The Studio yearbook of decorative art — 1919

Page: 59
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ON OLD ENGLISH COUNTRY COTTAGES
AND RECONSTRUCTION. BY ALFRED H.
POWELL
1 MONGST the problems of getting ourselves better villages, better
terms of life and work, better individual homes, comes this one
/ % of how to deal with our old country cottages. That they can-
^ not, in many cases, be left as they are is to us all a chose jugee.
Many of them are dilapidated or dilapidating, many are poky and incon-
venient, and to insist on keeping them as they are for the sake of their
amenities is not only unkind, as adding discomfort and untidiness to the
lives of their inmates, but in some cases dangerous, as leading to careless-
ness and ill-health. And yet there can be few of us who have not amongst
these old houses at least one or two—many of us more—particular friends.
Kindly looking, bound up with our earliest reminiscences of happy child-
hood, we should ill bear to think of their being destroyed. And not only
so, but, in the larger view, they actually constitute the England we in-
herit ; they are, as it were, a voice in the country, speaking to us, as no other
authority can speak, of the lives that made England great. Sir Walter
Raleigh was born in one of them, Nelson in another; John Wesley, George
Stephenson, Browning, Shelley, Milton, Shakespeare, and a host of other
great names, remind us of these English cottage homes and what they
were and are to English men and women.
Again, as architecture they have a message to us that none else can de-
liver so accurately, so fully, so beautifully ; they are the work of England
done in other days, yet every bit as representative of English life and
character as our activities of to-day, on land, on sea, in the air. To lose
them, to lose their form and authenticity of workmanship would con-
stitute a severe and irreplaceable national loss. So much historic record,
so much clear reflection in our own eyes of the world as it appeared to,
and was enjoyed by, our forerunners on this “tight little island” (may it
be tighter !), and so much precious insight for us into ways and methods
of workmanship when it was all done by “hammer and hand,” all this we
confidently claim for our ancient cottages.
Then we cannot forget the pleasure that not alone we ourselves experience,
but every visitor to these islands feels (strangers as well as those descendants
of emigrants who “ come back” to a land they never saw “just to find the
old home ”) at the sight of some lowland country village, of some street of
thatched houses, some village green and its time-honoured surrounding
cluster of dwellings, with their little church and stone cross. Surely this
is an aspect we must include in the consideration of the present need for
better houses for workers to live in.
And it is fair to say that it is not the buildings in many cases, so much as
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