Friday, August 14, 2020

Westwell, Oxfordshire

Country classicism

My photograph shows what I saw when peering through the churchyard hedge at Westwell, a small village in West Oxfordshire. My first thought was that this building was substantial enough to be the manor house, but actually it’s the former rectory. The Church of England quite often accommodated its incumbents in houses of this size and pretension between the 17th and early-20th centuries. The clergy were usually second in status to the Lord of the Manor and often had large families and more than one servant, so a big house was not seen as inappropriate. But by the mid-20th century the church was selling off many of its big rectories and housing rectors and vicars in smaller houses that were easier to care for, cheaper to heat, and generally more suited to the needs of a modern family. 

This example was built at the beginning of the 18th century in that simple but satisfying style that I think of as rural classicism – regular rows of mullioned windows, stone quoins, a wooden eaves cornice, and a hipped roof with dormer windows. There’s also a pleasant stone doorway with an open pediment supported by curvaceous consoles. The protruding wing on the right is later – mid-19th century – but in the same style and materials.

The church and most of the tombstones in the churchyard are of similar creamy limestone. Altogether, it’s a pleasing ensemble, one that has plenty of age, but is still a fitting and one hopes comfortable home – for the living and the dead.

1 comment:

Joseph Biddulph (Publisher) said...

All those chimneys - lots of fireplaces. The Rectory would certainly help to alleviate rural unemployment - lots of early morning duties making up those fires. Anyone who could wield a broom or mop and bucket would be guaranteed steady work, even if the wages were derisory, which they probably were, unfortunately.