Housing

Chinnor continued to remain poor until after the Second World War.  Pamela Horn noted that sanitary arrangements and rural living conditions were universally very poor with overcrowding and poorly ventilated homes, whilst  Alun Howkins  reflected on the images of ‘cottages’ in the interwar years with ‘roses round the door’ bore no relation to the realities of rural housing conditions. This was reiterated by his quotation from an Oxfordshire woman in 1925 who reports ‘the bedrooms were very cold, very cold upstairs were two bedrooms one you had to go through to get to the other one.’ Chinnor at the turn of the century had a total number of 280 houses sheltering a population of 1,200. Photographs of the time depict small picturesque cottages which were reported to have coal fire heating, no sanitation, and serious overcrowding with poor ventilation, conditions favourable to the spread of droplet infection. Sanitation was also a factor in spreading infections

Cromwell cottage

The oldest cottage is Cromwell Cottage in the High Street, which dates from the civil war. Originally thatched it boasts a priest’s hole, a child’s bone in an alcove and an outhouse in which a consumptive lived.   In 1950 a conveyance clause instructed that access was to be allowed to the well water for neighbouring dwellers. In an article printed in an unnamed magazine between 1926-1930 the author notes that the cottage has electric light, electricity having come to the village ‘a few weeks ago.’

Hilda Cohams Cottage

In the heart of rural England is situated the summer retreat of two artist lovers of the simple life, a cottage weathered in the memories of a great soldier.

The road that carries you from London Town to this cottage that Oliver Cromwell knew, sweeps over the great green Chilterns to Chinnor with its thatched roofs and ancient history.

Facing the village shop stands the cottage, with its tiny front garden, and its no garden at all at the back. Very white is this cottage, its smooth mud walls gleaming in the sunshine, while the roof is of thatch, two feet thick, rolls over it like a great eiderdown.

Up the garden path is a green Cottage door that opens on a latch, and bears on its face an antique brass knocker and the name Cromwell Cottage. When you pass the threshold, with head slightly bowed for the door is not over high, you have entered into the home of two distinguished artists, Miss Hilda Coham and her husband Mr. Edgar Lander. Here these two spend their summer days with their pencils and pastels and brushes and here they enjoy the Cottage life.

Hilda Coham christened it Cromwell Cottage, because of the historical associations. Crowell and his troops occupied Chinnor. ‘Old Noll’ himself once took up his quarters  at a nearby inn, while his men were billeted in restricted quarters of this cottage, which  has precisely one living room, a kitchen of exceeding smallness and two diminutive bedrooms at the top of a crooked flight of oak stairs.

Truly this is a cottage in the best sense of the work, a cottage made for two such artists, a cottage without frills.  At least, there is only one frill though this must only be whispered! The cottage has electric light. A few weeks ago electricity came to the village, after 300 years of lamps an candles.

The green front door opens directly into the living room and the two oak beams therein, black with age that span the low whitewashed ceiling are liable to strike the heads of the tall and unwary! 

There are two windows in this room, one is a big bay window that looks out on the village street, and floods the room with light, the other is no more than a foot square and today it is graced with miniature curtains to chintz that match the curtains of the superior window and the chintz that fringes the chimney piece over the fireplace.

The reason for this tiny window is instantly evident, it is a peep window through which an unexpected caller could be scrutinised before having the door opened to him.

Rugs lie on the stained and polished wood floor. Two 18th century grandfathers chairs occupy the place of honour on either side of the open hearth, and although the cottage is principally used by Miss Coham as a summer retreat, one can imagine the comfort of those chairs when set before a blazing fire blazing in the brick lined fireplace with its hearth of red tiles.

There is a brightness in the room, gleams of reflected light from the quaint pieces of china which are ranged on the antique dresser, areas of light form a copper waring pan duller gleams from pewter and deeper reflection form the convex mirrors in round gilt frames.

In the light of the bay window Miss Coham has set a round table where she entertains her guests to tea.

Cromwell Cottage 2022

Cromwell Cottage 2022