Cottage Orné

In 1818, John Buonarotti Papworth (1775–1847) publish ‘Rural Residences, Consisting of A Series of Designs for Cottages, Decorated Cottages, Small Villas, and Other Ornamental Buildings, Accompanied by Hints on Situation, Construction, Arrangement and Decoration, In the Theory & Practice of Rural Architecture; Interspersed with Some Observations on Landscape Gardening’.  

John Buonarotti Papworth, Design for a Cottage Orné, 1818

The title certainly explains the book but the reasons for it? Papworth explained it was a “ happy by-product of the designs having been published periodically is that they cover a large range of design: from small cottages for estate workers (including a garden, so that the uncultivated mind of the husbandman is kept occupied and out of the local village alehouse), through various cottage orné, a vicarage, a dairy, a fishing lodge, to perhaps the height of luxury: an ice house calculated for an embellishment to the grounds of a nobleman.”

John Buonarotti Papworth, Design for a Cottage Orné, 1818

Papworth was not the only architect to produce designs of small ornamental cottages, ‘cottages orné’.

Robert Adam, Sketch Design for a Rustic Cottage, 1768

The Scottish architects, Robert and James Adam may have been among the first to devise this form of building in the mid-18th century.  Several rustic elements are already present in their designs; the thatched roof, overhanging eaves, the rustic timbers supporting a veranda and the latticed windows.

They may have imagined their designs of simple rustic cottages as a representation of an attempt at a return to nature. To an extent this echoed the French philosopher Rousseau’s thought that men in a state of nature are free and equal. Clearly in designing a rustic cottage for Horace Walpole, owner of the Gothic Strawberry Hill, in order to provide a link to a simple life for him, was indulging in playful fantasy.

Rpbert Adam, Back Front of the Cottage for Horace Wolpole, 1768

This illusion was taken to its extreme in the ferme ornée built for Marie Antoinette in the artificial “Hameau” at Versailles in 1783. In contrast, Papworth was proposing his designs not only as a means of ‘embellishment’ for the landowners’ estates but significantly as a way to control the rural workforce so that the ‘uncultivated mind of the husbandman is kept occupied and out of the local village alehouse’. This demonstrates a return to the ideas of the English philosopher Hobbes where order, not freedom is required to protect people from themselves.

Papworth was a late promoter of the cottage orné but he was, however, an extremely able, self-confident, self-publicist. His book of designs ran to several editions. Seeing himself as a second Michelangelo he even adopted the artist middle name, Buonarotti as his own.

John Plaw, Design for a Fisherman’s Cottage, 1785

Part of his early work experience was in the studio of the architect John Plaw (c. 1745—1820) and it appears he may have plagiarised Plaw’s ‘Rural Architecture: consisting of designs, from the simple cottage, to the more decorated villa’ of 1785, for its ideas and style.

John Plaw, ‘Design for a Rustic Cottage‘, 1785

In the 1830s, Alexander Murray commissioned Papworth to design exterior alterations and a remodelling of the interior of Cally House, the Murray’s country seat located immediately south of Gatehouse of Fleet. Though not all of Papworth’s designs appear to have been carried out, drawings now in the RIBA Library, show he was engaged in the project from 1831 to 1838. The Belvedere Lodge, a cottage orné on the estate, is by him.

John Buonarotti Papworth, Belvedere Cottage Cally House, c1835.

When Glasserton Parish Church was extended in 1836, the then owner of Glasserton Estate, Stair Hawthorn Stewart approached Papworth for its design. Presumably Papworth was still in the area, visiting Cally to oversee the work there.

John Buonarotti Papworth, Glasserton Parish Church, 1837.

 A north aisle and tower in the Gothic style was added to the plain rectangular church. It seems out of scale with the earlier building but is a great piece of landscape theatre. The tower’s heavy buttresses rise through three stages to pinnacles, topped by crocketted finials This was an expensive addition to the church. The estate must have been benefiting from the agricultural prosperity of the time.

Was Papworth asked to design other buildings at Glasserton? It seems likely.

The West Lodge, Glasserton Estate.

Several cottages on Glasserton Estate have elements of the Cottage Orné style; some with thatched roofs with deeply overhanging eaves, decorated barge boards and overlarge chimney stacks. They use tree trunks to support a porch or veranda, have timber gabled dormers and windows with diamond-pane glazing patterns. All features intended to express their rustic, simple origins.

The Est Lodge or Butler’s Lodge, Glasserton, from the drive.
The Est Lodge or Butler’s Lodge, Glasserton, from the road.

It may have been the result of fashion but these elements of the Cottage Orné style also appear in the late 1830s in the small school, Glenmalloch built by Harriet Countess of Galloway. Was this also by Papworth?

Glenmalloch has recently been restored by the Landmark Trust as a holiday home.

The East Lodge or Butler’s Lodge, Classerton following the fire of 1991.

It would be wonderful if the Butler’s Lodge at Glasserton could also be saved.

Perhaps the style and illusions of the Cottage Orné live on today in the urban bungalow?

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