Westward to the Malvern Hills

18 October 2015
Ben Pentreath

Charlie and I went to Ledbury for the weekend… to see our friend Phoebe Clive and, at the longest lastest, to visit (amongst other treats) her beautiful shop Tinsmiths.  We sped out of London on Friday morning and had the happiest weekend in a long time.

First, some photographs gives you a little taste of what Ledbury is all about. A real proper little market town, completely unspoilt.

We wandered up and down the high street… finding good junk shops to rummage in (minding the step as we went):P1030680

The Baptist Chapel, with green paint and green stained glass windows:P1030685

The gentle curve of the high street:P1030689

The Market House, with a Saturday market in full throttle:P1030693

Marvellous Beer:P1030695

The back of the Prince of Wales, which I loved..P1030696

And the front, more widely photographed I suspect.P1030705

Every where you go in Ledbury are small richly coloured letterpress posters. More of these later.P1030704 Cheese sellers,

Vegetable stalls:P1030709

And finally….. what is this rich yellow wall and three-dimensional painted signage?  The alleyway that leads to Tinsmiths.P1030710 P1030711

Tinsmiths was established 11 years ago by Phoebe and Alex Clive. The shop is perhaps best known for its brilliant selection of linens and cottons, tickings and prints, sold by the metre and all incredibly well priced. Lighting sales, too, are an important component of what makes Tinsmiths tick; they have a warehouse with everything kept in stock and ready to ship, which is more than we can say for many of their competitors (and useful to know when you need a light in a hurry). And then woven through all this, is Phoebe’s beautiful, well-curated selection of textiles, cushions, prints, pictures, and wonderful bits and pieces for the home.

I can wax lyrical about Phoebe’s tastes all day long, because I find them so complementary to what Bride and I are up to at Pentreath & Hall – but different.  I don’t think you’ll find too many things on their website which are on ours, but if I was going to look for a shop anywhere in England that is as sympathetic to our thoughts and ideals, then I’d say without missing a beat that it is what Phoebe is doing. It’s bang on.

Combine all this with the fact that she makes curtains efficiently and inexpensively (on several of our decoration projects… but I especially remember the day at our Coed Darcy house that we spent together) and you can see why I’ve been itching to visit Tinsmiths for ever.

As you walk up the alley, more fantastic letterpress posters pasted to the wall…
P1030715 P1030718

Here’s a glimpse inside part of the shop, P1030721

And this is the second half, in an extraordinary, rich, medieval-meets-modern building designed by Alex.P1030729

This building houses furniture and piles of cloth, and all the rolls of cloth, and the offices. P1030731

It is a quietly eccentric and subtle triumph.P1030733 P1030734

The Clives live upstairs, in an ancient medieval townhouse that has a palimpsest of Georgian and later alterations – a richly decorated Baroque facade, a perfect early Georgian oak staircase (it turns out, like so many houses in Ledbury)…. and collections of things wherever (and I mean, wherever) you look.

This shelf is in the loo.P1030736

As is this bookcase:P1030737

Here’s the staircase, piled with textiles…P1030738

And in the dining room window, Alex’s insane collection of decorative art glass.P1030741 P1030742

(If you fancy a paperweight, just to let you know that Bride’s got a bit of a thing going for crazy paperweights just now… pop into Rugby Street and you will see what I mean).

After our early morning ramblings, Phoebe dashed us off in the car to see an ancient sprawling Herefordshire house called Forthampton Court; a remarkable place, with a fine walled garden, and layer upon layer of architectural development, upon medieval bones, the most dramatic of which are the alterations carried out in the late 19th century by the Arts & Crafts architect Philip Webb.
P1030751 P1030759 P1030773 P1030777

Webb loved gables, as anyone who knows his famous house at Standen (now owned by the National Trust) will have guessed.  Here are three of the many gabled elevations at Forthampton. Beautiful.P1030780 P1030789

We were given a complete tour by the kind and knowledgeable owners. Inside the Library are a set of original Morris and Co curtains, almost disintegrating. Perfect. You cannot make up time.P1030802

We returned to Ledbury for late lunch and Phoebe took us up another little alley to the source of the letterpress posters, The Tilley Press.  Martin, who runs the press (which has been here since 1875) was sadly not around this weekend… but what a place.P1030848

Engravings by Mark Hearld being printed:P1030850 P1030851

Brilliant posters everywhere (you can buy some of these in the Tinsmith’s shop):P1030853

Drawers of type:
P1030856 P1030859 P1030860 P1030866

The beautiful printed invitation sent a year or two ago by my friend Ed Kluz (whose brilliant exhibition Monument, by the way, is on in London until the end of the month… go!)…P1030869

A corner of Martin’s office… type porn.  The poster on the left is what your packages get sent in if you order from the Tinsmith’s website. Which is another thing worth knowing.P1030872

Black and white in Ledbury is everywhere.P1030885

Phoebe and Alex’s house – Gibbs classicism on steroids.
And then we went home, that afternoon, it has to be said a little exhausted… but happy.  We were staying with another friend of Phoebe’s – serene, brilliant Gillian Archer, who with her husband Mark has restored the beautiful Voysey house, Perrycroft, and created a wonderful garden over the last 15 years.  Gillian and Mark have just restored the Voysey lodge house which was our home for the weekend. You can rent it too. Charlie and I could not recommend it enough.  We loved it.P1030892 P1030899Distant views from the bedroom windows across Herefordshire….P1030901 …and up to British Camp, the haunting, distinctive, iron-age hill fort that looms over this corner of the Malverns. The whole of Perrycroft is built around this view.
P1030911 P1030912 P1030916 P1030919

