Cheltenham Literature festival and the history of Cooks Green Cottage

So, it’s that time of year again and crowds are flocking from all corners of the globe to our little Cheltenham for the literary festival. I have been to a couple of events so far and one in particular raised interesting points about buildings and got me thinking about our own cottage and its personality…

Edward Hollis has published a book ‘The Secret Lives of Buildings‘ and it was at his talk inside the beautifully designed Everyman Theatre that it occurred to me how buildings change over time and are generally never used the way they were perhaps originally intended.

He illustrated how, over time, different generations come to require different needs for buildings and therefore their character and usage changes. Examples were:

  • The Parthenon: a chaste monument and tourist hive which was actually a Christian church, Roman and then Orthodox, a pagan temple, a mosque and a gunpowder store.
  • Notre Dame de Paris: almost completely rebuilt 150 years ago.
  • The Berlin wall: as described by Jonathan Glancey, “once the edge of the world, but since the ‘end of history’ it has become a quarry of souvenir chips and scraps”.
  • Ayasofya: now a museum.
  • Alhambra: so popular for holiday goers now that you have to book three months prior to visiting.
  • Our very own Gloucester cathedral: now Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films.

His book focuses on these grand monuments of architecture but in his talk he spoke of the same being the case for everyday town house and village retreats. They are built to serve exactly only (s)he who proposes the initial build. After this point they are constantly modified, both superficially and by the goings on inside, generation after generation.

Another interesting point he rose was how the Georgians were masters of the noble art of designing ‘boring’ buildings. He said that today every architect wants his five minutes of fame and to stand out or appear in a magazine, so you end up getting streets of all sorts of houses, when in fact the Georgian terraces are much more pleasing as they were built as whole ‘townscapes’ which actually fit in.

So how does Cooks Green Cottage fit in to Hollis’ thesis? Well, the history is thus: The present 2 cottages that form the semi-detached Cooks Green Cottages 1 and 2 were built sometime around 1901 on the foundations of where there was an original single house which burnt down some time in the 10 years previous. We have wondered whether the brick paths around the houses were made from bricks that survived from the original house. These bricks are very likely to have been made in Apperley. Up until the turn of the millennium the cottages and land had belonged to the Strickland family who owned Apperley Court which, along with other properties in Apperley, are still owned by family descendants. They have rented out the cottages to various tenants in this time, all of whom have placed various stamps around the place. In the back garden of Cooks Green Cottage is a bricked area (now host to a greenhouse and barbecue area) which would have been where the family pig was kept! Around ten years ago the cottages were bought by Su and Len Attard who had rented one of the cottages for almost 20 years previously, and in the last few years Cooks Green Cottage has been, as we know it now, a short term rental property to happy holiday makers.

…Just from this snippet of history we can see Cooks Green Cottage has indeed had it’s fair share of changing lives (of which I’m sure many more will come in the future). As Hollis would have predicted, it certainly wasn’t built to be a holiday cottage for tourists of the Gloucestershire area, but we and our visitors are glad that that is what it is today.

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