Owlpen Manor visit, July 2017

At the end of a narrow lane, nestling under beech woods, lies Owlpen Manor and its church. It was a perfect day for our guided tour of the house and garden by the owner (since 1974), Sir Nicholas Mander.

Sir Nicholas came out to meet us after we had picnicked under the shade of umbrellas looking over to the gardens. He took us to the top of the garden where we had a clear view of the architecture of the house. United under three gables were the three phases of development, an east service wing of 15th century origin (with Georgian windows inserted later), a 16th century hall and the west wing with its wonderful storeyed bay window and a date stone of 1616.

He then swiftly led us inside while telling us the story of the rescue of the house from near collapse by Norman Jewson. Sir Nicholas went on to form a close friendship with Norman and the contents of the house reveal his enthusiasm for the Arts and Crafts movement.

Of special interest is the high backed settle by Sydney Barnsley which comes from Ernest Gimson’s own cottage at Pinbury and was bequeathed to Owlpen by Norman Jewson. Among the textiles, furniture, prints and plasterwork is a very fine steel grille by Alfred Bucknall.

The Mander family were great collectors and all sorts of treasures have found their way to Owlpen, including family portraits, 18th century embroideries, prints , books and porcelain. Outstanding too are the watercolour paintings of the house, done mainly between 1890 and 1933. These reveal the wonderful picturesque qualities of the interior with its low beams, leaded lights and elegant Georgian panelling, all enhanced with a rich collection of colourful rugs, cushions, tiles and textiles.

After tea in the medieval barn now known as the Cyder House we paid a visit to the nearby church, now richly decorated with tiles and mosaics from the famous firm James Powell & Sons of Whitefriars.

The firm had close links with Edward Burne Jones, William de Morgan and Philip Webb while Alfred Powell, the Arts and Crafts architect who lived for a time at Tunley was a relation.

A memorable visit to a house which has been so much admired over the years while a series of caring owners have preserved what H.J.Massingham called ‘this rare cotswold treasure‘.


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