Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire

Stone from the wold

Here’s another repost from ten years ago to entertain my readers during my stretch of pre-Christmas work hyperactivity. It’s a house in the Cotswold town of Stow-on-the-Wold, and a place I always glance at when I pass. Its architecture gives me pleasure – although I do worry that some of the unusual bits of carving on the front are eroding away. The old-fashioned tea shop that used to occupy the ground floor has now closed (there’s a lot of competition in Stow, some of it very impressive), and last time I went by the building looked empty. But the architecture, albeit crumbling at the edges, is still there to enjoy.

Here’s what I wrote about it back in December 2008.

There are some buildings that just make me smile, no matter how often I see them. This is one: a house of about 1730 (now a café) on the market place in Stow-on-the-Wold. What I love about this house is the decoration. It’s Classical, up to a point – look at the fluted pilasters with their Corinthian capitals. But whoever built this place was determined not to stick to the rule book. Those pilasters begin, not with a base, anchoring them to the ground, but with a peculiar block of stone sticking out from the wall, a couple of feet above pavement level. The strips that run up from either side of the central niche, dotted with carvings of flowers, are another odd, but charming, touch.

Pevsner (who describes this façade as ‘rather gauche’) tells us that there’s a local tradition that the building was the work of a pargetter named Shepherd. That’s odd, as pargetting (the art of decorative exterior plasterwork) is native to eastern England. It’s not something you see much round here, where the decorative medium is stone. And yet the exuberance and richness of the carving, especially the flowers, is not unlike the sort of thing you might see on a pargetted house in Essex or Suffolk. It certainly sticks out here, not in the manner of a sore thumb, but like an elegantly manicured digit raised in defiance of convention. Stow off the wall.

As an extra, I add a photograph taken earlier this year showing a detail of one of the stone benches positioned in front of this building. As you can see, they are supported by rather fine lions. A few months ago some protective tape had been put around them – I’m not sure if it’s visitors or the stonework that was being protected, though. 


Jenny Woolf said...

I love the house. It would be a perfect teashop, and also I often particularly like the houses that Pevsner is snooty about!

Stephen Barker said...

A wonderful Baroque building all the better for not strictly following the rules.

bazza said...

It looks like that lovely building could use some TLC!. Pargetting is of course very prominent in Essex. There's some delightful examples in Saffron Walden.
We often stay in the Cotswold Water Park hotel (or sometimes in Broadway) and never miss a chance to visit Stow.
CLICK HERE for Bazza’s puminative Blog ‘To Discover Ice’