Lengthsman's Cottage

Lowsonford, Warwickshire

Overview

This snug barrel-roofed cottage, dating from c1812, is a rare survivor of its type on the Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. It was built for the 'lengthsman' - who maintained the lock as well as the next stretch of canal. 

  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath

Beds 1 Twin, 1 Double

Sleeps
4
4 nights from
£258 equivalent to £16.13 per person, per night

Simply built with limewash finish

Things have changed a great deal since the Industrial Revolution, but today Lengthsman's is a sociable spot where you can relax and watch narrowboats negotiate the lock. The construction of the Stratford-upon-Avon canal began in 1793, during the heady days after the French Revolution. Its projecteers did not foresee the credit squeeze that followed the opening of hostilities against Napoleon, but fortunately, an astute local land agent called William James stepped into the breach to complete the southern stretch of the canal, which includes Lowsonford. Working with engineer William Whitmore, James cut costs dramatically. His engineers, more accustomed to building bridges than houses, simply adapted the techniques they knew best to house the men who worked on the canal, building them snug, barrel-roofed cottages next to the locks they supervised.

A rare feature on Britain's canals

Barrel-roofed cottages are few and far between on our canals and the South Stratford canal has one of the best sets to survive. Six were built originally, between Lapworth and Preston Bagot. Landmark’s cottage at Lock 31, now known as Lengthsman’s Cottage, is the least altered from its original form. It was known first as the Lock House, then more recently simply as Ned’s Cottage, after Ned Taylor who lived here for most of his eight decades. We acquired the Cottage in 1992 when the National Trust took on this stretch of the canal, which passes through gentle Warwickshire. In 2006 we needed only to refurbish the cottage and it is now preserved as a rare example of the expedients adopted in those years when the Industrial Revolution was changing the face of Britain.

Floor Plan

‘The little place is a dream, a complete escape from the modern world.’

From the logbook

Map & local info

Lengthsman’s Cottage stands sentinel over the lock, towpath and a small road bridge. The Stratford-upon-Avon canal happily glides past the front door and through the rural village of Lowsonford.

There are a whole host of things to do in the local area. 

Baddesley Clinton is open throughout the year, so you can enjoy the gorgeous gardens as they change throughout the seasons. The house itself is a historical delight, home to the Ferrers family for over 500 years. 

Warwick Castle is fantastic for children, with trips into the dragon dungeon, and Horrible Histories events. 

Fleur de Lys in Lowsonford comes recommended, as does Finwood Hill Farm Shop.

At the end of a fun day out a trip to Henley Ice Cream parlour is always an extra treat. 

Coughton Court – a splendid Tudor house and gardens, with a collection of Catholic treasures – is within half an hour’s drive, as is Shakespeare’s Birthplace in nearby Stratford-upon-Avon, which is also home to the Royal Shakespeare Company, as well as lots of shops, cafes and restaurants. You can gain free entry to both Coughton and Shakespeare's Birthplace with a National Art Pass, which enables its members to enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses throughout the UK as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions.

The pass is presented by one of Landmark's partners, the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for art, which has been supporting museums and galleries for over 110 years by helping them to buy and display great works of art for everyone to enjoy. Income raised through the National Art Pass goes straight back into their charitable programme. Find more about it at artfund.org/national-art-pass.

Take a look at our Pinterest Map for more information and ideas for things to do during your stay at Lengthsman's Cottage. 

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.

Lengthsman's Cottage
Lowsonford, Warwickshire
Clear directions

‘The little place is a dream, a complete escape from the modern world.’

From the logbook

FAQs

    What you need to know about this building

  • Does the property allow dogs?

    Yes.
  • How is the property accessed?

    From the main road.
  • What is the nearest railway station and how far away is it?

    Henley-in-Arden – 3 miles.
  • Is there car parking specifically for Landmark guests?

    Yes – there are two parking spaces adjacent to the property.
  • What type of heating does the property have?

    There are electric night storage heaters throughout and an open fire in the sitting room.
  • How can I get fuel for the open fire or stove?

    Unfortunately, there is currently no arrangement for the purchase and delivery of logs, however details of local sources will be provided with your order confirmation.
  • What are the kitchen facilities?

    The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an electric cooker.
  • What are the bathroom facilities?

    There is one bathroom with a bath.
  • Does this Landmark have steep, narrow or spiral stairs?

