Monday, June 22, 2009

Hulcote, Northamptonshire

Bricklayer’s Gothic

Hulcote is the estate village attached to Easton Neston, the great house near Towcester designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor. The house itself is not normally open to the public, though many passers-by are aware of it because of its great Coade stone entrance screen, which is now the grand gateway to Towcester Racecourse on the A5. The village of Hulcote is tucked away up a quiet no-though-road away from the teeming traffic heading to the racecourse (or to Silverstone, which is not far away). At the end of the road are just eight cottages on two sides of a large green.

It’s good to be reminded that a great house is about much more than grandeur and high living. Country estates in their heydays were big employers and there were often entire villages set aside to house the workers and their families. With such an estate village one is always ready for something a bit different – a special design of doorway, say, or battlements, or fancy octagonal window leading – although sometimes the only distinguishing mark is paintwork in whatever shade of Farrow and Ball the management have chosen for the village ‘uniform’.

Hulcote is no disappointment. The cottages are a far cry from the monumental baroque of the big house but no less surprising in their way. Their chequered brick and Gothic windows date to the early 19th century, maybe a hundred years later than Easton Neston itself. Their pointed windows and general ecclesiastical look have gained the place the local nickname of the ‘Chapel Village’. They look quite spacious too, a gesture of generosity, perhaps, on the part of the third Earl of Pomfret, who had them built in this distinctive style. Bricklayer’s Gothic, with residents equipped with new Minis and 4 x 4s now, rather than corduroy and pitchforks. But still surviving well.


Peter Ashley said...

You've done it again Wilko. Got me pumping up the tyres on the Pashley Roadster, popping down to the village post office for a bottle of Tizer and sausage rolls and setting the Unmitigated Navigation dials for Hulcote.

Ed Isaacs said...

I will definitely drop by and visit Hulcote next time I have to use the A5 to by-pass the jams on the M1. Is Easton Neston the grandest English House not open to the public or are there grander ones?

jerym said...

You certainly have a good eye for an interesting building.
They look very spacious for an estate cottage.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Thank y'all for your comments. These cottages are certainly worth a detour, although the village and its green do feel rather like a private enclave. I stood at the edge of the green, ogled for a minute, and slipped quietly away.

Beth said...

I was almost seeing Hulcote in my minds eye as I read through this.

My great grandmother was born in Hulcote, her father, his father and his father before him were Agricultural Labourer's on the Easton Neston Estate.

An incredible place I wish to visit but unfortunately the closest I've got at the moment? Looking at pictures like yours.

Kass said...

I just walked through Hulcote today, it is a rather surreal experience, coming out through the trees and into this little strange looking community.

I went for a walk on on a foot path by the village too... and came across a group of bee keepers in full white suits, which further added to the surreality of my walk!