We check in to the Mercure Bowden Hall Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager.
Tuesday: Rodmarton Manor & Chavenage House
Our first visit is to Rodmarton Manor, one of the last country houses to be built and furnished according to the ideals of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The house is filled with fine examples of handmade furniture and we enjoy a guided tour with the owners, plus time to explore the beautiful gardens.
Next stop is Chavenage House, an Elizabethan era manor house constructed of grey Cotswold stone and largely unchanged for 400 years, where we enjoy a guided tour by a member of the family, followed by afternoon tea. The house has a rich history and many Civil War associations as well as an interior packed with stunning period furniture, historic tapestries and fascinating relics from the Cromwellian era.
Wednesday: Owlpen Manor & Woodchester Mansion
Home to the Mander family, Owlpen Manor is widely recognised as one of England’s most romantic Tudor manor houses. Dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, the manor was saved from ruin in 1926 by the Cotswold Arts and Crafts architect Norman Jewson and contains a series of unique painted textiles, family portraits and a representative collection of Cotswold Arts and Crafts furniture, which we discover on our exclusive guided tour.
We continue on to Woodchester Mansion, a unique and unfinished Victorian Gothic Revival house. The masterpiece of a young local architect, Benjamin Bucknall, the mansion blends the local traditional work in limestone with the ideas of the French architectural thinker Viollet-le-Duc. Building started around 1857 but stopped in the mid-1860s, leaving floors and ceilings missing, walls unplastered and windows unglazed. We learn more about the craft and building techniques of the period on our guided tour. The mansion also houses breeding colonies of Horseshoe bats.
After dinner this evening, we enjoy an interesting themed talk on the Arts and Crafts Movement from a guest speaker.
Please note: as Woodchester Mansion is an unfinished building with uneven floors, it is unsuitable for those with limited mobility.
Thursday: Wilson Gallery, Chipping Campden & Broadway Museum and Art Gallery
We begin our day in the spa town of Cheltenham at the Wilson Art Gallery. The gallery is renowned for its Arts and Crafts collection of furniture, textiles, ceramics, carvings, silver and jewellery; recognised as an outstanding collection of international importance, which we learn about on our guided tour.
Afterwards we have free time in the idyllic old wool merchants’ town of Chipping Campden. A gilded masterpiece of limestone and craftsmanship, it has a lovely main street complete with old pubs, antique shops and almshouses, a 17th-century Market Hall and one of the finest wool churches in England.
Finally, we head to the quintessential Cotswold village of Broadway. Here we visit the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery, housed in a 17th-century coaching inn which still retains many original features, and is one of the few buildings in Broadway of this period that can still be explored today. The museum tells the history of the town through the wool trade and its later popularity with the artistic community. Its unique collection, curated by Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, includes fine porcelain and paintings.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.