"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Friday, 31 July 2015

Stoneywell Cottage

I had a day out yesterday with a friend and we decided to visit a National Trust cottage that has only been open since the Spring. Stoneywell Cottage, located high on the Charnwood escarpment in Leicestershire is a family home that tells the story of the Arts and Crafts Movement. It is certainly one of the most delightful, quirky and charming NT properties I've ever visited. As was intended the cottage seems part of the landscape and the hilly gardens are planted with heathers, gorse, bilberry, bracken, rhododendrons and azaleas set among woodland and rocky outcrops of the ancient pre-Cambrian rock found in the Charnwood area.

Stoneywell was originally built in 1899 as a summer retreat by Ernest Gimson, an Arts and Crafts Designer, for his brother Sydney who had bought some land in the area. Gimson built three cottages along Polly Botts Lane (briliant name!) for his 2 brothers and sister. The cottage is built of local stone and was originally thatched. Following a fire which destroyed the thatched roof in 1939 the roof was covered in local Swithland slate.

Ernest Gimson was inspired by William Morris and he and Ernest and Sidney Barnsley, together with Detmar Blow, formed the Cotswold School of the Arts and Craft Movement.
Donald Gimson, the grandson of Stoneywell's first owners, Sydney and Jeannie Gimson, lived in the house full-time from 1953 to 2010 when the Trust acquired Stoneywell. The Trust has focused, therefore, on the 1950's for presenting the house. Much of the furniture is original and many items were designed by Ernest Gimson and built in his Cotswold workshops.

Before exploring we had lunch - a rather tasty cheese scone served with butter, pickle and grated cheese.

And then off for a guided tour of the house (I don't think you can walk round on your own) which lasted an hour and was exceedingly informative with lots of stories about the families that have used the cottage as a home or holiday retreat.

The first view of the Cottage.

The slate lintel above the front door (and above the fireplace in the Dining Room) each weigh about one and half tons.

Entering the cottage through the front door you enter straight into the Dining Room which was the kitchen until 1953. The guide told us an interesting story about the horns over the fireplace. Apparently a bull had run into the cottage at huge speed leaving his horns embedded in the wall when he eventually backed away! The dining table was made by Sidney Barnsley and the chairs came from Ernest's own workshop.

The pantry

The cottage contains six levels and you go up some steps into the Sitting Room. The room is divided into two areas - one used in the daytime and the other for evening relaxation.

A steep winding staircase leads up to the main bedroom.

The chest was designed by Joseph Armitage and is carved with a frieze of hops, foliage, fruit and flowers. Armitage designed the NT Oak Leaf logo in 1936. Because the house contains so many levels children over the years were able to enter the bedroom window from outside.

The Walkthrough Bedroom or Nursery

The print over the door is taken from a painting by a school child from Vienna which was sold to raise money by the Red Cross during World War 1.

The 5-sided Spare Bedroom - the oak double bed is one of Stoneywell's original pieces and was made by Sidney Barnsley.

I didn't take any photos in the Well Room or Bathroom but the final room we visited on the highest level (and my personal favourite) was called Olympus by the family after Mount Olympus the highest point in the ancient Greek world. It was used by visitors for many years and then by Donald's Aunt Nora. Note the Swallows and Amazon books - the whole cottage and surrounding grounds are reminiscent of the world of so many children's books from the Famous Five to Narnia to Winnie the Pooh.

We followed a path round the cottage to get more views of this quirky and lovely building.

We then spent a couple of hours wandering round the gardens and grounds. It was lovely to see harebells.

This is the well topped with a conical roof. It was used until the arrival of mains water in 1967.

This hideout is known as The Fort and was built on top of a natural rocky outcrop.

The Walled Garden

The loo with a difference - years ago when I was a child we stopped at a cottage in North Wales which had a similar but much more basic loo located in a shed at the end of the garden!!

Revisiting the Charnwood area brought back many memories as we often used to go there for a day out when I was a child. Somewhere at mum's house is some cine and photos of me climbing quite a tall rocky outcrop - I was a bit of a daredevil/tomboy in those days when health and safety didn't exist whilst my younger brother who I am afraid to say was a bit of a wuss was faffing around on rocks at the very bottom.

I really enjoyed yesterday and I hope to visit again with B - you can walk through woodlands there too (sadly, we ran out of time yesterday).

Reference: NT Guidebook to Stoneywell Cottage


amanda peters said...

It is the most delightful place, could live there quite happy. I like the wide windowsills, at my aunties farm the toilets were like that for many years when we were children, the hole just went into the field I think, I remember it was very breezy going to the toilet!
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda. lol re: your auntie's toilet :) I liked the wide windowsills too and the window seats - have always wanted a house with a window seat :) It would be the most amazing place to live and especially great to bring up children.

David Turner said...

A delightful and interesting property indeed, and definitely worth checking out the next time I am down in Leicestershire, which hopefully will be sometime later this year (the Great Central Railway is based at Loughborough). The gardens sound & look wonderful, whilst the 'fort' looks like a great place for children (and adults) to play :-)

Hope all is well and kindest regards :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David Turner - Thank you David. Its definitely worth a visit and because they limit numbers its fairly quiet there compared to other NT properties. But you do have to book in advance. I got a place with 2 day's notice. If you look at the NTStoneywell website you can book online. Allow time for the walk through woods too :) Also we found it quite difficult to locate the car park so check route first!!

Hope all is well with you too - Very best wishes Caroline

Bovey Belle said...

What a beautiful house. Wish it was nearer so we could visit. I could move in there tomorrow! Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos.

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle- Thank you - I found it totally idyllic and yes I could move in tomorrow too :)

Deb said...

What a lovely house. I love all the quirky nooks and crannies. I would be quite happy living there. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks Deb - would be a rather wonderful place to live :)

Bovey Belle said...

P.S. I have window-seats and have NEVER had time to sit down and read a book on one . . .

Ragged Robin said...

Bovey Belle - I can sympathise there - I hardly ever pick up a book in the day - it has to wait until the evening. Since OH took early retirement I am even less likely to be able to sit around doing what I would really like to be doing :( Even computer time is now limited :(

Chris Rohrer said...

Yummy cheese scone:) This place reminds me, in several pics, of the Shire. The place around the cottage is really really nice. I especially love the pantry and bathroom. I can only imagine what it would be like to use their bathroom. When I was a kid, I was fascinated by old storage places that held garden items and canning. Pantries were yet another place that were hidden nooks within a house. Pretty special places. And that cheese scone:)

Millymollymandy said...

What a beautiful house, both inside and out. Quite some chimney stack too! I love the furniture which doesn't look anything like what I think of as 50s - I'd be happy with a lot of what I see here, and the larder is to die for. And as for that doorway and door out of the nursery, gorgeous!

Thanks for sharing this lovely place with us (I'm behind with everyone's blogs as usual, will catch up eventually!).

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris - would agree over The Shire - whole place very reminiscent of Tolkien's world :)

I'm going to make some cheese scones at home - had forgotten how delicious they were and I liked the idea of serving them with grated cheese and pickle too :)

I love hidden nooks and crannies too and there were dozens in that cottage :)

Millymollymandy - Thanks very much - so pleased you enjoyed Stoneywell :)

It was the most delightful place to wander round!!

Hope you are feeling a bit better - have been thinking of you.