While flicking through the most recent addition to my bookshelf, volume 10 from the 1896 editions of Academy Architecture, I was thrilled to behold this previously unseen prospective view of Milkbank House among its pages.
Milkbank is among my favourite ruins, and has always intruiged me as a little bit of a mystery. Information on its history is scarce, and it is actually listed as having been demolished in the 1960s, despite the fact its elaborately adorned walls still stand.
I have been trying to track down this elusive volume for some time as I knew it contained reference to the house, however I was quite breathtaken by the wonderful and completely unexpected image which awaited my discovery.
I always love seeing these prospective views, produced by an architect as a sort of marketing ploy to seduce his clients. The swirling clouds, soaring birds and civilized gathering of figures on the terrace are common features of such drawings, all painting a scene of stirring and tantalizing grandeur any client would be hard pressed to resist.
They also showcase the skill of an architect in conceiving of every detail of such an elaborate composition before a single stone is put in place. It is another reminder of the incredible time and effort which went into the designing and planning of such buildings; months worth of work which time can only too quickly erase.
I can’t help but wonder how Milkbank’s architect Frank James Chambers Carruthers would have felt seeing this alternative prospective view of the house as a ruin, and knowing that his masterpiece would last little more than sixty years before being abandoned and left in decline.