    There are no internal stairs.
  • Is there a garden or outside space?

    There is an enclosed garden to the rear of the property. Please note the close proximity to the canal at the front of the property (unfenced). The public towpath runs past the front of the Landmark.

    Booking and Payment

  • What happens if I can’t get to the Landmark due to bad weather?

    If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • How can I pay?

    We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • How do I create an account?

    If you have not used the Landmark online booking facility before and you wish to register in advance, you can set up an on-line account by following the instructions below:

    Go to the Landmark home page and click on Gift shop (located at the top of the home page in red).

    Select a gift (e.g. Landmark Handbook or Anniversary Mug) and complete the ‘Amount required’ box. There is no need to complete the purchase but this step is necessary in order to bring up the registration page.

    Click ‘Next Step’ at the bottom of the page.

    This will bring you to the ‘Your details’ page.

    Please complete all the fields (name, address, contact details and create an account). Click on the green ‘Create Account’ button once you have finished.

    At the top of the page headed ‘Your details’ there will be a grey box saying ‘Signed in’ and underneath this it will say ‘you are currently signed in as ….

    Here you will also have the option to ‘Sign out’. Please do so and that is your registration completed.

    Please return to the Landmark home page.

    To check your registration or update your account details at any time please ‘Sign in’ using the icon in the top right-hand corner of the home page.

    If you experience any problems in registering or setting up your on-line account please contact webmaster@landmarktrust.org.uk.
  • How do I pick up the key?

    There are various arrangements for picking up keys. To arrange to get into the Landmark, please contact the housekeeper at least two days before your stay
  • Can I pay a deposit?

    If your stay starts more than three months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • How can I cancel or change my booking?

    If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • Do you accept payment in other currencies?

    At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • What if I arrive late?

    Please let the housekeeper know if you are going to arrive late and s/he will leave a key for you in a suitable place.
  • How far in advance do I need to book?

    It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • Do you have to be a member to book a Landmark?

    No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • Do I need a Handbook to be able to book?

    No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!

    Staying at a Landmark

  • Are Landmarks accessible for people with disabilities or limited mobility?

    Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.
  • Are Landmarks only available as self-catering accommodation?

    Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Do you provide catering?

    Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • Do you allow dogs?

    You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control.
  • Can I bring a pet?

    Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Am I insured if I break something?

    We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Are Landmarks suitable for children?

    Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Can I get married in a Landmark?

    Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • Can I hold a big party in a Landmark?

    All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • Are there televisions in the buildings?

    We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • Why are your access tracks sometimes difficult?

    One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Will there be sockets for my electrical appliances?

    Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
History

A rare feature on Britain’s canals

Barrel-roofed cottages are a very rare feature on Britain’s canals and the South Stratford canal has one of the best sets to survive. Six were built originally, between Lapworth and Preston Bagot. Landmark’s cottage at Lock 31, now known as Lengthsman’s Cottage, is the least altered from its original form. It was known first as the Lock House, then more recently simply as Ned’s Cottage, after Ned Taylor who lived here for most of his eight decades.

We have named it Lengthsman’s Cottage after the lengthsmen (or often lengthmen) who cared for a ‘length’ of canal and its towpath. It also allows us to distinguish between Landmark’s other Lock Cottage at Stoke Pound on the Worcester canal.

The South Stratford canal was built between 1812 and 1816, to link the river Avon into the main Midland canal network. The northern stretch of the canal came first, between Birmingham and the junction with the Warwick to Birmingham section of the Grand Union at Kingswood, constructed by engineer Josiah Clowes after an Act of Parliament in 1793. This was the great age of canal building, in the years just before steam, when waterways were seen as the transport of the future. Great profits were expected by investors – but the Napoleonic Wars put paid to that, as the country’s economy moved onto a war footing. Credit was squeezed and the cost of raw materials soared. By the time the canal reached Hockley Heath in 1796 the budget for the entire route through to Stratford had already almost been spent.

The scheme was in deep financial trouble, but in 1797 a bright local land agent named William James became involved. James re-surveyed the line and a further Act in 1799 enabled more funds to be raised. By 1802, the 18 locks down from the summit at Hockley Heath to Kingswood had been completed and the junction to the Warwick & Birmingham canal accomplished – but then work stalled again. James, however, had a vision of an integrated transport network and did not give up on the idea of linking the canal to the Avon. Backed by credit he had built up on other activities, he bought out other shareholders.

