Wood Road Lodge

Not even the old Wightwick Manor had a lodge so the Wood House lodge was probably the first lodge to be built in the Tettenhall area. It is usual for a lodge to act as a ‘style taster’ for the main house but Theodosia broke with custom and used 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 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.

The ‘Cottage Ornée’, was something 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. The practicality of using one as a lodge must have appealed to Theodosia because the estate was not really large enough to warrant using one for its normal purpose.

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, this becomes clearer, showing many of the architectural details favoured in this type of building.

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, another cottage ornée favourite. 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 highlight its rustic effect but these must have rotted and been removed.

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 are the stone gothic quatrefoil openings in the gables of the cottage: this was probably a deliberate architectural ploy because they would not normally feature in a rustic cottage ornée.

There does not seem to be any record of Rickman having designed this type of cottage but there were several books of designs for them, produced 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: we may never know who was.


   
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