The Thatched House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
The Thatched House, Tunley, Sapperton, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 6LW


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Statutory Address:
The Thatched House, Tunley, Sapperton, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7 6LW

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Stroud (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SO9332704477, SO9334904483


A detached Arts and Crafts house, partly C18, altered and extended for architect and craftsman Alfred Powell (1865-1960) by Powell and Sidney Barnsley (1865-1926), circa 1906-1923; further extended in 1982 and 2015.

Reasons for Designation

The Thatched House, an Arts and Crafts house constructed around two C18 cottages circa 1906-1923 by Alfred Powell and Sidney Barnsley, is listed at Grade II, for the following principal reasons: * Architectural interest: the house is an accomplished design by recognised Arts and Crafts architects and designers, making a virtue of the organic growth of the building, which is draped in a unifying thatched roof, bringing together the typical Cotswold style of the older stone buildings and Powell’s distinctive south-eastern aesthetic; * Interior interest: the house retains its 1920s Arts and Crafts fixtures and fittings including panelling and plank-and-batten doors with studding; a plaster frieze by Ernest Gimson; door and window furniture by Alfred Bucknell; * Degree of survival: despite two extensions in the late C20 and early C21, and the consequent loss of one external wall, the house is remarkably unaltered.


The Thatched House, also known variously as The Thatched Cottage and Sherwood Hill, was created from two C18 cottages by Alfred Hoare Powell (1865-1960), the Arts and Crafts architect, designer and pottery-painter, who was a close associate of Ernest Gimson and Detmar Blow. Powell was the architectural pupil of John Dando Sedding, and it was here that he came into contact with Ernest Gimson and Ernest Barnsley, both of whom were also Sedding's pupils, as well as the renowned Arts and Crafts architect Philip Webb, and figures such as William Lethaby and Detmar Blow. Powell’s earliest architectural work was carried out in the South-East of England, from his practice in Guildford; it was here that he first worked on vernacular buildings, and where much of his aesthetic, using traditional techniques and local materials such as thatch and weatherboarding was formed. Powell first came to Gloucestershire to recuperate from pleurisy, where he stayed with his friends among the group of Arts and Crafts architects, designers and craftsmen who had settled at Pinbury Park in Sapperton, including Ernest Gimson and brothers Sidney and Ernest Barnsley. He was captivated by the area, describing it in a letter home to his mother: “The peace is perfectly exquisite and wherever you look are beautiful hilly woods and wooded hills.”

By 1901, Powell had abandoned his practice in Guildford and was living in Yorkshire, when he decided to move permanently to Gloucestershire. In the following year, Powell purchased Gurners Farm at nearby Oakridge Lynch, setting about remodelling the C17 buildings to create a country home and workshop for himself (now Lyday House and The Sugar House, listed Grade II). He added a new thatched roof with eyebrow dormers, inspired by his work in the south-east, and undertook extensive repairs to the interior. He worked closely with the craftsmen from the Sapperton colony, in particular with Alfred Bucknell, the blacksmith from Tunley, who made traditional window and door furniture and other metal fittings for the houses on which the group worked.

From the beginning of the C20, alongside his architectural and other craft work, Alfred Powell had begun to design and decorate pottery for the renowned firm of Wedgwood, and here he met Ada Louise Lessore (1882-1956), a talented decorator of pottery, as well as a skilled calligrapher, illuminator and needlewoman. Powell and Lessore married in 1906, and became established figures in the Cotswold group. At about this time, Alfred Powell first took on two cottages in the hamlet of Tunley, between Oakridge and Sapperton. The date is not entirely certain, but it is known that Sir William Rothenstein rented Lyday House from Alfred Powell for several years before moving to his own house at Iles Green Farm in Oakridge in 1913, so it is likely that the move to Tunley was made, at least in part, around 1906-1910. The cottages were set in a secluded, wooded area, on one of the “wooded hills” which Powell loved, on steeply-falling ground, above a meadow which swept down below the buildings into a sheltered combe. The peaceful setting, surrounded by nature, fed directly into the Powells’ work for Wedgwood, which primarily featured naturalistic depictions of flowers, plants, trees, birds and animals. The easternmost cottage was soon converted to a studio, with the ceiling between the ground and attic floors removed, creating a single, full-height room, and a very large reclaimed, six-light, stone mullioned and transomed window installed in the gable wall at the north end; the cottages were reroofed in thatch, replacing earlier Cotswold stone tiles. There is some evidence that a gallery was added at one end of the studio room.

A photograph of 1921 in the Gloucestershire Archives shows the two cottages in this state, still separate, but with their thatched roofs, uncharacteristic for the area, the buildings limewashed, and the large window in place. Records may indicate that the other cottage was still occupied at this time by an Eliza Phelps, from Tunley, but Powell was already in residence – he had ordered furniture from the workshop of Peter van der Waals in Chalford in 1921, giving his address at Tunley.

