Thursday, November 6, 2008

Whittonditch, Wiltshire

Landmark cottages (1)

At the entrances to villages, on dangerous bends, in fields, at wide places in the road, landmark cottages stand and stand out. Often they seem to be in strange locations: not next to a farm or in the centre of a settlement but on the edge or in the middle of nowhere. To the casual passer-by they seem oddly sited. But there’s usually a reason for their being where they are – housing a cowman near the pastures or a gamekeeper where he can get quickly to the covers, for example.

This one is on a now minor road near Whittonditch between Newbury and Swindon (a route now eclipsed by the M4, which roars not far away). It began life as a toll house. The projecting bay, with good views either way along the road, is typical turnpike architecture. The pointed windows and overhanging thatched roof speak of something still more special – this is a cottage orné, the kind of extra-cottagey cottage that architects and pioneers of the Picturesque movement of the late-18th and early-19th centuries loved.

The 20th century, of course, has added its share of special effects: the staddle stones linked by chain, the tools displayed on the wall. But such things are just as much part of what people call home as thatched roofs and log fires. They’re part of the building’s history too. They all help make this building something to look out for, whether it gives us a lesson in social history, or simply reminds us that we’re only 8 miles from Swindon.


Vinogirl said...

That is a fantastic little place. Thank goodness buildings like this remain.

Thud said...

not keen on it myself...rather chocolate box.

Vinogirl said...

I love it, the countryside is a better place for little gems like this. And I love 'Milk Tray' boxes.

Anonymous said...

Nice little toll-house. I like the late C18; transport links (toll roads and canals) which opened up the country, and yet still at the dawning of the Industrial Revolution before the countryside was forever changed and the Victorians got their heavy industry going.

One of my heroes, John Byng (and for the last week of his life Lord Torrington) said of the toll roads "We have reached the summit of our speed!". Little did he realise what the coming of the railways would do only 20 or 30 years later.

Julia said...

This toll cottage is at Preston, in the parish of Aldbourne. Whittonditch is a couple of miles along the road towards Hungerford. The cottage is on the farm where I grew up. We used to love playing in it and around it. It has certainly been tidied up. I think I prefer it how it used to be.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Julia: Many thanks for the correction. It's not always easy for an outsider to work out exactly which parish these outlying buildings are in.