38 C O N T E X T 1 5 7 : N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 8 JANE HOULTON An extraordinary baroque miniature It is a mystery why, in the most modest of contexts, the Fountaine Hospital Almshouse was built, in the early to mid 1720s, of ambitious, sophisticated architecture in the baroque style. Linton-in-Craven, in the Yorkshire Dales, is an unpretentious village. Until the mid-19th century, it was a parish with little poverty, and no more than 20 houses, stone-built, of vernacular style. Even then, with the creation of employment at a textile mill on the nearby River Wharfe, the village grew little. The mill closed in the 1950s; Linton has no shop or post office – just one inn on the green which draws in visitors for its food and drink. In the early 18th century, the local residents were predominantly independent landowning farmers with small holdings and crofts. Hemp, and some wool, were the main crops for market. There were no large aristocratic landowners or patrons, no important estates or gentry houses. In the Linton of that period (and indeed to date) there are only two houses that might be described as of higher social status, although not of notable architecture – these belonging to families of the lower gentry. Extraordinarily, in this modest context, was built, in the early to mid-1720s, an almshouse of ambitious, sophisticated architecture, of English baroque style. The Fountaine Hospital Almshouse, is unique among British almshouses. Almshouses are often humble, discreet edifices; they speak of the reduced circumstances of their residents, and the benefactor’s understated gen- erosity. Not this one. A June evening in Linton (Photo: Victoria Fattorini) The context of Linton village The central tower element is projected slightly forward and framed by two giant order pilasters (Doric, but without entasis), supporting an entablature (that is, the upper part of a classical building supported by columns or a colonnade, comprising the architrave, frieze and cornice), with triglyphs and a deeply projected cornice, capped by two large urns as finials. Mystery and myths surrounded for long years – centuries even – the origins of the building. It was allowed to fall into disrepair in the 18th century – such that the Charity Commissioners intervened to reconstitute the Hospital’sTrust in the early 19th century. Fountaine family heirs, local to Linton, who had been the majority of