SOME QUOTES ON OWLPEN THROUGH THE AGES
"Owlpen, the situation giving the denomination … quasi 'hole-pen', being in as deep a bottom or hole as is elsewhere to be seen. It may perhaps like some to derive the Etimology from 'Owlepen', quasi a pen or Cage for owles; sith noe forest made up of Ivy bushes can exceed the fitness for the breed and harbour of owles."
JOHN SMYTH, 1639
"The church and houses lie dispersedly at the top of a deep and narrow combe, almost environed by steep hills, covered with hanging beech woods, and forming a kind of amphitheatre, except to the west."
SAMUEL RUDDER, born in Uley, 1779
"a singularly romantic and sequestered spot which it owes to a half dilapidated Court House overrun with ivy, a rude church, no buildings, but now and then a simple cottage of thatch, deep dells, amphitheatres of steep acclivities, clothed with fine wood, and interjacent knolls of heath, producing a paucity of enclosure, the ruin of the picturesque."
T.D. FOSBROOKE, 1807
"My dear Morris
"I was spending some weeks with my mother & sisters in one of the most delightful corners of England.
Watts tells me you share my love of the Cotswolds—I wonder if you know the far west end of them, overlooking the estuary of the Severn? I know no more delightful moorlands even on the Borders, & no more glorious woodlands than lie along the flanks of the Downs. And if the (surely inviting) name of Owlpen conveys no associations to you, I can only say that it ought.
"My sisters say that £20,000 and Mr. Morris would make a paradise incomparable on earth of the ruinous little old manor-house: I say a ‘fipunnote’ & a contented mind would suffice. True, the floors & stairs are all in holes, & the housekeeper is the quaintest old body (I bet) you ever saw: but her husband, who has charge of the garden, would be cheap at £1000 a year as ‘the proud’ gardener of ‘a ducal coronet’. He keeps the old hanging gardens of the 16th or 17th century tidy & sweet & splendid out of pure love of them, for the millionaire beast who now owns the place never comes near it—& there is (I am sure) the very finest & highest yew parlour in all England between the flower-garden before the house & the bank of the lovely little river beneath.
"Only one poet could describe it—& his name is decidedly not
"Yours affectionately, A. C. Swinburne"
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURNE, letter to William Morris, 28 October 1894
"a garden house more than anything else ... carefully and reverently preserved ... We may go a long way before we find anything so quaint as this old house, making its brave fight against consuming Time ... There is surely an enduring charm in such a garden ... a pleasaunce of terraces and clipped yews, of woodland and distant views - a true old garden of England."
AVRAY TIPPING, 1906
"Among little hillside gardens treated in a formal fashion, none is more delightful than that of Owlpen Manor ... with what modesty the house nestles against the hillside and seeks to hide itself amidst regiments of yews."
GERTRUDE JEKYLL, 1914
"Owlpen Manor House . . . hidden away in the deep country . . . [although] comparatively small, possesses a great presence, the house and garden bound together so that they form a single entity ... and the fabric ... practically unchanged since the time it was built [in 1616]. The garden in which [it] is set ... is one of the finest and most satisfying things of its kind anywhere to be found."
HAROLD EBERLEIN, 1927
"Not for the most explicit of Ordnance Maps would I have forgone the folk directions given as follows: 'You must go along the green and down the hill by Fiery Lane until you come to Cuckoo Brook, then a little further on you will pass Horn Knep, after which you will go by Dragon's Den; next you go through Potlid Green; after that is Marling's End, and that will bring you to Owlpen, but you must take care not to miss the road."
"To Owlpen I came ... to the end of the world, a very secret place, where a small manor and a small church are screened by an abrupt, wooded conical hill at their backs and a massed guard of trained yews in front. But in the winter, the many-gabled little manor is of so transparent a grey between the dusky shapes before and behind that it is owlish indeed in its seclusion, in its mysterious greyness with the hill impending at its back and the soft water-meadows in front, and in the composure of a beauty that steals in so quiet a way upon the senses. This rare Cotswold treasure ...[was built] very plainly and so sparingly of ornament that the slight decoration at the apices of the gables are all that the eye picks out. It depends ... upon line and proportion and the treatment of space ... How pompous and overgrown appear many an Elizabethan and Jacobean mansion in comparison with the early Tudor of Owlpen whose architectural courtesy gently rebukes their over-bearing manners!"
H.J. MASSINGHAM, 1937
"Owlpen in Gloucestershire -- ah, what a dream is there! Owlpen, that tiny grey manor-house, cowering amongst enormous yews, yews that make rooms ... dark secret rooms of yew hiding in the slope of the valley."
VITA SACKVILLE-WEST, 1941
"in one of the deepest of the valleys penetrating the Cotswold escarpment ... the vision [of Owlpen], is so out of the world that momentarily it seems unreal, as if the descent from the wide plateau above had led one down out of time into the world of legendary shades ... Long recognised as one of the treasures of Cotswold scenery, [Owlpen] in its incomparably romantic situation [is] a dream made real, yet preserving, with all the substance of its structure and history, something of a dream's lovely unreality."
CHRISTOPHER HUSSEY, 1951
"Of medieval origin, [Owlpen] has always been considered one of the most picturesque manor houses in the county. . . a nostalgic symbol for anyone who has known and loved this part of the West of England and been separated from it during the world wars of this century. The drawings of F.L. Griggs ... have given the romance visible and literary form. Owlpen in its remote and beautiful valley near the Severn estuary is the epitome of romance."
DAVID VEREY, 1970
"By far the most perfect small Manor House, to me, in all of England."
FRANCIS COMSTOCK, 1976
"The setting is unforgettable ... shut off from the twentieth-century world. All -- manor house, outbuildings and church, against a backdrop of woods -- are in stone and of a piece. There is nowhere quite like Owlpen in the Cotswolds or, indeed, anywhere else ... "
C.R. CROSHER, 1976
"Olla's pen ... a paradise on earth, steeped in peace and timeless English beauty."
LEE PERSSON, 1983
"Owlpen's secluded site in one of the deepest combes of the Cotswold escarpment ... The main front, its stone-tiled roof lines wonderfully undulating, lacking any pretence of symmetry ...yet a delight to witness ...we admire ...on picturesque grounds. Owlpen is traditional, dignified and illogically satisfactory. The interior is just as appealing ... cherished and very much a home."
JAMES LEES-MILNE, 1985
"Owlpen ... the epitome of the English village ... Its character evolved through the slow passage of centuries of rural life."
HRH THE PRINCE OF WALES, 1989
(quoted by kind permission)
"A breathtaking ensemble of truly English beauty."
HUGH MASSINGBERD, 1993
"Few English houses are more seductively beautiful than this manor house of grey limestone, tucked away in a deep wooded valley."
GEOFFREY TYACK, 1994