VISIT TO WOOTTON WAWEN
BIRMINGHAM ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY MAY 1905
On Saturday members of the Birmingham Archaeological Society with their friends spent an afternoon at Wootton Wawen. With its interesting old church, and in the adjoining mansion and grounds at Wootton Hall, a palatial residence rich in historic associations, once the home of the Carringtons, the Harewells, and the Smythes, now the property of Mr Capewell Hughes. Mr and Mrs Capewell Hughes had generously extended their hospitality to the Society, and that the invitation was appreciated was evidenced by the fact that their guests numbered quite 200.
The Hall, a magnificent building, in the Italian style, is within a stone-
Whether Mr and Mrs Capewell Hughes were prepared for an invasion of such force as that which passed into the handsome and spacious hall on Saturday, the writer cannot say. As a matter of fact Mr and Mrs Capewell Hughes are not yet in residence, but such arrangements as could be made for the reception of the Society had been well carried out, and an exceedingly graceful and cordial reception was accorded each member of the party. The Entrance Hall has been restored as nearly as possible to what it was at the time of rebuilding the house in 1687, and is exactly the same in size, shape and approach. For the last 100 years it has been used as the drawing room of the house, but now represents exactly what it originally was. The frescoes, illustrating scenes from “Much Ado About Nothing” have been painted by F. W. Davis F.R.I., of Birmingham, formerly a student of the Art School and Institute. The armour is a notable feature, and worth inspection. The welcome over, Mr Humphries, as arranged, conducted his party through the magnificently decorated and furnished apartments. The Drawing Room was first visited, a room of striking beauty hung with rich tapestries and designed to represent a French salon of about the Louis XIV period. Everything is in the most exquisite taste, the mantle-
Tea was served in the Music Room, a hall of lordly dimensions, effectively decorated, and of excellent acoustic properties. Before partaking of the good things provided by Mrs Hughes the company listened to a short address by Sir Benjamin Stone. The member for East Birmingham referred to the Hall as one of the most interesting country seats in Warwickshire, and congratulated Mr and Mrs Hughes on the way in which they had restored their historic and beautiful mansion. The history of the Hall was, he said, intimately associated with that of the parish Church, and the ruined Priory that could still be traced on the estate. Probably both buildings grew out of the cell of the anchorite, which in nearly every instance formed the nucleus of ecclesiastical communities. The history of the Priory could be traced back to the year 850, when it received a grant from Ethelbald, King of Mercia. After referring to the civil and religious disturbances that had left their mark on Wootton Wawen, Sir Benjamin spoke of Edward Arden as a connecting link between the family of Somervile and that of Shakespeare. He suggested that the tragic death of John Somervile, after his mad threat against the life of Queen Elizabeth, might have had something to do with Shakespeare's departure for London, which occurred about the same time. Sir Benjamin, in the course of his remarks, went on the confirm the theory referred to above with regard to Wren. He also dwelt at some little length on the fact that Grinling Gibbons had worked for and with Wren, and expressed the belief that beyond doubt the famous wood carver had done work at Wootton. He referred to the extreme beauty of Gibbons' work – flowers and fruit so delicately formed as to respond to a touch or movement. Specimens of Gibbon' carving adorn Marlborough House, Kensington Palace, Windsor Castle, St Paul's and elsewhere. It is noteworthy that not long since an old over-
Ample time was given the company to inspect the exterior of the house, to notice its architectural beauties, and to visit the grounds and attractions. One of the most ancient pieces of masonry is the archway near the stables, which no doubt belonged to a much older building. Over the front of the hall may be noticed the magnificent stone carving of the Carrington arms, which again may be the work of Grinling Gibbons. The Carrington crest may be seen on the old lead work, and the crests of the present owners, Mr and Mrs Hughes, on the new. The party now divided itself into groups, and wandered at sweet will, some to look at the ruins of the old Priory, others to linger in the Italian Pleasantry. Here is now under construction a spot which, when completed, will be an ideal resort. A plaque above one of the benches bears a noteworthy passage from Matthew Arnold:-
Ah friend, let us be true to one another!
For the world which seems to lie before us
Like a land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And here we are as on a darkling plain,
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Some proceeded to inspect with curious interest the famous dovecote, one of the largest and oldest in England. The interior of this giant columbarium, with its innumerable nesting niches, seems roomy enough to contain all the pigeons in Warwickshire. If these birds are in the habit of holding annual conferences, no more convenient rendezvous could be desired. Some took a glimpse of the ancient tithe barn, and others strolled in the charming English Garden, with its old-