National Geographic : 1948 May
By Cotswold Lanes to Wold's End guide said: "That's Anne Fettiplace in her bridal gown. We took the picture down recently for cleaning. The bride had red nails - there's nothing new under the sun!" Secret rooms always fascinate me, so I was thrilled when we walked through a sliding panel into a tiny hidden chamber. The guide was not long unfolding its story. After the Battle of Worcester in 1651, a member of the family fled here and took refuge in this room. Hard on his heels Cromwell's men clattered up to Chastleton and, seeing a steaming horse in the barn, demanded that Mrs. Jones produce the fugi tive. They thought him King Charles II himself. To prove no one there, Mrs. Jones showed them through the house. Not satisfied, they stayed the night and chose above all places the room with the secret panel. Fearing her husband might betray himself by making a noise, Mrs. Jones tried to inveigle the men down to the banquet hall, but they demanded service in that room. Mrs. Jones sent food up, all right, but she put laudanum in the wine. Soon the men were fast asleep, sprawled on the floor. "Can't you see little Mrs. Jones stepping gingerly over those snoring soldiers and releas ing her husband, who escaped and was never caught?" Mrs. Groves asked. "Stow on the Wold, where the winds blow cold!" said our lady guide, as we approached a castlelike town crowning a hill. "Roads radiate from it like spokes from a wheel." Old Stow encloses a hollow square, the market place where cattle were corralled for safety in olden days. Narrow streets led my little Prefect into the court like a gateway. We admired the yellowish houses, the church, and the stocks where prisoners were exposed to public scorn (Plate XIII). Our road to Upper and Lower Swell was overhung with big trees. It was easy to believe the local saying, "The squirrel can hop from Swell to Stow, without resting his foot or wetting his toe." To an American the two little hamlets are well named: "swell" is the view as well as the name. My chief recollection of Lower Swell, be sides its church and trim yellow cottages with doorstep gardens, was the sweet scent in the air (Plate XIX). Creamy blossoms carpeted the meads beside the Dikler. With reason the herb is called meadowsweet. Lower Slaughter is a quiet little village hardly as bloody as its name implies. A tiny brook wends down its one street. Every book I read spoke of the white ducks that sport in its millstream. Sure enough, Pekin ducks were tipping and rippling reflections of rose gardens and cottages (Plate XIX). A Venice in the Cotswolds Coming to Bourton on the Water, I was surprised by a miniature Venice. Through the village green the Windrush flows beneath arched bridges. But there is this contrast with the Italian city: Bourton's water is clean and clear, rippling in its shallow bed. Picturesque as Bourton is, it hardly seems a Cotswold town, because its houses are red brick and its roofs blue slate. The railroad has brought modernity here. In the vegetable garden of the New Inn, the proprietor has built a miniature Bourton on the Water. So realistic is his toy village that photographs of it are mistaken for aerial views of the town itself. Every tiny house is built to scale. Even small saplings reproduce live trees, and a Windrush winds through the village. Street lights glimmer, and an organ plays hymns in the church. Through a periscope visitors get a "villager's view." All is well till a live giant in seven league boots stalks across the scene! Near Bourton we turned into a service sta tion, typically Cotswold. Set in a flower border were toy cottages, stone walls, and mushroom-shaped stones, once used to dry grain. Townspeople sat on the stones to watch the servicing of our car. "Put in 32 gallons of petrol and check the oil," I said to the smiling attendant, who was dressed in a neat smock. "Let's see-Maryland or Pennsylvania?" he asked, with a twinkle in his eye. "District of Columbia," I replied. "I knew it was close-could tell by your accent. I lived in Washington for 2 2 years during the war when I was in the RAF with the British Air Purchasing Commission. Spent my holidays in the Poconos and Pennsylvania Dutch country. How's Georgetown and the Chevy Chase Club?" Alan joined us on our trip to the west. Our first visit was to old Burford, a prosperous town in the days of the coaches. Travelers moving north and south, east and west, stopped here overnight. Kings and queens of England who have slept in Burford sound like a Who's Who of royalty. The railroad came and Burford went into a decline. But the motorist brought prosperity again. In summer one has to make reserva tions far ahead at the Bull, the Lamb (in Sheep Street), the Bay Tree, and at others whose history reflects Elizabethan days.