buildings which interested him, based on measurements and sketches made while at work on them, and completed at home during winter months. One Christmas his family paid tribute with a surprise gift of his first twenty seven drawings, secretly copied, reduced in scale, and arranged in groups.

Modest to a fault, and shy of publicity, (he says sketching in graveyards is best for avoiding attention!), Adrian's drawings express with considerable expertise and artistry his devotion to the old buildings, plain or fancy, of his home town. Without foliage, which he avoids, some of his facades look a little bare; dating is sometimes unclear; and many of the occupants so elegantly inscribed on the drawings have since changed. However, this collection is not an historical record; rather, as his pencil notes testify, a very personal accumulation of local images and memories from three decades of plying his trade, up ladders with tape measure as well as paint-brushes. And his sketchbooks are glimpses of subjects large and small, captured during weekend cycle trips further afield.

Adrian is a sporting man too, having mountaineered in UK and the Alps, played rugby for Trowbridge for 20 years, and twice completed the 125 mile Devizes to Westminster canoe race (his other son Simon has represented Britain in canoeing events around the world). His wife Sue, a skilled upholsterer and curtain maker, is also a notable plants-woman and gardener, well known from the Secret Gardens open days initiated by the Preservation Trust. Their daughter Emily crafts decorative artefacts in coloured glass and other materials. Their cottage, outbuildings, garden and paddock, behind that remarkable gothic arch in Woolley Green, are shared with a variety of pet animals and birds.

How I Make a Measured Drawing...

As the name indicates, to measure a building I use a tape and a 2-meter folding wood ruler known as a rod.

The drawing starts with a preliminary free-hand sketch of the building, not to scale, to which carefully measured dimensions are added. Windows, doors, mouldings and other features are measured in detail. I concentrate on the front facade of each building as it is usually the most interesting. As a check on accuracy, I often take a photograph as well.

The next stage is a scaled drawing of the facade to a scale of 1:50, checked for errors. Detailed features are then added.

The final stage is to add colour, matching as closely as possible the colours of the building, and then to combine all the drawings and my supporting text into a neat composition. I like to add any

 

tit-bits of information, not just architectural, that have come to my notice while preparing the drawings. Unless asked otherwise, I also like to add the name/s of the occupant/s at the time.

I have often been asked how I manage to measure upper floors and roof? Most of my measured drawings have been of houses that I was professionally painting and decorating. This meant that I had access to my own ladders. Friends and builders often helped with their ladders and scaffolds. 

Among my success stories was Limpley Stoke Church. I was given permission to access the spire. How to measure it? I drove home, picked up some runner bean canes, a roll of tape, and returned to the church. I taped the canes together and was able to reach the weather vane. Measured the canes. Job done!


Purchase Your Copy Bradford Facades...

To purchase your copy of this excellent publication please use the link below.

The book price is £32.50 inclusive postage and packing
(inclusive p and p to UK mainland only - for all other destinations, please contact us for a quote).

 


 

An Eye for Detail
Adrian Dark’s Sketches: Wessex and Beyond

Chosen from his personal sketch books
Why Another Book?...

Last winter we published Bradford Facades, a book devoted to measured drawings by Adrian Dark. These depicted the facades of interesting buildings in Bradford on Avon. My introductory “Why this Book” included the following brief paragraph: “While creating over several decades the hundred measured drawings in this book, Adrian has been gradually filling many sketch-books on his travels around Bradford on Avon. We believe we could not do justice to his artistry without including a representative range of his little sketches in the book”.

The only previous occasion that Adrian’s measured drawings had been shown to the public was an exhibition of his work arranged by the Preservation Trust in 2005. Many visitors to the exhibition suggested that the sketches be formed into a book.
Bradford Facade’s 100 subscribers had no idea in advance that their book would be embellished by sketches. Many took the trouble to thank us for including the sketches, often renewing the idea of a separate book. When invited to place an advance order, over 60 immediately agreed. This spurred us to go ahead with Another Book.

With Adrian’s help we have selected 100 of the 350 pages from his twenty sketch books and presented these in chronological order. Interspersed between these sketches are personal anecdotes contributed by friends and acquaintances which help to fill out our understanding of the artist and his work.

We are grateful to Adrian for allowing us to publish sketches that were never intended for publication. We are grateful to our subscribers for persuading us to go ahead. And we are grateful to those who have revealed Adrian and his work through personal anecdotes. Finally it remains to thank Annette and John Seekings for promoting the book and pulling it all together, to Mike Pugh for designing the book and transforming it into digital form, and to Peter Leach for successfully getting it into print.

Adrian's Sketches: What's Special

There is a long tradition of architects, such as Lutyens and Herbert Baker, going on sketching expeditions, in their case to record the vernacular buildings from which they drew inspiration. Even in the age of photography, artists such as Frederick L Griggs with his drawings for the ‘Highways and Byways’ books, showed how pencil or pen can convey more than a photograph. Adrian is very much in this tradition. His cycle rides through the country have produced beautiful records of interesting old buildings, often with approximate measurements. He has developed his own style of drawing through this long series of sketch books, through bold use of fibretips to more delicate, more detailed work in pencil or pen and ink, now always choosing the Rapidoliner as his favourite pen. His notes add the special memories of people he met and incidents along the way. This selection can be set beside measured drawings in ‘Bradford Facades’ as a tribute to his talent.

 

 


Purchase Your Copy of An Eye for Detail...

To purchase your copy of this excellent publication please use the link below.

The book price is £16.95 inclusive postage and packing
(inclusive p and p to UK mainland only - for all other destinations, please contact us for a quote).

 


 

Contact

Please use the contact information below to get in touch with us...

SerenArts Gallery
Unit 3 Tithebarn Workshops
Pound Lane
Bradford-on-Avon
BA15 1LF

01225 868644

info@serenarts.com