An account of our meeting on Thursday 25th February, written by Sue Houseago.
The authors of ‘The Cotswold House’, Tim Jordan and Lionel Walrond, arrived in Stroud Old Town Hall on the 25th February with a laptop, and all the necessary accoutrements to guide a full house of Civic Society members and others, on a virtual tour around a wide selection of glorious Cotswold Houses.
Having settled his co-author Lionel in a seat directly in front of him, (he was, we learned, a quick thinking accomplice in any moments of uncertainty), and having been introduced by the Civic Society’s Chairwoman Juliet Shipman, Tim began by asking a question. ‘Is there such a thing as an easily identified Cotswold house style?’ Fortunately, because we all nodded and shook our heads in disarray, it had been a rhetorical question. ‘No and Yes,’ Tim agreed, smiling, ‘because they change from century to century, as does the stone from one locality to another, varying in texture and colour from greyer on the south Cotswolds to more creamy in Painswick to deeper cream in Guiting to the ironstone tinge in the north of the region.’ Then’, he continued, ‘we have to consider the master masons’ unique decorated finials on gables and dormers and the local craftsmen who will all have added their own unique details, inside and out.’
These geographical, social and historical factors, we learnt, all affect the changing architectural region styles of Cotswold houses through Tudor, Elizabethan, Jacobean to Classical Georgian, Victorian and Art and Crafts – all, Tim stressed, will have left their particular mark on the Cotswold House. We were glad when Tim projected a large, clear map identifying the whereabouts of the ‘Cotswolds’ which stretch from Cheltenham to Gloucester, Swindon, Oxford and Banbury. From soft lush rounded areas of the south west to the upland areas with shallow more stony soil. Most Cotswold houses were built below the hills for shelter, and many had timber frames.
Tim showed us a fine illustration of the earliest form of timber frame – a cruck framed cottage – one of a few left, which can be found 40 minutes away in Didbrook. Next we were off to Bibury where we saw illustrations of wooden lintels. Most of the houses were thatched and timber framed. ‘But how’ Tim interjected, ‘do we know that they were once thatched? Well, see that ledge on the chimney? That, plus the pitch of the roof are proof of original thatching.’ These cottages, we learnt, began as medieval stone barns, then, with the addition of dormers and chimneys, became weavers’ cottages and finally workers’ cottages. On we went to enjoy selected illustrated examples of many more cottages, farmhouses, manor houses, almshouses and parsonages.
Tim’s slides most eloquently kept pace with his talk, demonstrating and elaborating upon the varying features of the Cotswold house. I suspect many of us, dizzied by the variety and beauty of the houses ended up envying those lucky enough to live in these local houses with their many subtle signs of a fascinating historical heritage.
Our chairwoman Juliet Shipman had everyone clapping in delight as she thanked Tim not just for his wonderful talk, but in such a rich showing of Cotswold houses, not one of which, had been visibly ‘enhanced’ by a modern extension.