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In the footsteps of Stafford's shoe heritage

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: July 12, 2014

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ANY house which was acclaimed by the architectural critic Nikolaus Pevsner as “one of the most interesting houses of that date in the whole of England" has to be taken seriously.

Pevsner poured scorn on poor architecture and reserved his praise for houses like Upmeads, a secluded property with Grade II* listing standing close to the busy A518 junction where Newport Road meets West Way.

The handsome property not only has links with Stafford's shoe industry but was the architectural design of Edgar Wood, with influences from Charles Rennie Mackintosh and William Morris, acclaimed leader of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Upmeads was built in 1908 at a cost of £3,000 and commissioned by shoe factory owner Frederick Bostock and his wife Mabel on a five-acre site originally leased but later bought from Lord Stafford.

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Bostock, son of Edwin Bostock, founder of the shoe empire which became Lotus, moved into Upmeads with his wife and their six-year-old son Anthony that year and was the first of three owners to have lived there.

The latest occupants, albeit for nearly 30 years, have been Staffordshire's former director of education, Sir Philip Hunter, and his wife Lady Ruth Hunter who have now put their property on the market.

Sir Philip's description of this six-bedroomed house is that it is “glorious”, adding that few changes have been affected during its history mainly because Frederick Bostock was far-sighted enough to see the wisdom of having cavity walls, generous use of natural light, a roof-top tank to collect freshwater (rather than Stafford’s hard stuff) and lots of wood panelling.

Architect Edgar Wood was a member of the Northern Art Workers’ Guild and his designs at Upmeads include marble fireplaces of Swedish and Irish moss greens and Sienna marble.

Oak panelling and bespoke cupboards in the main bedroom are Wood’s designs, while he used reinforced concrete on Upmeads' roof so that he could plan concave walls and use the roof as an extension of the living space.

Local brick and Bath stone was used by local builders Espley and Son in the axial plan and double storey hall while the ceilings, central entrance and geometric design give the property a measure of freedom and asymmetry.

Outside, Frederick Bostock's garage was one of the first purpose-built garages in the area, having both an entrance and exit because his car could not be reversed! The property's gardens were planned with the house to give the impression of a series of outside rooms.

Original gas lighting was replaced in 1921 with electricity and two large coal-fired boilers in the property cellars provided hot water and serviced Upmeads’ many radiators, which remain, though now gas-fired.

The property has evidence of servants’ quarters including the butler's pantry, maid's bedroom and pantry, cook's room and a schoolroom where a live-in governess taught young Anthony Bostock who died at the untimely age of 20.

Frederick Bostock died in 1945 having retired from the family firm in 1931 and his wife died in 1957. The property was sold to Christopher Dorman Lingwood and his wife Margeth (née Cathcart) - both were related to the Bostock family.

Christopher had lived at Upmeads as a boy. His wife was a niece of Bostock and the couple and their two daughters moved into the property in 1958, selling three plots of adjacent land that year and four more in 1966 - these properties now form the Newport Road frontage of Upmeads.

There are lots of reminders of the Bostock presence including initials carved above the front door and an engraved stone sundial, given to Frederick in 1931 on his retirement.

Redecoration has revealed wallpaper designed by Wood and also William Morris's distinctive Willow Boughs pattern on the hall landing. Decorators H Ward and R Bradshaw left their mark in the central hall in June 1973, while the living room reveals the name of C Hindsley in October 1955.

Upmeads is proof that a property’s past need not interfere with the needs of contemporary living.

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