Wood Road Lodge

It would be interesting to know exactly what prompted Theodosia Hinckes to build a lodge at the entrance to her estate. None of the other local estates at Wergs Hall; Wightwick Manor: Wrottesley Hall or Patshull Hall had lodges at this time.

Admittedly we are presuming that it was built at about the same time as the main house but it seems certain that it was the first lodge to be built in the Wolverhampton area: the nearest example was probably the classical lodge at Himley Hall built a few years prior to Tettenhall Wood house, for the Earls of Dudley. It is usual for a lodge to act as a ‘style taster’ and to give a viewer some idea of the grandeur of the main house, e.g. Himley Hall, but Theodosia broke with custom and applied her artistic temperament to provide something quite different and unexpected.

The half-timber design she chose can still be seen in Wood Road, although it has since been considerably altered and extended. Old photographs give a clearer idea of its original design and what emerges is a classic ‘Cottage Ornée’ bearing no resemblance to the main house and certainly not a reflection of its grandeur.

The ‘Cottage Ornée’, was a park component that had been popular on the larger estates of the landed gentry since the end of the 18th century: it was used as a romantic landscape feature and somewhere to retire to for tea and conversation, or even to dress up and play at being peasantry. The practicality of using one as a lodge must have appealed to Theodosia, not being someone inclined to indulge in romantic peasant theatricals.

In its present state it is not immediately obvious that the lodge falls into the ‘Cottage Ornée’ category but on closer examination and with the evidence of old photographs, the intention becomes clearer, showing many of the architectural features used in this building type.

First and foremost it had a thatched roof and large stone chimneys, but both features have long been removed: also the roof had a small semi-circular dormer window now only visible internally – a typical Ornée detail. Using thatch for the roof would have been most unusual at this date, in this area, clay tiles having taken its place many years earlier. The cottage still has its front entrance lean-to portico supported on a row of slim gnarled tree trunk columns, possibly replacements. It also has rustic patterned barge boards whose soffits are covered with close fitting miniature half logs. One old photograph suggests that the facia board decoration was even more eccentric at one time, with hanging looped ‘branchlets’ to create a rustic effect but these must have rotted or been removed following bomb damage.

The half-timber construction – not carried through on the much later extension, has a distinct Regency feel to it, much lighter; slimmer and more geometrically precise than the heavier half-timber revival that appeared at the end of the 19th century – e.g. Wightwick Manor. It is possible that this is one of the earliest examples of half-timber revival in the West Midlands and would, together with the thatch, have been a dramatic ‘eye-catcher’ at the time.

The only style references to the main house were the stone gothic quatrefoil openings in the gables of the cottage and the stone chimneys: the latter were removed at some time during the first half of the 20th century.

There does not seem to be any record of Rickman having designed this type of cottage but there were several books of designs produced for them about this time, which might have inspired him or Theodosia. On balance one suspects that it was Theodosia’s idea: and of course relationships were probably strained when it became time to build the lodge so he may not have been involved: it is unlikely that we will ever know who produced the design.

The concept is intriguing and we are left wondering exactly what Theodosia’s thought processes and intentions were in providing such a romantic ‘Hans Anderson’ setting.

Mr. Andy Foster of the Victorian Society, who is currently updating the Pevsner Guide for the West Midland Conurbation, confirms there was nothing else like this lodge in the West Midlands area.


Old postcard showing the lodge with thatched roof and stone chimneys.


   
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