Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pirton, Worcestershire


In the mist

On my way to find an unusual church tower I was driving through quiet country in Worcestershire now sandwiched between the M5 and the railway line that links Cheltenham and Bristol to the Midlands and the north. I rounded a bend and caught sight of this ruin hugging a hillside next to some trees.

Glimpsed through the mist like this it could easily be a forgotten fragment of medieval castle wall with one mural tower still clinging on. But it’s not medieval at all. It’s actually one of several eyecatchers erected in the countryside around the great house of Croome Court, once home of the Earls of Coventry. As well as garden buildings near the great house, there are several of these more distant structures scattered around the nearby countryside, designed either by Robert Adam (who did the interiors of the house in the mid-18th century) or by James Wyatt (who began work on the house and estate in 1792).

This sham ruin is by Wyatt. It is well over a mile from the house and an effective reminder of the size of the Coventry estate. And it was by no means the furthest away. Broadway Tower, a much bigger prospect tower, some 15 miles away, is also one of Lord Coventry’s buildings.

9 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

I think experiments were made to ascertain that the Broadway Tower would be seen from the Croome estate. They were right to, as Bredon Hill lies between them. One imagines timber scaffolding and canvas being employed as a mock-up.

Very atmospheric photograph.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Mr Ashley: Thank you. Yes, I think all kinds of experiments were carried out to do with visibility.

It occurs to me that this business of putting up towers, ruins, and eyecatchers – buildings both to enhance the view and to look at the view from - was an enormous statement both of ownership of the landscape and of civilizing it. I'll have to see what the National Trust say about all this now they are restoring the house at Crome.

CarolineLD said...

They are perhaps not only an enormous statement but, in the case of mock ruins, a fib too - 'I remember when all this was castles'. A charming fib, though.

Wartime Housewife said...

This photograph makes me want to run into the deep countryside and stay there. I might even take up residence in a mock folly, growling at passers by...

Philip Wilkinson said...

WTHW: Some follies were built not only to act as features in the landscape but also to act as accommodation for estate workers. So. You never know...

ChrisP said...

And some were designed to accommodate real-enough hermits, who were employed to look picturesque and growl at visitors. The terms of employment for the hermit at Stourhead (I think) included the stipulation that he was not allowed to cut his hair or nails, or wash.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes, that story rings a bell. People as garden 'ornaments'. If that word is not too far of the mark in the case of a dirty, growling hermit.

Bucks Retronaut said...

Thank you for another lovely photo PW.It reminded me of another "eyecatcher" I first saw years ago from the Staffs and Worcester Canal at Tixall Wide near Rugeley . The builder must have been seriously interested in self aggrandisement because he not only built a so-called "castle" but also ensured the canal was wide enought to pass off as an ornamental lake.
And another thing...Just beside the A418 between Aylesbury and Thame there`s Dinton Castle, a "ruin",where me and my mates as 10 year olds, pitched our tents and invited the local Hard Gang to the Mother-of- all Punch-Ups.Thankfully it was a No Show,and sundry punks` days remained unmade.
The village itself indeed has a Hermit,as it`s the name of a pub.Don`t recall too much "growling" when I last had a pint there...At least, they let me in,so that was alright.
So was the pint.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Great story, Bucks. And more eyecatchers for me to look out for, which is excellent.