On 4 May 1923 Sidney Barnsley deposited plans with Stroud Rural District Council in relation to an application on behalf of Alfred Powell, for “certain additions to a cottage at Tunley”, namely the cross-gabled section which would link the existing cottages together, creating a larger house. Although Barnsley was evidently involved, the design of the building is characteristically Powell’s. It uses half-cruck construction, weatherboarding and thatch, all features of his work in the South-East of England, but also strongly reflective of its location on a wooded slope above a meadow; indeed, the timber for the cladding was mainly felled on the adjacent land. The interior of the new range was completed in a thoroughly Arts and Crafts idiom, including a solid-tread newel stair, traditional plank and batten doors with bespoke fittings by Alfred Bucknell and a plaster frieze by Ernest Gimson. Sherwood Hill appears to have quickly become just as important to the Powells as a home and place for entertaining as a studio. Alfred Powell, in common with other figures in the Arts and Crafts movement, had a strong interest in rural material culture and shared their romantic view of the value of vernacular building and traditions, and the revival of handicrafts. The house and surrounding land were the location of gatherings of a circle of like-minded people including those with interests in early music; art and handicrafts of all types; country dancing; amateur dramatics, and so on. Visitors from outside the area included George Bernard Shaw.

As Alfred and Louise Powell’s work for Wedgwood grew in the years after the First World War, plans for a new summer studio, later built in nearby Tarlton, began to be devised by Powell from about 1920. The precise date of the construction of Studio Cottage (listed Grade II) is slightly unclear: plans date from 1919-20, but a building notice indicates that it might not have been completed until 1932.

The Thatched House was extended in 1982 by the addition of a kitchen wing to the south. By the early years of the C21, it had fallen into disrepair. In 2015-7, new owners made extensive repairs, including complete rethatching; a small extension was added at the south end of the late-C20 wing.


A detached Arts and Crafts house, partly C18, altered and extended for architect and craftsman Alfred Powell (1865-1960) by Powell and Sidney Barnsley (1865-1926), circa 1906-1923; further extended in 1982 and 2015.

MATERIALS: random limestone rubble, limewashed, with some timber boarding; limestone rubble stacks. The buildings are thatched in water reed, except for the 1982 wing and 2015 extension, which are roofed in Cotswold stone tiles.

PLAN: the house has an irregular, roughly T-plan. The original C18 cottages stand almost at right angles to each other, the easternmost orientated roughly north-south; the larger, western cottage stands to the west, running east-west. Between them is the L-shaped infill wing, from which the 1982 extension extends southwards, with the smaller 2015 addition beyond.

EXTERIOR: the house is set into the top of a bank, on falling ground, which drops away to the south-west. The approach is via a drive to the north-east, above the house. The garden extends largely to the south-west of the house, and is partly terraced. The composition is irregular, but each of the main ranges is of a single storey and attic, with steeply-pitched roofs and a lower, single-storey section at each of the south and west ends. The western range also has a cellar, accessed from the outside as the ground slopes away, under its western end. The historic ranges have timber mullioned or mullioned and transomed windows, with rectangular leaded lights; the additions have timber casements. The entrance front is to the north. To the left (east) is the gable end of one of the C18 cottages, with a six-light stone chamfered-mullioned and transomed window extending through ground and attic floors. To the centre, set back slightly, is the cross wing of the 1923 infill range, with a wide plank and batten door with stud detailing, and a two-light window to the right; a three-light window lights the attic. The elevation is clad in half-round timber above the level of the ground-floor cills. This section links with the western C18 cottage, which has a very deep roof and is also mainly clad in half-round timber. At centre is a plank and batten door with strap hinges, set slightly above the present ground level. To let is a two-light window. At the right hand end, a low workshop with a deep, thatched roof is attached at right angles, projecting to the north, set into the rising ground so that its east roof slope is only just above ground level. The workshop is partly open-fronted to the west, and stands on large timber uprights; it is partly clad in split palings, with a rustic door made from narrow poles.

The principal front is to the garden, facing south-west down the slope away from the house. To the left (west) is the larger of the original cottages, set gable-end into the bank, with gable-end stacks with two drip courses. The gable end has a wide doorway to the cellar, with a plank and batten door with stud detailing and strap hinges with scrolled terminals. Above, there are single-light windows to each of the ground and attic floors, under timber lintels. The elevation has two large windows, of four and eight lights, and a pair of bifold, plank and batten doors to the right, with stud detailing and strap hinges with spearhead terminals. This adjoins the gable end of the 1923 infill range. This range is clad above the plinth in horizontal weatherboarding to eaves level, and with half-round timber cladding to the gable. The ground floor has a three-light window, with a similar one to the right return. Above are a pair of double doors as a window in the gable, with a wrought-iron flush balcony. At right angles to this block, running south, is the 1982 range. The ground floor has a roughly central, early-C21 entrance door and four single-light windows of the same date; above are two raking dormers. To the far right, with a pentice roof, hipped to the south, is a single-storey extension clasping the end of the building. Both these sections have roofs of Cotswold stone tile. The rear elevation, set against the bank, has small two-light casements to the late-C20 and early-C21 range, which adjoin at right angles the east cottage, which has irregular fenestration to its south gable end, the windows under timber lintels.

