Compton Village Circular Walk
From Watts Gallery – Artists' Village
Approximately two and a quarter miles
Opposite the main Gallery entrance on Down Lane, notice the terracotta drinking fountain installed for the use of walkers by Mary Watts in the wall of Brixbury, formerly the Wattses' coach house. Turn left along Down Lane towards Watts Chapel and Cemetery. Continue in the same direction to the end of Down Lane and turn left onto The Street. Opposite you will see Little Cottage, where the 1901 census reveals that James Nicol, pottery manager, first lodged. Next door but one is Moors Cottage, the origins of which go back to the early part of the 17th century. When the Wattses lived in Compton the cottage was a coffee house and the manager expressed pride in having served tea and coffee to clientele from all continents, as the reputation of Watts Gallery spread far and wide.
Continue until you reach a small antiques shop, opposite which you will see the Compton War Memorial, which was designed by Mary Watts and unveiled in 1922. The Grade I listed St Nicholas' Church, with origins that date from the 10th/11th century, is just a short walk from here and well worth a visit. The double chancel makes a particularly interesting feature, as do the opening to what was an anchorite's cell and the Norman marking next to the pulpit that is thought to have been scratched into the stone by a crusader praying for a safe return.
On leaving the Church, continue in the same direction: White Hart Cottage is immediately visible. The cottage originates from the early 16th century and was once a public house. Opposite the entrance to Puck's Oak Barn in the Old Forge. This was once the home of Clarence Sex the blacksmith. Clarence produced the ornate ironwork that forms part of the Watts Chapel doors and the gates to the Watts Cemetery Cloister.
A little further along the road you will see Compton Village Hall, built in 1934 following a local fundraising effort which raised £2,982, a proportion of which was donated by Mary Watts who laid the foundation stone. Continue, passing the Green and the Common to your left, then turn left into Withies Lane. Before reaching the 16th-century public house, The Withies Inn, you will see four Arts & Crafts-style cottages, One to Four Oak Cottages. Ernest George (the architect of Limnerslease) built these at Mary's request for members of her Potters' Guild. Numbers five and six are thought to have been designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, architect of the village of Portmeirion in North Wales. The Compton potter George Aubertin lived at number five until his death in 1970 and former pottery manager James Nicol also resided here.
Continue up Withies Lane, passing the public house and turn right onto Polsted Lane where you pass Polsted Manor (now apartments). Pass the turning to the left and continue on to the next turning which is the Pilgrims' Way. Turn left and this will take you back to Watts Gallery – Artists' Village where you will find the Tea Shop for a well-deserved rest and bite to eat.
Illustrations by Donna Scott