Last night I delivered the mother-of-my-children up to the welcoming arms of the Women's Institute in Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, whilst her gamekeeper and I went in search of sustenance. I know, I said, and we ended-up in what is probably the only pub designed by Charles Voysey, the Wentworth Arms in Elmesthorpe. Built for Lord Lovelace in 1895, it is now completely knackered as far as the Voysey Look is concerned, as all the interior rooms with green tiled fireplaces and other details were ripped out in the 1970s. We did however have very decent bangers and mash and pints of Doom Bar, so we looked more kindly at the outside which still sports a typical Voysey catslide roof in Swithland slate.
Much more to our liking was the row of cottages, also designed by CV, just over the railway bridge next door to the pub. Wortley Cottages, designed for Lovelace in the following year, are much better preserved with intact porches, rendering and big fat corner buttresses. The family in one of them were sitting down to a barbeque in the back garden so I was able to ask to trample over the lawn with ease. "I'll have mustard with mine" I said, and was met (yet again) with blank stares. But the main bloke was very kind and pointed out that they were once thatched, now replaced by superbly size-graded Swithland slates. Here's how they would've looked:
He also pointed out the Very Voysey original door hinges and superbly lettered name plaque on the far left cottage. And all this goes to show that hidden treasures can continually pop up into one's consciousness. The west side of Leicestershire is so easily written-off as ugly and not a patch on High Leicestershire to the east. This is partly the result of indiscriminate Victorian development that served the extensive hosiery industry, so that when the socks and stockings had run off left a very sad neglected feel. I hadn't been over here for some time, but I'm pleased that there is now a much brighter atmosphere. Particularly when one sees cottages like these after some Doom Bar.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph