Tales from the Sea Garden

Tales from The Sea Garden

Email me: theseagarden@btinternet.com

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Cotswolds Revisited


I had a really lovely day at The Cotswolds Vintage Fair; Billy and Monty soon found a new home to go to and it was great to meet up with customers old and new. Ali had organised everything so well, and saved me at the last minute with a table, which I'd forgotten I'd said I would bring myself!

Of course there were so many beautiful things for sale, and I managed to have a look around at the end of the afternoon. A wonderful Edwardian corset caught my eye on a mannequin on Jo's stand, and I'm afraid I succumbed. It's the kind of thing you don't see often, and I'm so glad I did buy it because it fits me perfectly! I get a real buzz from wearing genuine antique garments.

The heavy downpours that had punctuated the day (in between gorgeous bursts of sunshine) had dissipated by the time I'd finished packing up after the Fair, and I decided to have a wander up and down the beautiful wide high street of nearby Broadway.

I have very fond memories of this part of the Cotswolds, as I spent several glorious summers camped in a caravan at Childswickham with my Mum during my college years.

This view sums up The Cotswolds for me: rolling hills and sheep; beautiful!

Of course I had to revisit this magical place - Snowshill Manor - house of my dreams!

The garden is a series of small intimate 'rooms' on different levels, planted with cottage garden flowers, 
and old stone buildings and a pastoral landscape form a perfect backdrop.

'My garden sweet enclosed with walls strong,
the arbours and ayles so pleasant and so dulce'

Snowshill Manor in Gloucestershire is the creation of one man - the architect, artist-craftsman, collector and poet Charles Paget-Wade. He bought the  four-hundred year old house in 1919 after seeing an advertisement in Country Life magazine. 

Wade had inherited from his father sugar estates in the West Indies, which enabled him to restore Snowshill, then much in a ruinous state. Whilst Wade himself chose to live in a small cottage in the garden, Snowshill Manor House became the setting for his enormous and varied collection of objects of craftsmanship, gathered mainly from antique shops and dealers in England, but also from his travels to Europe and the Far East.

His collecting fever began at the age of seven when, inspired by his grandmother's 'wonderful cabinet', he started buying small curios out of his pocket money. Throughout his life he searched for items not because they were
'rare or valuable; there are many things of everyday use in the past, of small value, but of interest as records of various vanished handicrafts.....each piece made by the hand of a craftsman has a feeling of individuality that no machine could ever attain.'

Wade was collecting in an age before the antique shop had been invented, so his 'hunting trips' took him to all kinds of interesting, strange and out-of-the-way places: '......by narrow alleys, up obscure yards, to old inns, coach houses, stables long-disused, scrap iron yards, ships chandlers, sheds by watersides, old maltings, mills and barns. To ancient attics, chilly cellars, gaunt garrets, cobwebby crypts and mouldering vaults. To old tumbledown sheds, propped and patched, with dim mysterious interiors heaped high with accumulations of the ages.'  

This is one of his recollections: 'At St.Neots there was a little shop in the living room of a tiny cottage. It was kept by one of the town road sweepers, so it was only open on Sunday afternoons. His name was above the door written with walnut shells applied to a board. The room was so crammed full entry was quite impossible. The old man would stand in the doorway with a kind of fishing rod with a spring clip at the end. With this he retrieved objects at the far end, often wrecking others on the way.'
How marvelous! 

Due to the fragility of many of the objects, light levels are kept to a minimum with muslin curtains at every window, so the quality of my photographs is a little compromised, but I hope they give you a sense of the absolute treasure trove that Snowshill is, and entice you to go and see for yourself.......

In the attic are numerous items related to weaving, spinning and lace-making.

This doll's house was made by Wade c. 1910 and furnished with 19th C furniture

The grocer's shop below was one of Wade's favourite toys. It was kept by Robert, and customers came from Wade's sister's two dolls' houses. The shop had drawers and painted wooden canisters which opened, all filled with real tea, rice, coffee, cloves, lentils, sugar and spice.

The "Museum Room" is one of the most interesting as it contains photographs, mementos and many original watercolour paintings executed by Wade himself. 

Part of Charles Paget-Wade's fantastic collection was period clothing, shoes, hats, bags and accessories, but these are now housed in a separate National Trust property as they could not be properly maintained at Snowshill. However there is always a changing display of a number of these items on show in the Museum Room. 

These scarlet silk slippers are to die for!

Lots of exquisite ribbons and trims, and this quilted silk bonnet was my favourite.....

Just above the floor in the Museum Room are two tiny windows, with a teddy bears' picnic in one and a darling little sitting-room interior in the other. Most people simply miss these altogether, as they are specifically designed for small children to discover......

 Wade was a prolific maker, and created whole villages and harbour scenes which were installed in the garden around the pond and along the walls. It is easy to say that Wade never lost his childhood delight and fascination for small things and the sheer pleasure of playing.

These are just some of the little houses and buildings he created for his 'village' in the garden

In 1946 Wade married and spent many of his remaining years living on his inherited estate in the West Indies. He still retained a lively interest in the house and continued to add to his collection, until in 1951 he presented Snowshill and its contents to the National Trust. What you see there today remains as he left it, a perfect memorial to an incredible man.

Although I must have visited Snowshill 20 times I never tire of visiting this dreamy house and garden nestled in the Cotswold hills;

'Treasure beyond measure
Imaginative mind
Magic key to open
The realm of anywhere'

C.P.W. 1883 - 1956