Saturday, 10 March 2012

Cotswold Houses (1)

This corner of England where I live is known as “The Cotswolds”. The etymological origins of the word Cotswolds comes from the words “cots” meaning stone sheep shelters and “wolds” meaning rolling hills. The area is rich in oolite limestone from which most of the houses are built. There are many great houses, some owned by the National Trust, but most are still in the ownership of generations of the same family. Many of these houses are open to visitors during the late spring months until mid-autumn. They are a rich source of architecture and full of works of art. Built in the lovely Cotswold honey coloured stone and situated in glorious countryside, they are a joy to visit.
Stanway House

The medieval fish pond survives from the days when it was a source of food for Tewkesbury Abbey. 
Stanway House is a prime example of the many beautiful homes. It is an outstanding Jacobean Manor house, owned by Tewkesbury Abbey for 800 years then for 500 years by the Tracy family and their descendants, the Earls of Wemyss. The Tracy's, very unusually, claimed descent from Charlemagne, and were almost unique in England for having owned land since before the Norman Conquest.
courtesy blindwing
courtesy EricHardy
The gatehouse is a gem, one of the best pieces of architecture in the Cotswolds. It was built for Sir Richard tracy in 1630. The lodges, either side of the gateway, have narrow bay windows and the whole is topped by shaped gables crowned with the Tracy scallop shells. The archway has fluted columns either side.
The tithe barn is medieval built in 1370 for Tewkesbury Abbey. It has a stone roof supported by massive base cruck timbers. It is a fine building and now used for events and as a theatre.
Through the arch the rear view of the gatehouse can be seen.
This gabled west front is Elizabethan being the oldest part of the house and includes the great hall. The great hall is extraordinarily light having an enormous full height bay window which you can see through this arch.
The glory of the Stanway Baroque water garden is the single-jet fountain in the canal. It rises to over 300 ft, making it the tallest fountain in Britain, and the tallest gravity fountain in the world.
View from each end of the water canal
View half way along the water canal where it is just possible to make out a pyramid folly built in 1735 at the top of the hill, from which a cascade used to descend.
No pictures allowed indoors. Amongst the many wonderful things to see I will just mention two. One of the bedrooms is decorated in William Morris wallpaper, which was actually hung by the great man himself. I resisted the temptation to touch it. These bedroom walls are adorned with Rossetti and Burne-Jones paintings and sketches. 
In the families everyday room, there are two cabinets holding a priceless collection of Chelsea china plates from the period 1752-1756. They are decorated with botanically accurate plants, copied from an edition of Philip Miller's, The Gardener's Dictionary. Philip Miller was a Botanist, and Head Gardner at the Chelsea Physic garden during that mid 18th century period. The china is known as "Hans Sloane" flowers and vegetables as Philip Miller sketched many of his illustrations in Sir Hans Sloane's garden. Two plates in particular caught my eye, which although different,  both featured pea pods, closed and open, along with their flowers and leaves. If I could have had one thing it would have been that pair of plates. They would have complimented my pea pod collection perfectly.
Examples of fine Chelsea porcelain from that early period.
courtesy Christies

Cotswold Houses (2) here
Two Posts today


  1. Hello Rosemary:
    How we have enjoyed reading this post which brought back so many memories of Stanway of years ago when the tithe barn was, simply, a barn, when the restoration of the water jet was no more than a dream, and when Lord N served us mugs of instant coffee [rather nasty, it must be said] in the kitchen.

    So much appears to have changed but the superb architecture remains, as you describe, the same.

    1. Dear Jane and Lance - so pleased that this brought back fond memories for you. Yes, Lord N is still the same, he is quite a character. He came to talk to a Fabians meeting that H attends, and turned up in his old clapped out car. His son was home from Eton, so came to help him with his projector, and then a whole lot of people turned up in wedding outfits, his relatives, as that was where they were off to next!!!