In 1812, he was able to start work on the southern section, under William Whitmore as engineer. James and Whitmore saw that cost control on the northern section had been somewhat lax. They introduced (perfectly serviceable) cost cutting measures and it is these that give the South Stratford canal its unique character.

Farm lanes were bridged not with brick arches but with prefabricated, cast iron split bridges These allowed the towrope to pass between the two leaves, the horse walking up and over the narrow bridge, so there was no need for a wider span to take the towpath. Stretches of narrow gauge railway were used to haul bricks and the tons of excavated spoil cheaply and efficiently over soft ground. Locks were reduced to a single narrowboat’s width, with single-leaf gates at either end, halving their cost. The cottages built to house the men who would care for the canal were built using the materials and techniques already available for bridge-building – simple rectangular brick boxes spanned by iron ties and brick vaults. The one at Lowsonford does not even have foundations, standing simply on the puddle clay used to seal the waterway. The cost of each cottage fell from £150 to £80, yet snug and durable dwellings were created that have stood the test of time. By 1813, the canal had reached Wootten Wawen, suggesting that Lengthsman’s Cottage was built around 1812-3, and in 1816 the long-awaited link with the Avon was achieved.

Yet steam came hard on the heels of the canals and their heyday was brief. By the mid-19th century, the waterways were already on the decline, bought up by the new railway companies who cared less for their maintenance than investing in the rail network. By the 1900s, the South Stratford was already a backwater bypassed by the Grand Union, which lay above a tortuous stretch of locks for those travelling northwards from Stratford. By 1947, when authors and Inland Waterways Association campaigners L. T. C. Rolt and Robert Aickman applied for passage through the bridge at Lifford Lane, the whole Stratford canal was all but impassable to narrowboats. Then in 1958, Warwickshire County Council applied for a Warrant of Abandonment for the canal, on the grounds that no boat had used it in the past three years. Fortunately, two canoeists were able to provide licenses proving that they had used the canal in that time – and so began a campaign to save it.

In 1960 the National Trust took on the South Stratford and employed a local architect and canal enthusiast, David Hutchings, to oversee its restoration for leisure use. The project became a celebrated example of canal restoration, achieved mainly by non-skilled labour – volunteers, prisoners from Winson Green, Royal Engineers, boys from Borstals, TocH: all played their part. In 1964, as part of the quartercentenary celebrations of Shakespeare’s birth, the South Stratford was re-opened to traffic by Her Majesty the Queen Mother.

Meanwhile, through all these years of decline and rebirth, Ned Taylor had been quietly living in the Cottage at Lock 31. Born in 1921, Ned was one of a family of 11 children. The Taylors’ tenancy survived the various changes of ownership of the canal in the 20th century and when in 1992 the National Trust transferred the canal to British Waterways and the Cottage to Landmark, we also took on Ned’s life tenancy. The National Trust had somewhat modernised the Cottage when they took over the canal in 1960, but Ned’s needs were modest and so the Cottage survived without the larger extensions added to the other barrel-roofed dwellings.

Restoration

Little more than a refurbishment was needed

In 2005 little more than a refurbishment was needed. Externally the chimney stack was unstable and so was carefully taken down and rebuilt. Cement render was removed from the rear elevation and replaced with breathable lime render and the ‘eyebrow’ beneath the eaves on the canal-side elevation was carefully re-rendered. The lean-tos, holding today’s kitchen and bathroom, date back to the 1900s at least and the buttresses were put up in the 1930s.

The Cottage seems always to have been limewashed at most, rather than entirely rendered. Internally we kept the original cast iron range, as well as the practical gloss paint finishes of Ned’s time and the insulating plasterboard installed to the walls by the National Trust. We re-wired the Cottage, fitted a new kitchen and new night storage and water heaters. The sitting room and rear lobby floors are as we found them. Floors in the bedrooms are new Norfolk pammets and those in the kitchen and entrance lobby are modern quarry tiles as found. New iron casements were made for the windows to match the single surviving original that faces the canal. The garden and trees were neatened and a new fence put up. In Landmark’s care, the Cottage will continue to play its part in this congenial conjunction of canal, road and village, testimony to William James’s exemplary value-engineering.


Supporters of Lengthman's Cottage

Landmark gratefully acknowledges the significant generosity of a private donor who funded the entire restoration of Lengthsman’s Cottage as a Landmark.

 

 

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.