Roof ornaments in Funchal, Madeira

MANY ROOFS IN FUNCHAL are covered with terracotta tiles. Quite a few of these roofs have small sculptures on their corners. Many of them depict heads, birds, and scrolls ( leaves?) I have no idea why these things are added to the roofs.

Someone suggested that these ornaments are supposed to deter mice, squirrels, and birds. Maybe, they are for that purpose. In India ornaments depicting ogre’s faces (‘rakshasa’) are atteched to roofs to ward off the Evil Eye. Possibly, this is a finction of the ornaments I have seen in Funchal. Another possible function of these roof ornaments (finials) might be to distinguish one house from another. However, I am not sure about this here in Funchal because there is little variety in the firms used.

I would love to know more about them: their purpose and history.

The way to the summer ballroom

HOLLAND HOUSE IN Holland Park was badly damaged by aerial bombing during WW2. What is left of the building shows that it must have been a splendid Jacobean palace. It stands on the estate of Sir Walter Cope (c1533-1614), for whom it was originally constructed. In his time, the estate extended south from what is now Holland Park Avenue almost to what is now Fulham Road.

Although much of Holland House was destroyed in the War, many of its out-houses still stand today. Amongst these are the icehouse with its conical roof; a disused dairy; a stable block which now houses a Parks police station; and an orangery, which is attached to what was once the summer ballroom.

A covered arcade, open to the outside on one side, runs from where the southwest corner of the house used to stand, passing near the icehouse, to the southeast corner of the orangery. In poor weather, this long covered passageway was used by house guests moving between Holland House and its summer ballroom. From the western end of the passageway, they would have had to walk through the orangery to reach the ballroom. In fine weather, those attending balls would have walked along the walkway above the covered passage. In places, this runs past walls covered with colourful tiled panels, made in Florence (Italy), which were placed there in the 1850s. The wall of one stretch of the covered walkway, the section nearest to the orangery, are painted with scenes depicting an imaginary garden party held sometime in the 1870s. They were created between 1994 and 1995 by the artist Mao Wen Biao (born 1950).

Currently, the former summer ballroom is being restored. For many years, it was home to The Belvedere restaurant, a pricey establishment. When the restoration of the ballroom is complete and its former glory restored as much as possible, it will be used to house a new Italian restaurant, which is planned to be more affordable than its predecessor.

Over several decades, we have made innumerable visits to lovely Holland Park, but had not realised that the arcade described above was anything but decorative. Today, we met Jenny Kettlewell, who is the Chairman of the Friends of Holland Park. It was she who revealed its purpose. Currently (2nd to 10th of April 2022), there is an annual art exhibition in the orangery. The works on display are by local artists.