INTERIOR: the building’s fittings and finishes date principally from Alfred Powell’s occupation, and include work by other members of the Sapperton group of Arts and Crafts designers and makers, such as door and window furniture by Alfred Bucknell, and plasterwork by Ernest Gimson. The doors are plank and batten examples with stud detailing and strap hinges which have circular terminals, and thumb latches with saltire crosses to the terminals.

The entrance hall is within the 1923 link building, and has a solid-tread, newel stair with polished oak newel posts rising through the building. The hall block links the former cottages together. The eastern cottage is now a single space, formerly the studio; it is open to the roof, whose C18 structure has a rough truss formed from tie beam and paired principal rafters, joined by lapped-on yokes; and single purlins, with a partly-exposed ridge piece. The walls and ceiling are plastered and whitewashed. The wide fireplace under a timber bressumer is no longer in use, but the internal chimney breast survives. A blocked doorway marks the earlier entrance door, which has more recent openings to either side, to the hall. From the hall, a short passage with internal windows gives access to the western cottage, which is divided into three rooms. Adjacent to the hall is the study, which, like the other two rooms, is panelled with vertical boards, the joints with prominent cover strips. A built in seat runs around two sides of the room. The brick-lined fireplace has a timber bressumer over. The living room is the central room of the range, with another large fireplace with a chamfered bressumer over. The room is open to the roof, with open tie-beam trusses dating from 1923, all chamfered with runouts, the principals jowled as they join the tie beams; with single, trenched purlins and ridge piece. The room has similar panelling to that in the study, and also has a seat running along the north wall. An internal door, which opens inwards, stands inside the external door in this wall. To the south wall, the wide, high window has a deep window seat. To its left are multi-pane, glazed metal double doors, which are masked from the outside by bifold timber doors. At the western end of the room a sleeping gallery lies over the adjacent parlour. The gallery is reached by a ladder stair added by Powell, which gives access to a polygonal oriel. The gallery has a timber rail formed from uprights with pierced heart decoration; the rail and oriel were reconstructed in 2015. The living room and parlour are divided by a double-sided panelled screen. The other walls of the parlour are whitewashed. The room has a fireplace with a slightly cranked, chamfered bressumer, and a built in seat running along the north wall. The room has a plaster frieze of oak leaves and acorns by Ernest Gimson running around all four walls.

From the hall in the 1923 section, the south side is open into the kitchen in the 1982 range; the junction between the two is marked by a re-used chamfered beam across the opening, and a timber upright to one side. In the cross wing of the 1923 range is the former kitchen, now the dining room. The interior of the 1982 and 2015 extensions are modern but sympathetic in style and materials.

The first floor is reached by the newel stair in the hall. The balustrade is solid, with a timber toprail. The small landing is dominated by the exposed half-cruck construction of the cross wing; the massive half-crucks and collar are chamfered. The truss is infilled, with a door and glazing to the bedroom to the west, which has a large window in the form of double doors, with a flush wrought iron balustrade. There is a further bedroom to the north, and a central bathroom, both with early C21 fixtures. To the south, a third bedroom and bathroom occupy the attic floor of the 1982 extension.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: to the east of the house, on higher ground, stands the present GARAGE, formerly a single-storey cottage; it is L-shaped on plan, built of limestone rubble, the roofs of plain tile. To the north side is a late-C20 up-and-over door in the gable end of the wing, with horizontal weatherboarding above. The south side has a doorway and window with late-C20 timber door and casement, under brick-built segmental arches.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
Gordon, C, Cotswold Arts and Crafts Architecture, (2009), 42, 45, 62-6
Verey, D, Brooks, A, The Buildings of England Gloucestershire I: The Cotswolds, (2002), 529
Sarsby, J, 'Alfred Powell: Idealism and Realism in the Cotswolds' in Journal of Design History, , Vol. 10, No.4 , (1997), 375-97
Gloucestershire Archives D2876: Peter van der Waals' workshop ledger
Gloucestershire Archives D9746: Gardiner Photographic Collection AR 15/15A – photo of site in 1921
Gloucestershire Archives DA35/715/1/M40: Stroud Rural DC Registers of Building Plans, 1924-34. 4 May 1923: Sidney Barnsley for A Powell. Certain additions to cottage at Tunley. To commence May 8 1923.


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 13 Sep 2005
Reference: IOE01/13345/24
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr E. Currier. Source Historic England Archive
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