We'd wanted to visit Stoneywell Cottage for a while now but as you have to book a parking slot we had to be sure of going on a specific day. This day turned out to be on my birthday which happened to fall on a Bank Holiday Sunday, the last in August and I thought, as I don't really like busy weekend and bank holiday crowds very much, this would be a perfect place to visit. The car park is easy to find and all the staff were so cheerful and hospitable, we even had e-mails before and after our visit welcoming us and hoping that we had had a wonderful time. Which we did.
There is a little shuttle bus service which takes you from the car park to the property and people on hand to tell you which way to go once you have booked in for a guided tour. Our guide was called Eric and he was so interesting with his descriptions of the family who lived in the hall as well as the descriptions of how it was built and the way it was lived in.
Stoneywell Cottage is an Arts and Crafts house which was built c. 1898 as a summer residence for Leicester industrialist Sydney Gimson. It was designed by his brother Ernest who was an architect influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement. Sydney wanted to position his cottage on the hill but Ernest insisted it would be better further down so that it appeared to rise organically from the earth, made of natural materials and stone gathered from the land nearby.
The roof was originally thatched but after a fire in 1939 it was rebuilt with local Swithland slate. Inside the cottage is built on six levels rising from the entrance floor which you see above and moves in a zig zag way across the building until you reach the last room known as Olympus because it was the highest point in the house.
Most of the furniture in the house was made specifically for Sydney Gimson's family by his brother Ernest Gimson or by both of Ernest's Arts and Crafts workshop collaborators, the Barnsley brothers, also called Sidney and Ernest.
Above and below are photos taken in the dining room which had, when the cottage was first built, been the kitchen. One of the later Gimson ladies had decided when she moved in that a more up to date kitchen was needed and this was made through the latched door you can see above to the left of the dresser in what had been the outhouse and earth closet.
The table in the photo above was made by Sidney Barnsley the top made from a single plank of wood. It was used for dining by the family but is also marked out for table tennis for which it was also used.
We were a happy little group of ten being guided round by Eric but because I was struggling a little with my back and leg I was waiting to be last in the queue for the steps so I didn't hold anyone up. This also meant that I could take some photos of the empty rooms before the next group entered them.
One end of the sitting room where there is a lovely window seat overlooking the garden. The chair in the foreground was made by Lawrence Neal who uses some of Ernest Gimson's tools.
The group were fascinated by the train set which was in the well room, so called because you have to drop down a level to get into it.
The train set apparently used to be set out across the whole floor of the bedroom and belonged to Sydney Gimson's great grandson Roger.
It was Roger's father and mother Donald and Ann Gimson who, on inheriting Stoneywell Cottage, decided to live there permanently and not just in the Summer and at Christmas as the earlier Gimsons had done.
After our tour we had a stroll around the gardens and then it was time for coffee and scones in the little cafe in the barn.
The cheese scones were very tasty.
Above a few more photos taken in the sitting room
I loved all the little chalk board messages around the gardens and I loved Stoneywell, it had such a feeling of warmth with echoes of a well loved family home. I would like to visit again one day.