Monday, 3 October 2011


I realised a few weeks ago that there are three bell-cotes/turrets in the village, all visible from the road and all Victorian. The one above is on the only remaining building of the Pauper Lunatic Asylum, the chapel. The main building was opened in 1853 and the original chapel was in this building. As numbers of inmates grew the hall was not large enough to accommodate everyone to a service and the decision was taken to build a separate chapel. It was designed by David Brandon, the architect who designed the asylum, opening in 1869.
In 1999 the bell-cote was refurbished and several photos were taken by the owner, who gave them to me, and this is being used without asking permission first. It shows the finial.
I had put a photo which I took about 2002 for my Listed Buildings book showing the chapel as it (still) is today but I've been unable to move it from the top of the blog so have deleted it. Suffice to say it is in a sorry state but as it's a Grade 2 Listed building, it can't be destroyed. In that year it was listed in the local paper under Commercial Property for office conversion but nothing has happened to it since then.I've also tried to move down a very early postcard and that, too, doesn't want to be moved so I'm afraid I can't show any more of the Asylum photos I have.I don't know why this happens and am not expert enough to fiddle about trying to solve it.

The bell-cote above, with the bell still in place, is on the village school's original building, which opened in 1871 - there's a fireplace in one classroom with that date on the fireplace itself which still survives. It's a thriving school after 140 years. I've read some of the log books with comments about some of the boys who didn't return to school after dinnertime because they followed the hunt instead; absences because of harvesting, a night school whose members wrote 'obscene words' on the desks and the childhood illnesses which meant time off school.
The Lee family at Hartwell House were interested in the school, as gentry were then, the local vicar paying visits, too, because it is a C of E school. During the war Jewish children from London were evacuated here and it must have been a culture shock on both sides! Most seem to have returned home by early 1940. I have a copy of the school register for the war years. I haven't been able to take a photo of the front of the school because there are trees, shrubs and an ivy covered ?wall at the front. The front gate isn't used now though the original lantern is still in place over the path.
This is the 'turret' on the Village Hall which was 100 years old last year, though there didn't appear to be any celebrations, or none that came to my notice. It was opened in 1910 by Lady Smyth, of the gentry family in Stone, their home now being a residential home. The Smyths were one of the families who made England what it is - Admiral William Henry Smyth who had the idea of bringing Cleopatra's Needle to London; one of his sons was Charles Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal for Scotland who is responsible for the One O'clock Gun at Edinburgh Castle and the Time Ball on Calton Hill. He was interested in Egyptology and is buried under a pyramid shaped stone in Sharow churchyard in Yorks.
One daughter, Henrietta, married Rev. Thomas Baden-Powell and became the mother of the man who founded the Boy Scouts; another, Georgiana, married Sir William Henry Flower, once Director of the Natural History Museum. Another son, General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth, was at one time Commander in Chief of Malta, spending his life in the Army.
His wife, Lady Constance, was referred to by one of her nephews as Aunt Connie - he was Clough Williams-Ellis who designed the Village Hall and the village's War Memorial gates where brass plaques with the names of men who died in 2 World Wars still are despite an attempt to steal them some years ago. I think, from the design, they may have been a 'trial run' for the gates at Chequers a few miles away years later as the designs are almost identical but no-one has researched them. He was also the man who created Portmerion, the Italianate village in Wales. I've cancelled my old photo of the village hall, it won't do as I want it to, so that's gone, too. Sorry about all the deletions...


Kath said...

Very interesting post Silve, I love the way you give some background information and a little history around the things you show.

Sylve said...

Pleased you liked it Kath.

Bernard said...

I enjoyed it too.
I'm thinking of doing a bit on 'moving pictures around on blogs'. If I can manage to make it sound understandable, I will put it in an email.