In praise of variety

SAMSUNG CSC   This is the continuation of our Three Days in the Midlands.  The quote above is from the owner of Snowshill Manor, who bought a house to fill with his collection of artefacts that embodied his ideas of craftsmanship, design and colour.  The house is quite big and contains 20,000 objects.  He lived in a two roomed gaff in the grounds.

English: Snowshill Manor

English: Snowshill Manor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The objects feast the eyes and mind.

  • The largest collection of samurai armour outside Japan;
  • Three serpents – a musical instrument withdrawn due to …

  • A collection of very early bicycles, including The Hobby Horse and penny farthings;
  • Shipwright’s models;
  • Shepherds’ chairs – four off;
  • A model village he made, or several versions of it I think;
  • Early spinning machinery;
  • A fine pair of hewing axes.

Doh, I’d used up my camera batteries in the morning visit to Hidcote Gardens.  And there we sat in a little open gazebo building tiled with hand made tiles.  SAMSUNG CSC
The 4″ x 4″ tiles were rather charming, including these variations on a pattern:
SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSC SAMSUNG CSCThis is what I like!  All hand done, quickly, simple, but very recognizably vernacular.  Look how the craftsman has introduced  such variety to his tiles, swapping boats for churches, mirroring the houses, moving the smoak from one chimney to another.  Blimey it’s like a film.  The corner decorations differ – even on the same tile.  Could a machine do this?  Well yes, but it would be a clever programmer that would write the code, and what would be the point? It’s not just decoration either that can be interesting to the eye.  Look at this Victorian brewery: SAMSUNG CSCI don’t think we build factories like that any more – why not?
And then there’s the serendipitous stuff, here are some of the vents up in the old chiller at the brewery’s top floor (well it’s actually two breweries stuck together this one is at the top of the near side in the photo above). SAMSUNG CSC

And here are some glass panes, obviously repaired over the years (no wonder when the grist mill shakes the whole building). SAMSUNG CSC Pleasing variety.

Why I don’t like tarmac:

SAMSUNG CSC And why I do like hand worked stone.

SAMSUNG CSC I think this stuff is catching on with some people, there is a desire for the irregular rather than the machine-made, and just to come back to the woods, here are a couple of irregular pieces I just made:



Grain ark


Here is the only original piece of furniture which came to The National Trust along with East Riddlesden Hall.


It is an ark used for the storage of grain.  Apparently there were six of these at the hall as it had a long agricultural history.  This one is very unusual in that the construction is entirely of  through wedged mortise and tenon joints.  This enables the whole thing to be dismantled ‘for washing and scrubbing down’. It is rather large, so I wonder whether it was stored dismantled.

There is just a little decoration on it:


The pattern looks to me as though it would be better the other way up. But looking along this frieze there’s been a repair …


Which way up do you think looks right? And why the heck did the repairer get it upside down?

More detail …


Needs a better shot of the end as there is a little more fancy work.

Meanwhile, back in the orchard, my apiary is still awaiting bees:

SAMSUNG CSCAnd always at my back I hear,

Time’s wingéd chariot hurrying near…

Summer’s passing on:


On being a tourist

We’ve been away for a couple of days.  Down in the Midlands.

There are lots of what we tend to call black and white houses there, really timber framed buildings. The one above is Wightwick Manor (pronounced Witic). Not half so old as it may appear. Built in 1887 and extensively added to in 1893, it is one of very few arts and crafts buildings surviving in the UK. It is a visual delight outside and a feast inside. The inside is stuffed with arts and crafts furniture, soft furnishings etc etc. 200 pieces by William Morris & Co – that’s quite a collection.

Acanthus wallpaper.

Acanthus wallpaper. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then there’s a heap of Pre-Raphaelite pictures, some of which are very compelling:

Trouble is, being a tourist, I wasn’t allowed to take photos because of copyright. (The one above comes from some reproduction on Amazon.)  So I suppose all I can say is, if you are ever in Wolverhampton, do go there it’s the best collection of arts and crafts in the UK bar none (or so it says on Wikipedia).

There was a fascinating settle in the hall with very shallow strap work, and possibly missing a table top as it had no back, or a very low one.  When I asked about it it was dismissed as ‘just’ Elizabethan that happened to be in the house.

That night we went to the pub. The Fleece Inn at Bretforton.  Funnily enough, it was black and white too… and it had two settles.
We ate (mostly asparagus it being in season in this ‘gras-producing region) in what used to be the brew house, although these vessles were used for somethingelse, I had to email the landlord to check what they were.  They are oak with four small drain holes, and in the centre, what looks to be the remains of the original turning centre hole – any guesses?

Next day we called to have a look at this mighty tithe barn.

It belonged to the former Evesham Abbey, and is pretty well preserved, being in the ownership of the National Trust.  The latter describe it as a raised cruck barn the link has a good guide to the elements of such a barn.  I can’t figure out why there are aisles framings at either end of the barn.

But it seems slightly disappointing when such a building is empty, apart from some very messy pigeons.  The barn in the days of The Abbey must have been a huge store of food riches and gives a clue as to why Henry dissolved the monasteries (apart from his marital problems!).


Just in at the door is this rather extraordinary ladder which thinks its a staircase, it must have taken a couple of strong men to manhandle it into position.  The rungs would have given a very firm footing, providing the ladder slope was 45 degrees, far slacker than allowed with modern ladders.