After a busy and work-filled start to the year, we managed to escape for a well-deserved weekend away from London just before lockdown started. Given that we haven’t been able to leave London since, this was a lovely opportunity to explore the gorgeous town of Stow-on-the-Wold, which was new to us. The market cross was at the centre of the little town, and has a slightly gory history dating back to 1646 and the English Civil War. The Royalist Army marched through the Cotswolds on their way to Oxford, but were intercepted by the Parliamentarians, and the battle which ensued in the market square was so gory that it was said ducks could bathe in the pools of blood left behind [maybe it’s good that we didn’t know this beforehand?]. This apparently led to the street’s name, Digbeth, from ‘Duck’s Bath’. However, we can confirm that it is now much more peaceful and full of interesting antiques shops [well done if you can leave without buying anything!] and gorgeous cafés. This is a place to come prepared for scones, tea and cake!
You might recognise this famous little door! The 13th century north door of St Edward’s Church, the town’s church, which itself dates back to the 11th century, is said to have inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to create the “Doors of Durin” in The Lord of the Rings.
However, the church as a whole is of great architectural interest and is a Grade 1 listed building, with elements of Norman architecture, 13th century Early English columns and arches, and a Perpendicular Gothic south tower and nave clerestory, as well as an impressive 88-feet tall 4-stage tower, completed in 1447.
In between exploring the town, we had some great restaurant trips. We’d recommend the Porch House as the food was delicious, although check the contents of your plate as some of our Sunday roast was missing! Lucy’s Tearoom was also brilliant, with great service – the perfect place for tea and crumpets.
We also paid a visit to Snowshill Manor and Gardens, a National Trust house but not like one we’d ever visited before.
Snowshill was once home to Charles Wade, who was an unbelievable collector. He purchased Snowshill, a Tudor manor house, during the First World War, but didn’t live in the house. Instead, he set up home in the small Priest’s House opposite, which felt more like a small barn. Even this tiny dwelling is full of items Charles collected; the room below was his bedroom, with the antique enclosed bed on the left and various religious artefacts around the room.
The entire house itself is absolutely full of Charles’s collections; there are whole rooms devoted to different themes, with rooms of musical instruments, machinery, carvings, sculpture, insects, and bicycles in the loft.
It felt a little strange to walk around and it was hard to appreciate the house itself, but particularly striking was when a guide told us that Charles himself was not well travelled, but had purchased items from across the world when they came on sale in England. This was of course particularly prevalent after WWI, when many estates were put on sale or given to the National Trust as lines of succession and finances were impacted by the war. To us, this detracted from the collection a little, compared to somewhere like Sir John Soane’s Museum.
It wasn’t the time of year to explore the gardens extensively, but Snowshill is set amongst beautiful countryside and lovely scenery. It is a walk from the car park and entry desk, so you can take in the views even on a quick visit.
We’d highly recommend a weekend in Stow, to experience the delightful Cotswolds and all the many attractions. Snowshill was worth a visit if you’re a member and fancy something a little different, or if you’re a particular fan of curiosities at every turn. We’d suggest getting a cottage for the weekend; this looks like a great resource for finding one, and we found ours here. Now all you need are some [/plenty of] logs for the fire and a good book!