Fabulous Front Entrances: the lych gate...
If one of the elements of a Fabulous Front Entrance is a sense of pageantry, (and I do believe it is) then an old-fashioned lych gate must surely be up for contention, because it makes a big song and dance at the entrance, celebrating that dividing line between public and private space.
Despite having a rather morbid origin (I'll get to that in a minute, and besides, it is the month of Halloween, so we can talk about these things), the lych gate looks a rather welcoming item.
Lych gate simply means "a gate covered with a roof". It can be spelt as two words or as "lychgate".
And the morbid part? Oh, yes I promised. Ok then... It comes from the old English word "lic" meaning "corpse", and the purpose of the structure was to create a place to rest the shroud-wrapped body, (in the Middle Ages) so the priest could perform the first part of the burial service under cover.
It's the reason why old churches have them, but there's also a charming old English custom, of a much cheerier type, whereby the local children lock the lych gate during a wedding. The newly married couple then have to pay the children to unlock the gate, and celebrate the unlocking with a kiss.
So why do private houses have them? They were popular, as a romantic folly, during the late 1800s and a little beyond, and were often incorporated into Arts & Crafts style homes, as a chance to feature a bit of fancy woodwork.
To be technically accurate, the lych gate should have a covered roof, like the one in front of this Edwardian house for sale in Canterbury, Melbourne. This one is very fancy, because it even has a little terracotta finial thing going on. Do you see it?
But the ones which I love best are more of a landscape element...in the form of a pergola type arrangement. This incredibly detailed aubergine-painted timber and wrought iron bar version is in Illinois, and incorporates the notion of a moongate (or rounded entry) into the gate design.
Then there is the style which is more of a suggestion of a covered roof, or simply an arch over the gateway (no actual gate), upon which roses clamber up and out of the adjacent urn.
I snapped this entrance on our recent trip to Hobart, and it shows how well a simple, modern line can enhance an older cottage.
No need for contemporary landscape design to be left out of the lych gate party either.
This very considered work is by Ibara Rosano Design Architects, and is the entrance to a house in Tucson Arizona.
I think it is arrestingly beautiful.
No gate needed...the over-scaled suggestion of a roof is enough to form that sense of entry, of threshold from public to private space.
And that's certainly part of what makes up a Fabulous Front Entrance.
Have you seen any lych gates in the streets around where you live?