The Johnson Report

In 1984 Francis Johnson looked very carefully at the village: he produced a report.

Francis Johnson’s Daily Telegraph obituary confidently claimed that he ‘was the most accomplished architect working in the classical tradition in the north of England.’  And, as he practised  mainly in his native Yorkshire,  his admiration for Settrington’s Georgian heritage comes as no surprise.  His report gave a very clear warning of the dangers the settlement faced, and still faces, from today’s pressures.

An examination of the parish council minute book reveals that until the nineteen eighties  years went by without a reference to any proposed development.  Now planning applications figure at almost every meeting.  Since 1984 every application has been considered in the light of the Johnson recommendations and its value to the village is there for all to see.

Francis Johnson was aware of the pressures which presented a threat to the integrity of Settrington’s  architecture but he believed that the damage already done “had not advanced too far to prevent a halt”.

By 1984 the estate cottages were beginning to pass into the ownership of people who expected to enjoy a very different lifestyle : they naturally wished to enjoy amenities currently available and, hence, more living space was necessary.  This trend continued and, in more recent years, there have been infill spaces identified and more farm building conversions proposed.  It was these continuing concerns  which prompted the decision to embark upon a Village Design Statement.

The village with Settrington House, Rectory, and Church forms an interesting and still relatively homogeneous group of buildings and should be considered together when evaluated.

The Report reads;

A very complete estate village such as Settrington has a great potential in its quiet setting with sheltering hills on the east, a clear running brook down the middle of the main street, and relative freedom from traffic whilst enjoying accessibility.  All these attractive qualities apart from aesthetic consideration place it in considerable danger under today’s pressures.  Many of its most important qualities are fragile as can easily be seen by the substitution of windows out of scale and character.  Fortunately the damage has not advanced too far to prevent a halt, and in some instances a positive removal of eyesores and gradual policy of reclamation, as well as protection.

The majority of the houses are well and suitably painted with lintels and cills in an excellent stone colour which blend perfectly with the walls.  White for the window frames and sashes cannot be bettered.  If these two colours can be insisted upon by common consent one important minor battle will have been won.

A number of very unsuitable windows have made their appearance, and are a blemish aesthetically, being clumsy and out of scale.  Fortunately not a few show signs already of deterioration.  A quantity of the original Yorkshire sashes remain in situ, and a number have been replaced by sympathetic casements with the same number of panes and weight of woodwork.  Also there are three light windows which have been changed to casements and achieved elegant results as in the old Blacksmith’s house.  However, it is the mixture of large and small paned windows in individual cottages which in a village of such homogeneity as Settrington are disastrous, and produce a discordant untidy effect, which is damaging to the whole.  Where replacements have to be made a return of homogeneity should be strongly aimed at and the window openings should not be altered in size or shape.

 Roofing is important.  Clay pantiles are still obtainable and should with very few exceptions be insisted upon.  Flat roofs should be avoided not only for appearance but also in the interests of lasting structure.  Lead is the only form of flat roofing worth using, but the expensive lead roofing is out of context in the strongly vernacular entity that Settrington presents.

 The village is not a close development and this means that the backs of the properties are visible from many points and are of consequent importance.  There are some very good groupings which should be preserved as far as possible.  Infilling too requires the utmost care in choice of colour for stone facing (no brick facing should be seen except the continued use of such for chimney stacks).  Also shape and size of windows, proportions generally including panes of glass, and lastly the maintenance of the prevalent and harmonious pitches of roofs.  Any infilling must be most carefully sited in relation to neighbouring buildings and should be only minimal.

 On the east side of the main village street the buildings tend to be more closely grouped following the line of the lane as they should do.  Where set back particularly on the west side on the stream they become an important element in the sky line.  The original cottages thus sited are most effective and just, both in scale and outline.

Taken as a whole this is one of the few really fine villages in the area which cry out for a policy of protection to retain their beauty not only for the present inhabitants but also futurity.

It is proposed to add a list of buildings to this report but to summarize I would say as follows:-

Walling – Stone of same colour texture and scale as existing and avoidance of snail pointing.

Roofing – Clay pantiles as a covering, retaining the average pitch of the remaining buildings.

Windows – Homogeneity with the original Yorkshire sliding sashes as far as possible, and panes of the same size in each individual group of houses, which should be kept in scale with the old examples.  Standard windows generally are to be deplored.  They are neither well designed nor proportioned.

 Doors – Maintenance of simplicity, largely as at present, and painted either white or stone drab.

Chimneys – As mentioned before.  The only brick structure generally in evidence.  These look right in conjunction with the clay pantile roofs.

Character – As far as humanly possible the design of the village as it stands should be maintained and development very carefully carried out and severely restricted.  The maintenance of the village thus as an entity should also maintain its market value within reasonable limits.  Fancy features such as porches etc., should be banned.

Painting – Stone lintels and cills could not be improved as the majority are painted now.  Sashes and window frames should be uniform in white.  Rainwater goods etc., should be painted stone drab and entrance doors either white or stone drab.

 Permitted Development – Most of the items mentioned here are permitted development in a conservation area and it is strongly suggested that Article 4 Direction should be applied for to maintain Settrington.

 Francis F. Johnson & Partners

Chartered Architects

16 High Street


YO16 4PX


FFJ/JR/1224                                                                                                         15th April 1984.