Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stanway, Gloucestershire

In I go? 

In spite of the fact that it has a handful of houses and a charming but over-restored church, the Cotswold village of Stanway is one of the richest sources of architectural enjoyment for miles around. Glorious Stanway House, J M Barrie’s wooden cricket pavilion, my favourite war memorial, and a length of churchyard wall of more than usual antiquarian interest are just a few of the highlights.* Here’s another, and one of the best: the gatehouse to Stanway House.

This 17th-century stunner, probably dating to the 1630s, is built in the rich ashlar, golden verging on orange, of the rest of the village. It displays that blend of old and new styles that appears so often in the early-17th century – Tudorish bay windows, ornate shaped gables, and a more Stuart-looking Classical door surround; the door opening itself has another Tudorish feature, the flattened four-centred arch, and above it are Tudor-looking roses in the frieze.

The finials to the gables are scallop shells, which also appear elsewhere on the building – on the wall above the twin columns that flank the doorway, for example. These shells are the badge of the Tracy family, who were leasing the big house from Tewkesbury Abbey at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries and bought it when the abbey closed.

This gatehouse has enough of the Classical about it to have been attributed to the architect Inigo Jones in the past. However these days historians, aware of the very severe and correct Classicism of Jones’s designs for the Banqueting House in Whitehall and the Queen’s House in Greenwich, are apt to reject this attribution.† A more likely designer, says Pevsner, is Timothy Strong, who worked on the Canterbury Quad at St John’s College, Oxford. Whoever did the design, the gatehouse beautifully enhances the corner where it stands, its stone glowing in the winter sun.

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* I am fortunate to live only a few miles from Stanway. This, as well as the sheer interest of the place, accounts for its appearance on this blog five or six times. No apology, I think, is necessary.

† Fifty years ago, there was a tendency to attribute every other 17th-century building to Jones. Now scholars are much more circumspect.


Stephen Barker said...

It is a measure of how much both architectural history and garden history has advanced in the last 50 years that that attributions based on style are no longer acceptable. Christopher Wren was also a popular candidate for any classical building in the late Seventeenth Century where the architect was unknown.

Seeing this blog reminds me that it has been a while since I have been to Stanway, a house I found utterly charming.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Stephen: Indeed. There used to be a lot of wishful thinking when it came to attributions. Stanway is beautiful, and worth a revisit when you get the chance.