Ghost Stories

South Cotswolds

Ablighton to be added

his little hamlet sits on the Monarchs way. The famous walking route taken by King Charles and his followers after the battle of Worcester in 1651. He and his troop came through this little hamlet on their way to the Mendips, the South Coast, and finally along the South Downs to Shoreham where he made his escape to France.

So close is Broad Campden to the larger settlement of Chipping Campden that it’s hardly a surprise that their histories are very interlinked. Almost 120 years ago, Evans wrote with unbounded enthusiasm of the arrival in Chipping Campden of the Guild of Handycraft, under the inspiration and direction of Mr C R Ashbee. Ashbee moved the Guild to the town in 1902 bringing an extremely strong creative and conservatory influence. Its immediate constructive effect was apparent a mere two years later when Evans came through, and he mentions that Ashbee had extended his reach to Broad Campden. He had set about restoring a dilapidated ecclesiastical building, long since de-consecrated, into a home for Ananda Coomaraswamy, the Singhalese scholar who took over the Essex House Press in 1908, and in 1911 Ashbee moved in himself for about 8 years. The building is the one we now see hiding demurely behind the neatly clipped yew hedges, south of the church.Just north of said church is a Friends meeting house. The two bays of housing were purchased by the “Friends” in 1663, they added a bay in 1677 when the whole building was re-roofed and probably remodelled. The original internal layout survives though only part of the screen to the two-storey southern vestibule and the elder’s bench against the North wall are in situ.

One of the things very noticeable in Broad Campden is that any new building development in the village has been done with the minimum of disruption to the feel and style of the place. The argument will continue for as long as Humans exist as to whether it’s better to build in the vernacular or if it’s incumbent on modern designers to make a 21st century stamp on these places. I think my feeling is that if building developers were able or inclined to employ truly brilliant architects then perhaps the 21st century intrusion would go down in history as a high point in local development. But whilst they employ jobbing architects whose maximum skill is making buildings stand up for long enough to get them sold, I am pretty sure the Vernacular, at least from the point of view of using local materials, is preferable.

Evans wrote “let the men of Campden take timely warning and see to it that their priceless heritage is not lost to them for ever. In Mr Ashbee they have a fellow townsman whose sympathies are entirely with the architectural traditions of the place, and under his advice neither will any outrageous novelty intrude itself, nor will any pains be spared to preserve everything worthy of preservation.”

He may have fended off what I have previously referred to as the “dead hand of the developer” for a good proportion of the early 20th century, but I am afraid the above paragraph has an extremely hollow and depressing ring about it if you look at it from the perspective of a 21st century visitor. I fear the Cotswolds in 2021 are awash with “Outrageous Novelties” and there is no sign of a let-up any time soon.

This lovely village of Broad Campden however, stands as a fine example of a settlement that has grown organically and sensitively. Visit with a delicious pint of beer and a meal at the local pub in mind, wander the lanes that drop steeply into the valley floor taking you back 50 years every 50 paces you travel, and drink in the smells and sounds of these watery hills. It’s all pretty special.


A poet's refuge


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Author: kate

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