Monday, November 30, 2015

Word of the Day: Grimthorpe

This morning, I received an unconfirmed report about work going on inside one of Hudson's grand houses. With that on my mind, while in the kitchen making a cup of coffee, I tore yesterday's page off my Forgotten English daily calendar, to reveal the word for November 30: grimthorpe. 

The word grimthorpe is a verb. The calendar defines it thus: "to restore an ancient building with lavish expenditure rather than skill and fine taste." Merriam-Webster offers this definition: "to remodel (an ancient building) without proper knowledge or care to retain its original quality and character."

The inspiration for the word is Edmund Beckett, 1st Baron Grimthorpe, who was responsible for rebuilding, at his own expense, the west facade of St. Albans Cathedral, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. The building was in need of repair, but the "restoration," which was carried out in the 1880s and 1890s, turned out to be a highly unsympathetic Victorian re-imagining of the medieval cathedral.

According to the history on the cathedral's website, "Lord Grimthorpe had no architectural training and bad taste. . . . Many antiquarians protested, by no one had the power to stop him." Popular opinion at the time was that he had changed the cathedral's character, and this inspired the coining and brief popularity of the term "to grimtrophe" meaning  "to restore with the effect of spoiling."

The restoration of St. Albans complete, Lord Grimthorpe turned his attention to two parish churches in St. Albans--St. Peter's and St. Michael's.

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