Visitors hear tales of Leamington designer
with HEATHER-LYNN EVANSON
HE HAS A COLOUR named after him, but he forgot to add steps into the design when he drew the plans for Mango Bay House.
These were just two of the little known facts about the renowned designer Oliver Messel which were revealed by Sir Paul Altman.
He was speaking at the Barbados National Trust Open House programme at Leamington House in St Peter.
The realtor said the shade of green made popular by Messel could be seen on all of the houses he designed. It’s on Leamington, Fustic House in St Lucy, his own – Maddox House, and Cockade House, both on the West Coast.
“That was his signature colour. If you go into a paint shop and ask for Messel Green, that is the colour they will give you in Barbados because that colour bears his name,” Sir Paul explained to the hundreds who journeyed to the Open House last week. But it was the story of Mango Bay House that drew chuckles from the visitors. “He [Messel] was more of a stage set designer than an architect. So when it came to building homes, he would make a drawing and give it to a builder, and come and watch and see how it was progressing,” Sir Paul explained.
“At Mango Bay, the drawing he did showed an upstairs and downstairs and everything was perfect and it was built. And then he said, ‘I forgot to build steps’.”
The steps were then added on the outside.
And if it rained?
“If you go to Mango Bay today you will see there is an umbrella stand downstairs and an umbrella stand upstairs,” Sir Paul said.
He also spoke about the neighbouring town of Speightstown which he described as the original port of Barbados.
He said the five jetties that once jutted from its coast underscored Speightstown’s role in the trade with Bristol, England. In addition, it was so important it was guarded by no less than five forts – Orange Fort, Fort Denmark, Coconut Fort, Dover Fort and the battery at Heywoods.
“Speightstown was always a town where people lived and worked. It wasn’t just commerce that took place in Speightstown. And people still live in Speightstown. Bridgetown closes down at night.”
Sir Paul also pointed to Arlington House, which was the architectural template taken to South Carolina, United States, and used in the houses there.
“And that was because they paid a tax based on how much road they occupied. The less wide the house, the less tax you paid.”
SIR PAUL ALTMAN spoke about the history of Leamington House and
Speightstown during his lively lecture.
THE INTERIOR of Leamington House. It was once the residence of the US ambassador. (Pictures by Heather-Lynn Evanson.)
were two of the visitors to Leamington House. STELLA LADY ST JOHN
(right) and her friend Barbro McAusland
THE SECTION of Leamington House that was desgined by Oliver Messel. (HLE)