Monthly Archives: June 2007

Trip to the Cotswolds

Last week, I went down to the Cotswolds to prepare for a feature on a delectable early-18th-century house, in a delightful setting not far from Painswick. This is a gem of the smaller English baroque house, conditioned as much by the Cotswolds mason tradition as by the most significant architectural theorising of the day (ie its a bit old fashioned for its date, but I love it). It looks over a valley but at the same time is made to feel rather remote by the tall trees which surround it. Our hosts have lived here for many decades, and treated it most lovingly, furnished with good English antiques and paintings, it is the epitome of English country life.

On our tour round the house we trace the alterations made in the early 1800s- a library, some Gothic detailing – and in the early 20th century, where we have an amusing time picking over photographs of fancy dress balls of the 1920s to see how the panelling looked like then. David Verey, the author of the Cotswolds Pevsner, lived there for some time as a child.

The author of the forthcoming piece is Christopher Woodward, the lively new director of the Museum of Garden History, formerly of the Holborne Museum in Bath and author of In Ruins, who has been a freelance contributor for Country Life for the past decade.

He is hosting a talk and exhibition from the Garnetts of Cannwood who I visited for the Genius of the Place competition, and will have buckets of wild flowers bought up from their farm on the day of their talk, to bring a breath of the country to Lambeth. Details of the talk can be found in Town and Country soon.

A Queen Anne house in Kent

I gave a lecture at Christies Educational this week on the hiatus in the English country house in the 20th century, and revisited the fascinating and triumphal recoveries of Holkham and Chatsworth. But in many ways it is the new owners of smaller country houses who have done so much to recpature the pleasure of the country house way of life, spending fortunes on resuscitating older houses, giving them back their dignity and making them family homes again. I must have visited hundreds of examples of these in my years at Country Life.

For instance, I went on Monday to visit a handsome queen anne house in Kent which I was privileged enough to see shortly after the present owners had embarked on its restoration and redecoration. It has those handsome tall panelled rooms with tall windows that give the flavour of a French chateau, and every room has been carefully repaired and painted in tactful colours, warm and dark on one side of the house, light and reflective on the south side.

A whole new banqueting house in red brick rather in the manner of those at Wrest Park has risen in the garden since I was last here, a testimony to the vision of the new owners and the pride they take in breathing new life back into this fine house, and an elegant canal garden that happily doubles as a swimming pool.