Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Cottage at Shallowford

I always enjoy visiting this lovely little cottage; even though its front is close to quite a busy road and the main railway line runs right at the bottom of the garden, with Virgin trains passing by on their way between Stoke and Stafford and all stops beyond, it retains its peaceful, tranquil air. It was once the home of Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, first published in 1653, and is a magnet for fishing enthusiasts from far and wide who visit to pay homage to one of the most famous of them all.

Not that I'm an angler, of course, I just love the cottage, its interior, its herb garden and lavender hedges, all beautifully maintained by Stafford Council. Izaak (or Isaac) Walton was born at St Mary's, Stafford on 9th August 1593 and little is known of his early life. His father, an ale house keeper, died when Izaak was four years old. He was apprenticed in London, some biographers say to an ironmonger, others say to a linen draper, either way he set up his own business and his friendship with the Vicar of his then Parish, who was the poet John Donne, led him into a literary world where he was acquainted with writers like Ben Johnson and Henry Wotton, whose memoir became Walton's first published work. He was at first noted for writing biographies. His first wife and all their seven children had died by 1640. His second marriage produced a son and daughter who made it to adulthood.

Walton, who was a devout Anglican and Royalist sympathiser, bought the cottage in 1655, no doubt as a retreat from life in London under Cromwell. During his long life he held quite a few public offices and worked also as a tax collector and as a steward to Bishop George Morley of Worcester, later Bishop of Winchester. When he died in 1683 he was buried in Winchester Cathedral. The ground floor of the cottage is set out as it would have been in the 17th century

whilst upstairs in an angling museum.

The note below the 34lb pike, caught by Charles John Morris in 1890, reads:- 'The pike pictured here has survived two cottage fires..... so in case of a the black box.....grab the pike and run'. Izaak Walton also has connections with Dove Dale in Derbyshire where he also loved to fish with his friend Charles Cotton. His name still lives on in the name of the hotel there. Here is a link to their page on his life history.

The gardens outside the cottage are lovely.

and you can wander round to your hearts content amongst the plants and flowers...

...and across the lawns, there is an orchard and a paddock at the side where you can sit at picnic tables if you so wish. I was fascinated with the gorgeous lavender hedge.

The gardens around the side and front of the cottage are also full of lovely plants and flowers and there was a point of sale for cuttings of herbs from the garden.

The nearby Meece Brook runs its course from Mill Meece towards Stafford and the River Sow. The water looks clear and is surely still just as Walton would remember it.


  1. That was a lovely post Rosie, full of interesting facts. I am going to go back and re-read it and follow the links too. I bet the Lavender Hedge smelt wonderful!

  2. The cottage does look very pretty on the outside and a lovely place to visit but it looks a little bit scarey inside. Really enjoyed learning all about it though, thanks.

  3. Hi Rosie,

    I'm a new subscriber to your blog and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed your post "A Cottage at Shallowford". I'm originally from the UK (moved to the US as a teen with my family) so posts like this are right up my alley! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Are the rabbits real hanging in the kitchen area? I loved the first photo as you caught the walnut tree in the foreground of your photo. When I look into my backyard I see my huge walnut tree with the walnuts at the same stage.
    Before I read your comments,I imagined what the cottage would have felt like without all that white shiney paint on the interior walls, and did get the same feeling as Rosie said.
    The grounds are beautiful, and what a nice idea to be able to buy snippings. Beautiful post.

  5. glad you enjoyed the post, simone:)

    the inside isn't particularly scary, rosie - although if you didn't know that the figure of Izaak was there he would make you jump - must be my photographs.

    lois, I think the spotlights and my flash made the walls look extra white - the rabbits and game birds in the pantry were part of the display to show how people kept and preserved food and were probably done by a taxidermist or freeze dried for the display. It's not something I like to see but it was what people used to do:)

    teresa, welcome and and I'm so glad you enjoyed the post, hope to see you here again:)

  6. A very interesting post Rosie, the cottage is really pretty and the garden looks lovely. I would enjoy a good look around in person but your blog is the next best thing!
    It makes a nice change that they didn't mind you taking photos inside, most places around here won't allow it which always seems a bit mean to me!

  7. Wonderfull post Rosie ,you could be a great history teacher!! I would love to sit in your classroom!:)

  8. Thanks so much for taking me along with you. So very interesting, and a lovely little cottage. I can see why you love it so.

  9. This is such a lovely post Rosie. I think I must have read your mind because I was only talking about this cottage the other day. We visited it when we lived in Stafford many moons ago!