Nevil Smart also built the house in the High Road, next to Cherry Tree Woods which used to be known as Doctor Dick's House and is now the site of Park House (how these names persist) and No 2 next door. Between these houses and No I Park Place, near the site of the Phoenix Cinema, was Smart's brickfield.
The next two houses along Fortis Green were built by Anthony Salvin, a very famous architect. He was almost forgotten until quite recently when Jill Allibone wrote a splendid biography. 11 In his day he had an enormous practice all over the country, so big that one year his business income reached £24.000 - perhaps half a million pound at today's prices. He became Vice President of the Royal Institute of British Architect and, in 1862, was presented with the Queen's Gold Medal.
Anthony Salvin was one of the many Victorian architects interested in Gothic architecture. Horace Walpole had built Strawberry Hill in the Gothic Revival style after 1747, and Beckford built Fonthill from 1796, but these were a sort of 'wallpaper gothic'. They were more like elegant and fanciful stage scenery than solid architecture, so insubstantial indeed that Fonthill actually fell down. Salvin's Gothic was far more serious and historically accurate. This book is no place to go into the architectural controversy which raged for years between the Palladian architects who worshipped in Greece and Rome, going back to the classical tradition, and those who wished to return to the Gothic ideas of the great cathedral-building age of Northern Europe. Pugin rebuilt the Houses of Commons in Gothic: Palmerston said that Gothic was barbarism and insisted on a Palladian Foreign Office and got, in fact, a most modern Victorian one. The Foreign Office has a Palladian front on a high-tec Victorian building, as up to date as any Victorian railway station. The battle of the T squares was fought for years, with each side claiming the moral high ground.
Instead of being involved in this sound and fury, Salvin studied early architectural styles very carefully, restoring, rebuilding, and building afresh, in a sympathetic way which fitted in with old buildings and did not shock. Others took a piece from this period and a piece from that, to produce a hybrid style never seen before or since, not unlike our present Post Modernist phase. Salvin did not go in for the Gothic town halls and railway stations which became so popular in Victorian times, but continued to build Tudor or Jacobean houses and Norman, Early English, or Decorated churches, built in traditional materials, using traditional craftsmanship. He would no more have thought of introducing wrought iron piers and braces into Gothic churches, as.Violet-le-Duc did, than of using corrugated iron for his restoration of the Tower of London.
Salvin's practice had developed in a different way - through the restoration of old buildings. The story of Anthony Salvin and his cousin William Nesfield is closely linked with Fortis Green and East End Road, so a sketch of the two may be of interest.
William Nesfield, who was twelve years older than Salvin, had been commissioned in the 95th Foot and fought in the Peninsular War. All officers were taught to make topographical drawings and maps. During this training at Woolwich, where he would have been taught by Thomas Paul Sandby, Nesfield found that he had a talent for watercolour painting. At the end of the Napoleonic War, in 1819, Nesfield was put on half pay and resolved to become a landscape painter. Anthony Salvin often used to stay with his uncle, Nesfield's father, who was rector of St Brandon's Church, Durham. The rectory was within a few hundred yards of Brancepeth Castle, which was then being restored. This large-scale restoration, employing at one period 300 men, so excited
11 Anthony Salvin: Pioneer of Gothic Revival Architecture, by Jill Allibone, Lutterworth Press, Cam bs, 1987