Sunday, November 27, 2022

Yoxford, Suffolk

What makes me want to return

Having visited Yoxford, by the time we passed this small gem of a building, the clouds had opened and the sky darkened. Photography was a fool’s errand, so we passed by. This post is provisional, then, and unusually for me makes use of a photograph from another source*. It shows something close to the classic cottage ornée, the type of small ornamental house that became popular in the early-19th century when people – especially rich people – learned to appreciate the visual appeal of ‘Picturesque’ cottages with rustic features.† Such cottages speak of nostalgia for a past that’s viewed through rose-tinted spectacles perhaps, though if well built and decently appointed could also be an implicit call to other landlords to house their workers more comfortably as well as more elegantly.

Cottages ornées are typically, but not necessarily, asymmetrical, thatched, with deeply overhanging eaves that may protect verandahs or shelters beneath; there may also be Gothic windows and doorways, and maybe even unfinished tree trunks holding up the roof overhang. This cottage, built as a gate lodge for Cockfield Hall, has all these features, even the rustic tree trunks. It looks striking even when seen from a car on the A12 and viewed through pouring rain. To a visitor to the hall, or a tradesman arriving to do work or deliver goods, it makes a good landmark. To the resident, one hopes, it’s a cosy little house; to the architecturally curious, it evokes another time but one as determinedly nostalgic as our own can often be.

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* Photograph by John Goldsmith, used under Creative Commons licence.

† Many poor people, on the other hand, who had to live in rural cottages, had to put up with leaky roofs, broken windows, and no sanitation – they’d have appreciated some basic healthy comfortable accommodation, never mind how ‘picturesque’ it looked.

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