Perrycroft is a dream house, perfect in every detail.P1030922 P1030953 P1030963 P1030973 P1030976

Gillian’s garden is completely amazing. She is very modest but has made something of great beauty, and sensitivity.P1030979 P1040025 P1040028 P1040029 P1040034

Their Vosyey-esque cat…P1040038

And here we are in the garden with Gillian, and with our friends Deby & Phil – all the way from Canada – who Bridie & I got to know first though the shop and the blog. Deby’s been coming to Ledbury for years, and they were staying next door in the other little cottage at Perrycroft, equally beautiful, The Garden House – details here (this is where, I think, you would also contact Gillian about the Lodge).P1040048


We walked back up the hill to see this beautiful soft late October sunset over the Malverns… before driving back down to Ledbury for a hilarious noisy and very raucous dinner with Alex and Phoebe and many friends.P1040081 P1040082

On our way home we stopped in at Wardington to admire the land gardeners’ Dahlia Borders… newly planted this year, as regular readers of the blog will recall. Bonkers.P1040095 P1040100 P1040102 P1040104

Charlie picking dahlias for his pop-up shop…. not having been able to do a quick trip to Dorset this weekend…P1040115 P1040118

Guess what’s going to be in the shop tomorrow morning?!P1040121

What a brilliant time, Phoebe. We almost need a weekend to recover.

20 comments on this post

Debra mooresays:

Wow l feel as though l have just touched a little bit of heaven
Really enjoyed your blog l feel blessed to be visiting ledbury with my partner david for his 70th birthday his mother was born in ledbury.
We will be visiting her grave and sightseeing we will pop into Tinsmith we are staying at weobly cross cottage cannot wait to see the gardens and the September flowers in bloom.
We are hiring a morgan car for the day to tour this beautiful area.
Wonderful damson and sloe gin ice cream beautiful scenery nature at its best
Perrycroft is sublime cannot wait to visit. 30/8/16


I’m most definitely looking at dahlias differently these days, thanks to Charlie. And I know he’s set his sights on Begonias. Could he maybe do some PR work on gladdies too?


My goodness! I could move to Ledbury in a heartbeat! I am so glad you shared your lovely weekend. Thank you.

Gillie Robertssays:

What a wonderful blog and combining several things I have been thinking about this week, including Perrycroft and Forthampton. A spur to get on with my dissertation. Perfect inspiration!


Such a varies and interesting post, with some favourite elements. Top topiary with a garden that appears to be on the slide; posh cat; kitchen garden; dahlias; sunset; typeset; town set. Best, Nicola

Sally Collinssays:

We live in south west wales and regularly visit tinsmiths to purchase items for our home from lighting, ceramics stuff for the bathroom and next week to collect curtains and Roman blinds. Can’t praise Phoebe enough for her help with selecting fabrics.

I visited Ledbury and Tinsmiths last year when I was back in UK for a wedding and I loved it!
Your pictures are beautiful!


i feel as though you stepped through a portal into another dimension and time. an idyllic land that only exists if one can find the door to the portal. Somehow I fear the rest of us might have trouble finding it. But we thoroughly appreciate and enjoy your sharing your travels through the looking glass!

what a weekend! I have a new place on my list for my next visit to the UK… and yes, that definitely qualifies as type porn 😉

Thank you for the lovely tour. I am in love with the house and garden—the dahlias are amazing!
xo, lissy


What a treat to see inside Tinsmiths….having been an online customer of theirs for a while. Our dining table always has their wonderful oilcloth (as opposed to pvc) for ‘everyday’ use. Another lovely posting to thank you for.

Deby (in Canada)says:

Ben… whenever i need to remember how much I love Phoebe & Alex, Tinsmiths, Ledbury and Perrycroft I will return to this post. Your pictures and words capture it perfectly… Andrew is right-Arcadia!
cheers Deby

Merri McElderrysays:

Your blog and pictures capture the essence of Soul and heal me in their endeavor to really deomstrate what joy, and peace and happiness working out in passion is all about. I am thankful for your itme in this creation of Heart that goes way beyond and above for those of us in various stages of unfoldment in our experience. You give us all such hope for bringing creativity and passion and Love for life together in one stupendous whole-Many blessings -Merri

Andrew Beansays:

Another peek into Arcadia. Thank you

Mary Jenkinssays:

Ledbury and Tinsmiths are great favourites of mine. I go there often, in fact I was there on Friday! Just missed you both!

Beautiful photos and description of your travels, as always. *adds Ledbury to list of places to discover*


Really, truly, your blog makes me so happy. Love your voice and your pictures and grateful each time to see the the wonders of the English countryside (and the cities, too!) through your eyes. What a delightful Sunday night (as it is here in North Carolina, USA) treat you send over the internet so generously and so often. I try to not to be envious, but I am very much so of all the profound beauty that surrounds your life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

David Sanderssays:

Ben,I too find letterpress posters aesthetically very pleasing; especially with Art Deco, and Art Nouveau typography – the more richly coloured, the better.What an utterly charming little shop Tinsmiths is.

James Stuart Thomsonsays:

Wow it’s amazing to see Perrycroft after so many years. I spent happy weekends there as a young boy in the boys brigade (it used to be owned by the boys brigade) and can remember even as a young boy loving the porch with the built in bench. Such a lovely house glad to see it is now looking beautiful.

Lovely post Ben – two things I always do whenever I go to Ledbury – first I wander up the alleyway to Tinsmiths, and then I go round the corner towards the church for a large scoop of damson and sloe gin ice-cream made by local maker Rachel.

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