Operation ‘Paint the Town’: putting some colour into Wellington’s cheeks
Like most towns, the buildings that make up the centre of Wellington are a bit of a hotch-potch: some are relatively modern, most are Victorian and Georgian, and some, like Subway on Market Square and the White Lion, are visibly much older still.
The town’s gradual evolution over the centuries has left us with a townscape that is architecturally varied, and which has character. But we could make it that bit more interesting – and a lot more attractive – if we were a more adventurous with our colour schemes. Many of Wellington’s buildings are in straight-forward exposed brick, and beyond the appropriate maintenance should be left as they are. Others, however, have at some stage in their lives been rendered and painted – and these give us an opportunity that for the most part, we’re missing. Take a look at these examples of painted buildings in the centre of Wellington and see if you spot any similarities…
There’s a lot of white and magnolia going on, isn’t there? It’s an obvious choice for a building, and in many cases a perfectly good choice, but can’t we be a bit more creative? It’s not as though historical accuracy ties us to off-white – in earlier periods, other colours were not uncommon. Indeed, many of you will have noticed in other towns that colour is more commonly splashed about than here in Wellington, without it looking out of place.
There are regional traditions to bear in mind here – Cornwall is distinctive from Norfolk which in turn is distinctive from Kent – and I’m not suggesting we turn ourselves into something we’re not. But across Shropshire we can easily find evidence that there’s nothing about local style that weds us to the magnolia paint tins. In Ludlow, Shrewsbury and Bishop’s Castle, for instance, there are a number of instances where streets are brought to life with vivid (yet also wholly appropriate) colours.
Wellington is not entirely monotone. Rayner’s Opticians recently had a spruce up and took the opportunity to give their paintwork a makeover in duck-egg blue. And just outside the main shopping area on Vineyard Road, the householders have long been showing off their period properties in pink, purple and green. Good work, Vineyard Road!
So let’s take their lead and allow this perkier palette to permeate the rest of the town centre. Am I advocating the wreckless slapping of lurid hues all over historic Wellington? No, of course not – Vineyard Road is subtly done and in colours not inappropriate to the periods these properties were built in. And I’m not expecting businesses or landlords to suddenly acquire in depth knowledge of architectural history so they they pick a colour that fits. But maybe with the help of the council’s conservation officer, we could draw up an ‘approved palette’ of colours which encourages owners to do more than just play safe with magnolia. It’s unlikely that many shops will set off and start repainting (at some expense) but at least when existing businesses come to refurbish their properties, or new businesses open, they’ll be encouraged to be more adventurous whilst knowing they have backing to do so.
At the moment, as I understand it, the conservation team works to protect buildings by telling owners what they shouldn’t do, but I’m not sure if they currently have a role in proactively guiding people as to what they could be doing, i.e. just making some suggestions about how to make the most of their buildings in line with their architectural style and history.
Painting buildings is not the biggest thing that’s going to help sustain Wellington’s current revival – that will be about having fantastic shops and other things to enjoy – but it addresses the topic I often allude to in these blog posts of how we ‘dress’ the town to make it look its best. Wellington needs to be as interesting and as visually inviting as it can be. Colourful buildings are one way to raise a smile, and in so doing to help cement a physical sense of place that people associate with warm, positive feelings. So let’s get painting.