Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Stanton & Stanway

Early morning a week or so ago, I paid a visit to two of my favourite spots in the Cotswolds, namely Stanton and Stanway. The main cause for my visit was to complete a commission, but it's always a pleasure to spend some time in these idyllic Cotswold villages.

Taken from the Mount Inn, looking over the village of Stanton, out to the vale of Evesham and towards
the Malvern Hills and the Welsh Mountains

I began in Stanton, little changed in 300 years and nestling beneath the slopes of Shenbarrow Hill. It has a rather pleasing main street, with several agreeable corners where the ancient houses are built in typical Cotswolds style, with steeply pitched gables, mullioned windows and glowing limestone walls.

In fact almost all of the village is constructed of Cotswold stone, and in this northerly area of the Cotswolds it's weathered look has the rich complexion of honey, more central areas are golden, while in Bath it's pearly white.

A view up the main street.

One of the most interesting buildings associated with the village is the Stanton Guildhouse. The Guildhouse, which aims to provide a space for arts and crafts training, was set up by Mary Osborn. Osborn met Mahatma Gandhi while working at a centre for the poor in the East End of London, and was inspired by Gandhi's descriptions of the ashrams he had founded in India.

Mary remained in contact with Gandhi throughout her life and on her sixty third birthday he presented her with a spinning wheel. It has pride of place in the central room today.

A mile up the road is the village of Stanway. The village takes its name from 'stan' (stone) from which it is built - similarly the neighbouring village of Stanton. So needless to say it's another honey hued delight.

The grand entrance to Stanway House

Whilst it has no real centre, the village is dominated by Stanway House, a beautiful Jacobean manor. The original house was owned by Tewksbury Abbey for 800 years until it passed into the hands of the Tracy family. who are almost unique in England for having owned land since before the Norman Conquest.

The Tracy line continued until 1817 when the house passed to Francis Charteris, the current resident, Lord Neidpath, is a direct descendant of Francis. Thus the house can claim to have been in the same family for over 450 years. 

Looking out from St Peter's churchyard to a neighbouring row of cottages.

As spectacular as the house is, it has another draw. Lord Neidpath implemented a restoration programme during the last decade and it can now claim to have one of the finest water gardens in England. The centrepiece being its single jet fountain. at 300ft it is the tallest fountain in Britain, the second tallest fountain in Europe and the tallest gravity fountain on earth.

Adjacent to the manor is St. Peter's Church, dating from the 12th century and thoroughly restored in 1896, this approachable pile is placed in a lovely setting, accessed through a rose-surrounded gate, with a large yew and other trees, providing plenty of greenery.

St Peter's Church and graveyard. The church still welcomes parishioners, but the graveyard is no longer in use.

Both these villages, despite their obvious charms, always seem to be bathed in a bucolic restfulness, probably due to the fact that there are no shops or guesthouses, no busloads of tourists and no olde worlde tea rooms. The Mount Inn in Stanton is the only commercial enterprise between them.

Taken outside the churchyard and manor, it seems like someone was having a party, no doubt a refined one
of course.

They are well worth a visit, especially in the early morning, while the villages are at their tranquil best and the beautiful Cotswold landscapes that surround them are beginning to wake.

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