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Saturday, 28 November 2015


'There is the most extraordinary visual, structural and functional logic
to Stoneywell. Of course, there is the other structural and functional logic that says:
Build a house of brick on level ground - but that is the difference
between building and architecture.'
Nicholas Cooper, architectural historian.

Not far from where I live there is a tall, red brick house with an intriguing variety of windows. A path flanked by standard bay trees leads directly to the reassuringly solid front door which is painted a dark shade of green. I pass this house on my walks and although it could not be called pretty, due to its extreme cleanliness of line, I find it fascinating. This house was designed by the renowned Arts and Crafts architect, Ernest Gimson who also drew up plans for the latest National Trust property, Stoneywell.

As a long-time member of the National Trust I have always felt a little bit short-changed that Leicestershire didn't have one of their houses within its county boundary. However back in the spring that changed with the opening of Stoneywell. A friend and I have birthdays on consecutive days and we had promised ourselves a visit to Stoneywell as a birthday present to ourselves. A couple of weeks ago on a misty, atmospheric day we headed for Charnwood Forest and visited Stoneywell for the first time.

 After a welcome at the stables...

... we walked towards the house through the naturalistic gardens...

...with autumn leaves falling...

...and little cobwebby hammocks resting on the heather.

And oh the house! Ernest Gimson wanted it to emerge organically from the landscape and it does just that. Cradled by the mist it looked like something from a fairy tale and it rests so perfectly within the surroundings that it could have been there for several hundred years rather than a mere one hundred and sixteen.

As befits the Arts and Crafts Movement the house is simple and practical but it is also incredibly welcoming.

Walking under the stunning Swithland slate lintel and through the front door...

...we entered the dining room with an open fire to stand around whilst our excellent guide talked about the history of the house and of the Gimson family.

I loved the larder...

...the different levels...

...the deep, generous sills...

...and the window seats in so many of the rooms.

This is by no means a grand house. It was originally built only to be used in the summer months so that the family could escape from industrial Leicester, although later members of the family occupied the house all year round. Stoneywell definitely has the feel of a happy family home and everyone I know who has visited say they could imagine living there. It has now closed for the winter but will re-open in the spring. According to our guide, May is the best time to visit, when the gardens are ablaze with rhododendrons, but the day we went was pretty special too. I know one thing, I shall definitely be back in the spring for the second of hopefully many more visits.

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