Thursday, 17 September 2009

Stepping Out

It's so often the little, unnoticed things. A very brief trip into the north of the Cotswolds yesterday brought me yet again to Stanway. Perched up on the escarpment just off the B4077 east of Toddington, this tiny village has so much to delight the eye. It starts with a war memorial up on the main road that sports on its limestone column a cowering dragon being given a seeing-to by St.George (and lettering by Eric Gill), from where a lane leads down to a simply magnificent 17th century gatehouse connecting the south front of Stanway House with the yew-shaded churchyard. They were doing something to either the yews or the churchyard wall, but as I wandered by I spied these steps. Such a simple thing, here was a way of climbing over the stonework into the grounds. I poked my nose over the wall to see if there were a corresponding couple of projections on the other side, and there were. They reminded me of the Grandmother's Steps on The Cobb in Lyme Regis, such a functional device that obviated the need for a timber stile or indeed a gate. One can only imagine the use they've been put to. Children incorporating them into their games, housemaids lifting their skirts as they hurried to work in the big house, swains on the lower step plighting their troths to those same maidens on Sunday evenings. More about Stanway soon, I expect.


accountant said...

I have'nt been to Stanway for a few years, but I have fond memories of the house which was slightly shabby and lived in. A bit on the cool side for the volunteers manning the rooms as they huddled by their electric fires. The small library was cluttered with filing cabinets, a rack of maps obscuring the books including a Shakepeare folio and on the mantelpiece a newspaper cutting of Naomi Campbell who had fallen over at a fashion shoe whilst tottering on extremely tall platform shoes designed I think by Vivian Westwood. So much more fun than the National Trust who despite their best intentions cannot give their properties that lived in feeling.

Philip Wilkinson said...

The house is still very much as accountant describes. Also: bats flit about the upper rooms after dusk.

The stile is one of several distinctive Cotswold types, testimony to the ingenuity of the old wallers.

martin said...

The big things get all the attention,but its often the little things that matter.

Peter Ashley said...

Thankyou for all these impressions.

Will said...

I remember steps like this on walls from my childhood in Scotland. That and dry stone dykes. Nice bit of nostalgia.