A quintessential English cottage
Bush Cottage sits alone in a verdant pocket of rolling fields and copses in a Shropshire valley. The drive to Bush Cottage can best be described as long and bumpy. However, when the sunlight catches the leaded panes and makes the brickwork glow, you may find yourself reluctant to retrace your steps to the outside world. There are wonderful walks in the Clee Hills and Jack Mytton's Way runs close by, named after a Shropshire rake notorious for his riding and drinking exploits.
The Cottage is squarely built of red brick and oak, and takes its name from a nearby coppice known as The Bush, a remnant of the Forest of Wyre. Yeomen followed their seasonal round here for centuries: timber analysis has shown that the cottage was constructed in 1548. Inside, a massive, chamfered central beam and truss speak of a dwelling carefully constructed for its own sake rather than from salvaged remnants of another. It is a quintessential English cottage, with roses around the door and green hummocky fields to look out upon.
A generous gift
Inside, the Cottage is compact and comfortable; the double bedroom is reached through the twin. It was offered to us by one of our longest standing and most generous supporters, who rescued it from dereliction and carried out his repairs with a deliberate eye to Landmark standards and style. We had no hesitation accepting his generous gift. The Cottage is well placed to explore Ludlow, Shrewsbury and all that this rich county has to offer.
‘A 'hidey hole' in the depths of the lush Shropshire countryside.’
From the logbook
Bush Cottage is built of timber that analysis shows was felled in 1548. It stands on the landholding known as The Bush (variously the ‘estate’ or ‘piece’), sheltered by a remnant of the ancient Forest of Wyre and facing south-east towards the Clee Hills among ancient field patterns. It lies in the township of Chorley, part of Stottesdon parish and its very survival indicates that this was a sturdy yeoman’s house of some quality.
From this documentary evidence, we discover that in the mid 17th century The Bush belonged to one William Grennows of Bagginswood, a neighbouring farm. In 1660 it was ‘late’ in the occupation of one Humfrey Bennet, born in Stottesdon parish in 1592.
It was part of a holding that included the adjoining Hole and Fiddle parcels of land, but Grennows sold off the Hole and Fiddle. Bush Cottage passed into the ownership of Thomas Bayly and then in the next generation, its ownership was fragmented into two 3/8ths and 1/4th. It remained in the ownership of Bayly’s descendants until acquired by William Childe for the Kinlet estate in 1792.
Bush Cottage’s occupiers were a different story. They were clearly all tenant farmers and yeomen, farming a mixture of arable and pasture and bearing good parish names like Malphas, Perry and Pugh. The proximity of the woods for charcoal and availability of coal and iron deposits close to the surface, thanks to the local geology, mean that other employment was available and archaeological investigation has found the remains of early bloomeries, small scale slag heaps and blast furnaces nearby. In reality, the early leases mostly prohibit the tenants of Bush Cottage from exploiting either the woodland or the mineral deposits of the Bush Piece. Their ability to exploit both natural woodland and mineral resources were carefully limited in the leases, which permitted Bush Cottage residents ancient rights dating back as far as the Anglo Saxons, for example; ‘houseboote, gateboote, plowboote, wayneboote and cartboote, to be used on the premises, upon delivery, and necessary fireboote, stakeboote and hedgboote without delivery, making no waste or spoyle.’ These –bootes gave tenants the right to take timber for the specified and limited purposes of repair, and only for use on the premises – to repair house, gates, ploughs, wains, carts, fire, fences and hedges.
In the 19th century, the service end of the Cottage was extended and the bread oven and washing copper were added, with their own flue under a small outshot.
Life at Bush Cottage evolved only slowly through the centuries, and probably changed relatively little until the Cottage was sold by the Kinlet estate to Mr Roland Wall in 1960. The Walls lived in the Cottage only briefly, moving out because the roof leaked. After that, it was left empty and increasingly derelict. In 1999, campaigning charity SAVE Britain’s Heritage put Bush Cottage on the front cover of their annual Buildings at Risk Register. Meanwhile, someone who enjoyed staying in Landmarks had bought the adjoining woodland (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) and was intrigued by the ruinous cottage. He bought it and proceeded to carry out an exemplary restoration with Treasures of Ludlow. Later, he generously gave it to Landmark, knowing other Landmarkers would enjoy it as much as he had.
To read more about the history of Bush Cottage please click here.
Hole in the roof and joinery badly rotted
When taken on by its new owner in 1999, Bush Cottage was in a parlous state. There were holes in the roof and internal joinery was badly rotted as a consequence. The bread oven outshot had collapsed. Many of the rafter feet had rotted.
The Cottage was reroofed and extensive, if conservative, repairs were carried out throughout; splicing new timber in where original rafters and framing had decayed beyond repair, putting in replacement stairs and dormer framing, replicating window ironwork from surviving examples, with everything done using traditional materials and techniques.
Wherever possible, timber and stone from the surrounding landscape was used, just as it was in the past. This was also the case for the small outbuilding with a brick floor, which is newly built but on the surviving footprint of an earlier structure.
The bread oven, extending into a small outshot, was reconstructed. During these works, earlier footings were found beneath the earth floor, suggesting that the 19th-century extension replaced an earlier one (or even that an earlier building stood on the site).
The stairs and dormer window were so rotten that they were beyond repair and so had to be replaced. The staircase was replaced in like-for-like elm, not easy to source since Dutch Elm Disease. The door to the stairs survives from earlier times and looks 18th or even 17th century. The window furniture was reproduced from a single surviving casement.
In November 2011 and having lived in it himself for ten years, the owner offered Bush Cottage, listed Grade II, as a gift to the Landmark Trust. We had no hesitation in accepting and we found the Cottage had been restored entirely to our own standards. We are enormously grateful, as will be all who stay here.
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