Thursday, September 8, 2011
Compton Wynyates, Warwickshire
Compton in the Hole
At last, from the hill that’s home to the windmill in the previous post, I got my glimpse of Compton Wynyates. This north front is not, I have to say, the most spectacular side of the house, but still gives a good impression of the character of the place – the mostly Tudor brick walls, the tall chimneys, the dormers in the roofs, the purely ornamental crenellations, the different levels. Above all, this cluster of brick wings and pitched roofs gives an impression of the way the house must have grown over the years with bits added here and there before a major revamp of the eastern part of the building – the part of the left of the picture is an addition of 1867 by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt in a style in harmony with rest of the house.
Looking at the house in its tree-lined valley one can understand what has usually made people enthusiastic about it. John Russell, in Shakespeare’s Country, noticed how the surrounding hills and trees rise up around so that ‘the house is seen as if in the bowl of an enormous spoon’. W H Hutton, in Highways and Byways in Shakespeare’s Country, called it ‘a wonderful picture of rose-tinted restfulness’. Pevsner, with his eye more focused on the ball, found in it the picturesque mode that so attracted him: ‘the perfect picture-book house of the Early Tudor decades, the most perfect in England of the specific picturesque, completely irregular mode’.
Writers are apt to get lyrical about this place, but Hutton reminds us that Camden, referring to its setting, called it ‘Compton in the Hole’ and records a local ‘rustic’ showing a visitor around, remarking, ‘Did ye ever see sich a hole?’ Some hole.