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David Tyler: Staddle Stones

PUBLISHED: 13:22 31 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:04 20 February 2013

saddlestones

saddlestones

A nonplussed David Tyler fails to see the point in decorative staddle stones, claiming that it's like "leaving a pair of breeze blocks lying on the lawn"

"If there is any modern purpose to these redundant rural building foundations other than as an example of bourgeois garden kitsch, it is presumably as a signal to the neighbours to tell them that you have got rats".




I am not an Archer's fan. It is partly due to the fact that the Radio 4 soap opera is set in what I consider a dull bit of the countryside to the north west of the Cotswolds (although the town of Felpesham is supposed to be based on Cheltenham). But mostly it is because the everyday story of country folk is either droning on about the rising price of pig feed or milking not-so-common tales of urban despair absurdly transported to the shires. Neither story-line excites me, particularly early on a Sunday morning when the Omnibus edition airs.



However a few weeks ago, while waiting for Desert Island Discs to start, I heard the tail end of an Archers' storyline that involved a teenager attempting a three-point turn in a dark country lane. In doing so he reversed into a staddle stone. He then drove off without bothering to report the incident. Quite right too, I thought. Many of us have suffered a shunt with the mushroom-shaped artefact and if it had been me I would have hurled the artless object over a hedge.



The pointless knee-high toadstool, missing only a Barbour-clad figurine fly-fishing, is the curse of the Cotswolds. It belongs in Room 101, not in a rose garden or gated drive.



Staddle stones were once a practical bit of rural furniture. They were originally used as bases for granaries, game larders and even hayricks, lifting them above the ground and thereby protecting any stored consumables from water seepage and vermin. A wood framework was placed onto the tops of the stones, which were usually arranged in two or three rows of five. It is thought that the first staddle stones were made of wood (the word staddle means stump) but either way the most cunning of rats was apparently unable to climb them, although I have to say I never met anyone who has ever seen a rodent foiled by one.



The stones were in use all over the country and they came in different shapes and sizes - in the Isle of Wight, for example, the tops were flat. However, for some baffling reason the round-top stone was adopted by the Cotswolds as its own. (Was any Cotswold barn or granary ever actually built on staddle stones?) It is now as much part of our limestone hills as dry stone walls and sheep. No gated entrance or driveway is complete without its pair of staddles.



The stones have installed themselves so firmly into our psyche that in Chipping Campden there is a B&B called Staddlestones and in the pretty village of Woodmancote there is a Staddlestones Indian takeaway restaurant that does a Staddlestones Special Biryani (chicken tikka lamb tikka, prawn and sheekh kebab) for 10.50.



This proliferation of the ubiquitous garden ornament has led to Staddle Snobbery among owners. The genuine article can cost a 1,000 from a fancy reclamation yard and its owners frequently boast of how vulnerable it is to thieves (although I doubt if anybody steals a stone because they covet it, but rather for its re-sale value to those who have had them nicked).



Next in the staddle pecking order are modern stones made by local craftsmen, which I assume to mean any chap who can pour reconstituted stone into a mould. A company called Suttle Natural Stone, for example, offers staddles that are `hand-crafted by local craftsmen in either Purbeck or Portland natural stone' with the important rider `don't be fooled by concrete imposters'. They cost 449 each. Reconstituted stones in granite cost around 225 while those made from sandstone are only worth around 125. Finally there are the Non-U concrete staddles that can cost as little as 50. Meanwhile whatever the standing of the staddle, all are given a social leg-up by a covering of lichen.



The mystery, however, is not why a reconstituted granite staddle has more social kudos than a concrete model, but rather why anybody would purchase one in the first place.



I can quite understand the person who inherits a set of staddle stones that once supported a building in his grounds, leaving them where they stand. I can even accept somebody using an old staddle stone as a barn doorstop or picnic seat. But why would anyone want to invest in the equivalent of an 18th century car jack as an object d'art? It is like leaving a pair of breeze-blocks lying on the lawn.



