"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