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Stoneywell Cottage

Stoneywell Cottage in the Charnwood Forest, 1898 for Sydney Gimson

Stonewell during construction
Stonewell during construction

Stoneywell and Lea Cottages were designed and built more or less in tandem. Once again Gimson worked with Detmar Blow and his team of masons.


The Gimson family was familiar with this part of the Charnwood Forest and one of Gimson’s youthful notebooks contains nature notes made during walks in Lea Lane in 1880. Sydney Gimson continued to enjoy rambling and camping in the area in his spare time. The opportunity to have a simple summer retreat in the area was very attractive and he commissioned Gimson to design and build a cottage on the land he purchased from Billson. The two brothers were close and Stoneywell – Gimson’s most innovative building – was the result of a supportive relationship between client and architect.

Stoneywell is now a National Trust visitor attraction and is available to tour by booking.

Find out more by clicking here.

Detmar Blow produced this initial estimate for the cottage:

‘Estimate for the erection of a cottage at Stoneywell Hill, Markfield, Leicester for Mr Sydney Gimson in accordance with plans by Ernest W Gimson.

Making solid with rubble the spaces under the room floor, laying a thin layer of cement concrete to receive the boards.

Laying all other ground floor with slate and bedroom floors with plaster on laths, providing a slate riser and bucket to WC, a cottage range for kitchen value £3-0-0 and fire brick hobs with bars to bedrooms, plastering the walls inside with one coat of cement, and one of lias lime plaster with no hair, plastering or slating window seats and ledge including all labour and materials, used by masons, for the sum of £428-0-0.

Water service extra.'


It was a difficult site, with hilly outcrops of hard rock. Gimson boldly took the decision to use these as the foundations wherever possible. At the highest point, set on the natural foundations, was a massive stone chimney its design articulated by slabs of slate. The cottage continues downwards in an open zigzag from this point, following the natural contours of the slope. Local stone including large rough boulders and old dry-stone walls was used for the building. The stones weren’t shaped by tools but carefully selected and positioned to fit. The original thatched roof was replaced by slate tiles after a fire in 1939.


The house was intended to be a simple even Spartan, summer cottage. The ground floor consisted of a sitting room, kitchen and shed with four bedrooms on the second floor. The constructional timbers and internal woodwork were made in the Cotswolds by the wheelwright Richard Harrison and most of the furniture came from the Pinbury workshop including the oak settle be Ernest Barnsley now in Leicester Museum. Massive blocks of slate found locally were used as lintels over the doors, windows and fireplaces. The internal walls and much of the structural woodwork were whitewashed.


The final cost for Stoneywell was £920, rather more than the £500 which Gimson and Blow had originally estimated.