Owlet End

From Clifford Chambers
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The early memories of those who were born in the village, was of a derelict barn, but in the very early 1900's two – if not three – families lived there, and judging by the photographs taken at that time, the building looks, by today's stands, “unfit for human habitation.”

It is believed that this building was the oldest in the whole of the village. William Barnes who had to keep Clopton Bridge in repair, lived in one And sometime, Mr. Spiers, later a Churchwarden had something to do with these cottages too.

In living memory of those whom I chatted to in the 196O's I found that a Mr. Bambrook (in the photos the name Mr. Bainbridge is mentioned!) lived in the cottage nearest to the road, and Mr. Hewins the postman in the cottage next to him.

Martin Bailey remembers a Dick Warren living in the part nearest to the river. He was more an odd-job man, and listening to the the character of Walter Gabriel in the radio soap “The Archers – an everyday story of country folk' - always made the villagers think of old Dick Warren

Eventually all the orchards and land around, and the three cottages, were owned by Seth Smith it is believed, in 1906. Seth used the building for storage, for it was all one – as said above, originally a large barn.

Two photos of Close Cottage by kind permission of The Birthplace Trust

By this time, the whole building looked derelict, reached by a dirt path from the main village street. But the fruit trees in the orchards decorated the land when the blossom was out, and when the fruit was ready, many people wanting to 'earn a little bit' were climbing up the ladders to pick the fruit for Seth.

Sometime late 1950's early 1960's, a Mr . and Mrs. Birch bought just the cottages and a small piece of the land near to the cottages, and they made all three into one large house. Mr. Birch owned and ran the motor-cycle shop in Stratford.

They had a son who had severe learning difficulties, but Mr. & Mrs. Birch were excellent parents in knowing how to help and encourage him. The greatest lesson they were able to teach him, was politeness and respect for those around him. From time to time, his mother would gently remind him to wipe his mouth with his handkerchief, for it was difficult for him to keep his mouth closed when not talking.

It was when they left, that Dr Bramwell saw an opportunity in developing this old barn/three cottages into a place of beauty and dignity – though it is hard to see, when looking at it, the original large area where barn doors had been. and the tiny windows which had only let a small bit of light into the building.

Large alterations were made, and after that, the building didn't look like a dilapidated barn - or even a barn conversion. In fact, by the time the alterations were finished, the building could not be recognised for what it once was.

The land all around Close Cottage were allotments and orchards, until houses were built on the land. The land at the back of the Recreation Ground was then offered to the tenants who lost these allotments.