On 5th September 1719 the Campden stonemason Thomas Woodward leased the Westington Quarries at the top of Westington Hill. No one then knew that the fine limestone, already used for the church and many other local buildings, had been laid down in a warm sea millions of years before. What Woodward did know was that it was an excellent stone, not just for sturdy buildings but for finely carved detail. He paid £10 for the lease and a rent of £3 – quite a lot in those days.
Masons, builders, architects and surveyors – but who did what?
The Woodward family were not just masons and builders. Today they would be considered architects as well and one at least was a land surveyor too. However, trying to unravel who did what is somewhat difficult as, like so many families in those days, the same names were used in just about every generation. Thomas and Edward are the ones most frequently encountered in the dynasty.
A Thomas Woodward was already working in the town before one leased the quarries for this name appears in the Churchwardens’ Accounts from 1697. But was he the lessee or his father, who did not die until 1716? In 1701 a Thomas Woodward clearly did a major job at the church for his bill amounted to £10. In 1722 the Thomas Woodward of the lease was one of the surveyors who carried out the survey of the manor of Campden and produced the estate map for the Countess of Gainsborough.
Modernising houses with the latest building fashions
He is credited with using the newly fashionable classical motifs and is therefore very probably the designer of many of the decorative features of High Street façades. It seems probable that up to the early eighteenth century quite a number of the houses were half-timbered – that is the ground floor was stone but the upper floor was timber framed. Few were, like Grevel’s House, built from stone right from the beginning. Even today many houses can boast timber framing and even wattle and daub or similar construction materials for the interior and sometimes the sides and rear of the building.
The dates on many of the stone frontages just tell us when the owner had the modernisation of the façade carried out because the plots were already set and most were occupied by workshops, shops and dwellings from the late twelfth century. Porches, carved details, Ionic capitals and other work can be most likely credited to members of the Woodward family for Thomas sons Richard, Edward and Thomas followed him into the family business. One complete Campden building – Bedfont House – was almost certainly designed and constructed by the Woodwards.
Woodwards’ work further afield
The Woodwards did not confine themselves to Campden however. Guidebooks of buildings in nearby counties (especially those by Pevsner) reveal their work on churches and stately homes. They kept up with the changes in fashion too. The work of Edward Woodward (1753) on the church of St Mary the virgin, Preston-on-Stour, has been described as ‘one of the earliest churches of the Gothic Revival’. A stone was discovered as recently as 1950 in St Anne’s church Bewdley, inscribed ‘Ric Woodward / Campden in Glos / 1745’. But it is not necessary to travel so far afield to find their handiwork. Thomas Woodward was paid £25 to demolish the old tower of Blockley church and £500 to build a new one.
See also section on Buildings