  2. Dear Roscmary
    I say again ! Yes, your post it is so interesting ! I love the old houses ,their history ,the past and the present .And the way of your writing ! Please, forgive me for my poor English .I have use from University years ...
    Have an interesting weekend

    1. Dear Olympia - your English is very good, and you have made a perfect start to my day. I am so happy that you enjoyed seeing and reading the post - thank you very much for your lovely comments.
      The sun is shinning here, and I hope the sun is shinning with you too.

  3. I love historic houses. How wonderful they are so easily to access!

    The china, of course, is absolutely FANTASTC! The artichokes are so beautiful! You must now, Rosemary that I not only love eating artichokes, but I also think they one of nature's masterpieces.
    The plate, also is gorheous and... that bunch of asparagus... what can I say? I love it all!

    I like old china myself, and collect cups, saucers, plates... anything which catches my eye! The one who buys the real antiques, though, is my husband. He has two magnificent statues sculpted by an Italian artist, Domenico Guarnerio in 1750. They are lifesize and a bit scary, for being so life like, but beautiful, all the same... very beautiful!

    Thank you for another great post! I am now off to look at the "Pea pod" link!



    1. Dearest Anna - you are always so generous in your comments they are a joy to read. I agree artichokes are beautiful - they are like natures little pieces of sculpture. I took some pictures of them in Sicily - green to purple in colour, and there they grow wild. How lovely to wander in the countryside and come home with a basket of wild artichokes.
      Your statues from 1750 are contemporary with the Chelsea china I showed - any chance of you writing about them sometime?

  4. Dear Rosemary, Such beautiful photographs and again a very interesting post. That is the most amazing single jet fountain.
    Our pond is spring fed and flows at 39 gallons per minute. We have tried several electric pumps(to give the fish extra oxygen) but it is not the same.

    1. Dear Gina - the fountain is spectacular. I know it cost a lot of money to restore. There is a 100,000 gallon reservoir which is 580 feet above the Canal which enables it to work via gravity.

  5. Dear Rosemary,
    On reading this blog.. i fantasised that i was dressed Elisabethan style and the stunning Stanway house was hustling and bustling with horses and carriages and gay laughter..
    As always write such an interesting blog..
    This blog is super.. The fountain is fantastic.
    I think i will have to take a visit to your lovely part of the world.. I know little of England. Leaving it for Africa when i was 8..
    The ceramics are simply delightful.. We have similar ceramics from the central region of
    Caldas da Rainha.. very different from Alentejo pottery.
    I enjoyed this Rosemary..
    Have a happy weekend.

    1. Dear Val - I am picturing you prancing around in your Elizabethan outfit, the belle of the ball. Yes, you should visit this area, I am sure you would enjoy it - it is quintessential England. Hope your weekend is good too.

  6. The bildings are so beautiful. Often think how people were living in that period. Also the garden with the fountain is so gorgeous.
    gr. Marijke

    1. Dear Marijke - they put so much work into the buildings generations back. All of the lovely detailing in the stonework around the door entrances, the windows, on the gables and even on the chimneys where it cannot even be seen. The houses have lasted for hundreds of years, I wonder how long houses built today will last?

  7. Wow, what a beautiful place!
    I think I could walk around there for hours.
    All your photos are beautiful, I especially like the first.
    Wish you a beautiful Sunday.

    1. When you first walk up the path to the house, that photo is the first view you get of the house, and it does take your breath away with its golden beauty.

  8. Hello, Rosemary - I can imagine that visiting Stanway House would make a perfect day trip, with great architercture and gardens, and great interiors. I'm always impressed with the vision to have installed huge windows in such early structures, when glass was so dear.

    1. Dear Mark - the windows are amazing especially when you remember that in the mid 17th century they were a great luxury. The ordinary man had to make do with linen soaked in linseed oil. It wasn't until 500 years later that the ordinary man began to have glass in his home.

  9. Gorgeous photos! I love the architecture. You captured the details beautifully!

    1. Dear Marie - I am pleased you enjoyed seeing them, and as you say the architecture is lovely. It is a very fine old house.

  10. You show us very nice places and pictures,
    my compliments.

    warm greetings, Joop

    1. Dear Joop - thank you very much and I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing Stanway House.


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