Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Stanway, Gloucestershire


The near pavilions

It is a winter’s afternoon just before the recent snow and the sun is about to drop down behind the nearby hill. It’s quiet, but not silent: somewhere not far away there’s the sound of a quad bike ticking over and beyond the trees some guns are at their work – a shot cracks through the cold air every minute or two. Parkland – old trees, iron railings, grass cropped by sheep – stretches behind me towards the golden-stone Stanway House next to its church, barn, and cluster of cottages.

But I have my back to all that, and I’m focussing on this unusual building, the wooden cricket pavilion built for the author J M Barrie, who regularly stayed at Stanway House in the 1920s. It (and a nearby tennis pavilion) was the work of a local builder, John Oakey, who provided walls of larch poles and a roof of thatch. Neither of these materials is typical of the Cotswolds and coming on this odd structure in this limestone country pulls one up short. But in a surprising Cotswold touch, the whole thing rests on staddle stones, those mushroom-shaped objects originally meant to support granaries, lifting them off the ground to deter vermin. These days staddle stones are more often seen lining people’s drives or keeping cars off grass verges, so it’s good to have this reminder of their original purpose.

During the summers Barrie spent at Stanway, many literary and artistic friends came to stay too, and cricket teams may have included such luminaries as H G Wells and Arthur Conan Doyle. The Australian composer Percy Grainger also came to stay and one wonders whether, in between expeditions collecting folk songs, Grainger presided over some kind of amateur ashes contest. It’s a beautiful setting for an innings, even for an innings defeat…

11 comments:

The Vintage Knitter said...

I've been to Stanway House previously, but have never noticed the pavilion before! I'll have to keep an eye open for that on my next visit.

By the way, its a lovely photo especially with those oaks in the backound.

columnist said...

J M Barrie's granddaughter, called Wendy interestingly enough, has a house in the same village where my father lives in Scotland.

Unrelated to any of that I do remember the cricket pavilion at school looking quite dissimilar to this. I suppose the design is standard, but the materials used not at all.

bazza said...

Well, the building isn't exciting to look at but it has an interesting provenance. Hmmmm...an innings and 157 runs I'd say!
Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

Philip Wilkinson said...

VK: The pavilion is the other side of the road from the house. There are some fine trees around it, and in the parkland nearby.

Bazza: That sounds about the right score!!

Jon Dudley said...

What a charming building. I'm pleased to see how well the Larch has lasted...as you know it's becoming increasingly common in modern constructions. We used Chestnut to clad our house...hope it weathers as well.

Your mention of Percy Grainger...I wonder how he got on with the others? A strange cove by all accounts but did invaluable work in the folk song collecting field. I think (although not absolutely certain) he was the first to see and utilise the potential of the phonograph to record both lyrics and music.

A thought - that pavilion reminds me of the tobacco curing sheds I've seen in North Carolina...without the trusty staddle stones of course!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Jon: Grainger was indeed an odd one. There's a very good biography of him by John Bird (not the comedian) which describes his oddness without being judgemental. As for the phonograph, it was my impression too that Grainger was the first to use it in this way. I've heard some of the recordings he made, and they're haunting, although it;s often very difficult to make out the words.

ddu said...

Across the road from that pavilion is a rather grand Copper Beech tree in the middle of the pasture. We walked past Stanway on our way from Winchcombe to Staunton for lunch (at The Mount, of course) four years ago, and even today I occasionally open Google Earth to take a peek at "my" Copper Beech. Donna

Vinogirl said...

The staddle stones do indeed look like mushrooms...what a great find.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Donna: I think I remember the copper beech, but will now have to go and have a look, just to make sure!

Vinogirl: I don't know how well you know the Cotswolds, if at all, but there are quite a few staddle stones littered around this area - even though most people don't know what they were originally used for.

designslinger.com said...

happy new year!

Vinogirl said...

Only been to the Cotswolds a couple of times....shall remedy that on subsequent trips home. In the meantime I will continue to visit England virtually through your posts.