Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stoke Edith, Herefordshire

Lost domains. The twentieth century saw the obliteration of hundreds of country houses. Agricultural depressions and the resulting falling rents, the carnage of the First World War and the consequent disappearance of a vast swathe of the servant class, the Second World War, trumping the First with more deaths and death duties, the wear and tear put on buildings that were requisitioned during wartime, and escalating repair costs – all these things meant that for many country-house owners demolition was the only way out. And in such a climate, if a house succumbed to damage in some other way – a fire, say – it was unlikely to be rebuilt. In 1955 the peak of demolitions was reached: that year roughly five houses were bulldozed every fortnight.

Often, there’s nothing left at all of these places, but now and then something survives – some service buildings, perhaps, or gate lodges. Lodges are usually big enough to make a small house, small enough to be maintained without punishing expense. They’re also generally a fair distance from the main house (those mile-long drives) so the bulldozer passes them by. Some of these resilient survivors are little architectural gems.

This lodge at Stoke Edith, on a bend in the road between Ledbury and Hereford, was once the prelude to a beautiful 17th-century country house. The lodge itself dates from 1792, but its brick and stone dressings presumably echo the materials of the older house, which was destroyed in a fire in the 1920s. The sixteen-sided footprint of this little building is about as complex as they come, and the dome, with its central chimney, is a memorable touch. The inventive architect was William Wilkins (father of the better known William Wilkins who designed the National Gallery). He obviously had flair. Little did he know that his small contribution to this Herefordshire estate would long outlast the big house, and remain for 80 years and more after its demolition to signpost the vanished mansion and make the passing traveller smile. Stoke Edith House

6 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

Apparently in the 50s this lodge also sported a trompe d'oeil sash window complete with lace curtains and geraniums.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Perhaps it's still there, hidden under all that creeper.

Anonymous said...

I used to work on the estate the remains of the original house are still there and there is plenty of it left-if u know where to look !

hannah said...

The remains of the original house is still there Stoke Park. I used to work on the estate and the stables are still there too hidden in the estate. There is a surprisingly large amont of it all still there walls and windows some rooms complete on the lower level.

Lewis clan said...

My grandparents lived in the lodge for years, i have happy memories of visiting and playing in the gardens back in the 60's

Philip Wilkinson said...

Lewis Clan: Thank you so much for your comment. I'm always pleased to hear from people who have first-hand knowledge of the buildings that I post about on my blog. It must have been a lovely place to spend time.