If there is any modern purpose to these redundant rural building foundations other than as an example of bourgeois garden kitsch, it is presumably as a signal to the neighbours to tell them that you have got rats.


"If there is any modern purpose to these redundant rural building foundations other than as an example of bourgeois garden kitsch, it is presumably as a signal to the neighbours to tell them that you have got rats".




I am not an Archer's fan. It is partly due to the fact that the Radio 4 soap opera is set in what I consider a dull bit of the countryside to the north west of the Cotswolds (although the town of Felpesham is supposed to be based on Cheltenham). But mostly it is because the everyday story of country folk is either droning on about the rising price of pig feed or milking not-so-common tales of urban despair absurdly transported to the shires. Neither story-line excites me, particularly early on a Sunday morning when the Omnibus edition airs.



However a few weeks ago, while waiting for Desert Island Discs to start, I heard the tail end of an Archers' storyline that involved a teenager attempting a three-point turn in a dark country lane. In doing so he reversed into a staddle stone. He then drove off without bothering to report the incident. Quite right too, I thought. Many of us have suffered a shunt with the mushroom-shaped artefact and if it had been me I would have hurled the artless object over a hedge.



The pointless knee-high toadstool, missing only a Barbour-clad figurine fly-fishing, is the curse of the Cotswolds. It belongs in Room 101, not in a rose garden or gated drive.



Staddle stones were once a practical bit of rural furniture. They were originally used as bases for granaries, game larders and even hayricks, lifting them above the ground and thereby protecting any stored consumables from water seepage and vermin. A wood framework was placed onto the tops of the stones, which were usually arranged in two or three rows of five. It is thought that the first staddle stones were made of wood (the word staddle means stump) but either way the most cunning of rats was apparently unable to climb them, although I have to say I never met anyone who has ever seen a rodent foiled by one.



The stones were in use all over the country and they came in different shapes and sizes - in the Isle of Wight, for example, the tops were flat. However, for some baffling reason the round-top stone was adopted by the Cotswolds as its own. (Was any Cotswold barn or granary ever actually built on staddle stones?) It is now as much part of our limestone hills as dry stone walls and sheep. No gated entrance or driveway is complete without its pair of staddles.



The stones have installed themselves so firmly into our psyche that in Chipping Campden there is a B&B called Staddlestones and in the pretty village of Woodmancote there is a Staddlestones Indian takeaway restaurant that does a Staddlestones Special Biryani (chicken tikka lamb tikka, prawn and sheekh kebab) for 10.50.



This proliferation of the ubiquitous garden ornament has led to Staddle Snobbery among owners. The genuine article can cost a 1,000 from a fancy reclamation yard and its owners frequently boast of how vulnerable it is to thieves (although I doubt if anybody steals a stone because they covet it, but rather for its re-sale value to those who have had them nicked).



Next in the staddle pecking order are modern stones made by local craftsmen, which I assume to mean any chap who can pour reconstituted stone into a mould. A company called Suttle Natural Stone, for example, offers staddles that are `hand-crafted by local craftsmen in either Purbeck or Portland natural stone' with the important rider `don't be fooled by concrete imposters'. They cost 449 each. Reconstituted stones in granite cost around 225 while those made from sandstone are only worth around 125. Finally there are the Non-U concrete staddles that can cost as little as 50. Meanwhile whatever the standing of the staddle, all are given a social leg-up by a covering of lichen.



The mystery, however, is not why a reconstituted granite staddle has more social kudos than a concrete model, but rather why anybody would purchase one in the first place.



I can quite understand the person who inherits a set of staddle stones that once supported a building in his grounds, leaving them where they stand. I can even accept somebody using an old staddle stone as a barn doorstop or picnic seat. But why would anyone want to invest in the equivalent of an 18th century car jack as an object d'art? It is like leaving a pair of breeze-blocks lying on the lawn.



If there is any modern purpose to these redundant rural building foundations other than as an example of bourgeois garden kitsch, it is presumably as a signal to the neighbours to tell them that you have got rats.


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