Friday, June 1, 2018

Filkins, Oxfordshire


What meets the eye

It’s easy to walk past an unassuming building like this without giving it any more thought than ‘Another well kept Cotswold cottage in a village of well kept Cotswold cottages.’ And yet there is so much to look at here beyond the neat masonry (Cotswold rubble, nicely looked after), the ‘stone slate’ roof (the ‘slates’ laid in the traditional way with large ones at the eaves, smaller ones higher up), and very Cotswold chimney.

First of all – it’s a museum. The nicely carved sign above the door says ‘Swinford Museum’, and the building houses a collection of traditional domestic, agricultural, and craft tools, so it’s very much a local museum. It was started in the 1930s by George Swinford, who was helped in the enterprise by the politician Sir Stafford Cripps, who lived in the village and did much to preserve and beautify it. A pair of ammonites have been let into the masonry on either side of the door way as an added visual enrichment, relevant to the building’s use.

Second – that side door on the left. It’s the entrance to a small lock-up, put there in the 18th century to deal with malefactors – usually petty criminals. I’ve posted several lock-ups in the past, a few of them architecturally notable. This one is about as modest as they come, but no doubt did its job.

Third – there’s what for many will seem a very unusual garden wall. This is known as ‘plank fencing’, and it is made up of thin slabs of limestone (rather like large stone ‘slates’) joined together with metal fittings.* Although we’re in the Cotswold region here, this is not your typical Cotswold drystone wall. No, this is something that’s local in this particular area – the part of West Oxfordshire that is on the edge of the Cotswolds and near the valley of the upper Thames. There are similar walls, for example, in the village of Kelmscott, where William Morris made his home, which is not many miles form here.

Nothing to see here? There’s more than you’d think from a passing glance.


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*Plank fencing made of stone, not wood; stone slates made of limestone not slate: terminology can get very confusing in these parts.

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