Upmeads is located
just off the Newport Road on the western edge of
Stafford. Today the house sits at the end of a
long gravel drive behind a row of relatively new
homes that line the north side of Newport Road.
Located on the south-east slope of a hill, the
house looks across to Cannock Chase.
Upmeads, in John
Archer's opinion, "is the best
preserved of Wood's experimental designs,
and is, therefore, the most fully
expressive of his thinking."
Archer goes on to say that, "The house
can be considered boldly experimental in
almost every respect, prophetic of great
changes in architectural thinking and not
least, a highly accomplished architectural
design..... Upmeads (built when Wood was
48 years old) stands pre-eminent amongst
Wood's experimental work and it is
doubtful if there were any comparable
houses produced in Britain until after the
First World War."
was built for Frederic M. Bostock and his wife
Margaret W. Bostock (nee Dorman). Frederic was
the second son of Edwin Bostock whose father
was Thomas Bostock, the son of a Derbyshire
cordwainer (leather worker - shoe maker).
Thomas was living in Stafford by 1800 and had
set up a shoe-making firm. His son Edwin took
over the business in 1837. Other sons of
Thomas founded firms in Stone and Northampton.
Their three businesses later joined together
as Thomas Bostock and Sons which became Lotus
Limited in 1919.
The drive runs along the eastern edge of the
property and turns left into a courtyard. The
main entrance to the house is on this north
Beside the drive is a "motor house" which the
present owner believes is one of the first
purpose built garages, certainly in that area.
In most cases early automobiles were lodged in
converted stables. A sympathetic addition was
made to the motor house in later years and today
a spiral staircase leads up to a flat above the
garage. A change in the colour of the brick
defines the limits of the addition.
When asked why he gave Upmeads a flat roof, Wood
explained that, "this could be used as an
extension of the living space"
that "the use of a flat roof freed the
designer from the restrictions imposed by
the conventional pitched roof."
original roof finish at Upmeads was a
sand-cement screed which was intended to make it
waterproof but the optimism was soon dispelled
and an asphalt layer added.
An interesting feature of the roof are the
two bubble-like skylights which provide pools
of light at either end of the upstairs
hallway. An idea used 104 years later
into the design of the Copper Box facility at
the 2012 London Olympic Games.
In the book
"Small Country Houses of Today" edited by
Lawrence Weaver and published just 2 years
after Upmeads was built, the house was
described as follows: "Though
the merits of Upmeads are considerable,
it will be generally agreed that the
house is unusual to the point of
oddness. .......... The general aspect
of Upmeads is fortress-like. It not only
lacks anything approaching prettiness,
which is all to the good, but presents
an air of austerity, which shows the
designer's devotion to extreme
simplicity and restraint."
Archer says of
Upmeads that one attractive feature, "
... is a large square, two-storeyed hall,
central on the axis and on the garden
elevation, and finished with a vaulted
ceiling which produces an additional
effect of spaciousness. The main entrance
is linked to this by a low, vaulted
passage, contrasting confined and open
space in sequence. A staircase leads from
the passage to a central corridor on the
secondary axis, and from this a shallow
balcony projects into the hall adding a
further dramatic point to the spatial
relationships. From the balcony a vista of
the garden is obtained through a small
window high up in the opposite wall."
Despite his reputation for "extreme
Wood always added
decorative features to his houses and Upmeads is
no exception. The house, he says, "contains
several rich marble fireplaces and the one
in the dining room is particularly notable
and is of green marbles, Swedish green and
Irish moss, while the lining above the shelf
is Sienna marble, like onyx."
Drawing Room contains a magnificent fireplace
feature which runs the length of the north wall.
I would like to thank Ruth and Philip Hunter,
who were the owners of Upmeads when I visited,
for their assistance in presenting this look at
a wonderful example of Wood's work.