Wessex Attractions: Little Fleece Bookshop

Former bookshops are, sadly, far more common nowadays than still-open ones. But how about former bookshops owned by the National Trust, and available to let as a holiday cottage?

The Little Fleece in Painswick is a fine example of a Cotswold stone building, refurbished in the Arts & Crafts style so strongly associated with the Cotswolds. It will reopen on July 21st, having been closed due to the COVID19 lockdown. It has 3 bedrooms, and can accommodate up to 5 guests. The bad news? It costs £371 a night to rent, and the minimum stay is 2 nights. The property carries a 4 acorn rating (out of a maximum of 5), signifying luxury accommodation with premium features. For those who can afford it, it provides a perfect base for exploring the Cotswolds.

Wessex Attractions: Theatre Royal, Bath

The Theatre Royal in Bath is an outstanding example of Georgian theatre architecture. Built in 1805, the original theatre is a grade II listed building. In 1997, the Ustinov Studio, named after Sir Peter Ustinov, who had led the fundraising for the building, was added to the rear; and in 2005, a children's theatre called The Egg was built on the site of the disused Robins Cinema next door.

Like all old theatres, the Theatre Royal is said to be haunted by many ghosts, including the Grey Lady, an unnamed former actress who has her own box, and who is said to leave behind the scent of jasmine after a sighting.

The pub next door to the theatre is known as the Garrick's Head, after the great actor David Garrick, a bust of whom is also displayed above the door. The address of the theatre is Sawclose, Bath, BA1 1ET.

Wessex Attractions: West Green House

West Green House is an 18th century grade II listed house near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire by Henry Hawley, aka Hangman Hawley, a bloodthirsty imperialist who led the cavalry charge against the Scots at the Battle of Colluden. Whilst we have written before about Wessaxon support for the Jacobite cause, Hawley most emphatically did not share such sympathy, and was a leading figure in the destruction of the Jacobite rebellion.

Today, the house is better known for its gardens, and for its regular opera performances instituted by its current owner Marylyn Abbott, a former manager at Sydney Opera House.

The house and gardens are currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, but are scheduled to reopen on June 17th. The postcode, for satnav purposes, is RG27 8JB.

Wessex Attractions: Hidcote

Hidcote Manor and its gardens, located near Chipping Campden in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. are a National Trust-owned property bought by the American-born Major Lawrence Johnston and his mother in the early years of the 20th century and restored according to the principles of the then-burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement. Charles Ashbee moved the Gild (sic) of Handicrafts from East London to Chipping Campden in 1902, and the area quickly became a centre for the movement.

The G(u)ild dissolved five years later, but Major Johnson continued its legacy, He spent the period up to 1914 remodelling the house and gardens according to Arts and Crafts principles, but progress was halted when he went off to fight in World War 1. After the war, a period of expansion began, and the estate was sold to the National Trust in 1948.

Like all National Trust properties, Hidcote Manor is currently closed. but their website allows visitors to experience a virtual tour.

Wessex Attractions: Marden Henge

Marden Henge, 5½ miles southeast of Devizes, is the third of Wiltshire's major prehistoric sites, along with Stonehenge and Avebury, though less well-known than either. It is the site of Hatfield Barrow, a Bronze Age burial chamber. In July 2015, archaeologists from the University of Reading found a 4000-year-old skeleton believed to be that of a teenager, buried with an amber necklace at nearby Wilsford Henge.

Marden Henge covered some 26 acres, making it larger than Stonehenge or Avebury. Unfortunately, little of it now survives. It merits only the briefest mention in the book Prehistoric Sacred Sites of Wessex by Kent Goodman (Wessex Books, 1997), whose gazetteer simply describes it as "A large henge, now barely visible". However, anyone wishing to visit it once lockdown ends should use satnav postcode SN10 3RQ, or Salisbury Reds service 101 or 210 from Devizes.