Think of the towns and villages of the Cotswolds and you picture cottages built from the characteristic, honey-coloured, Cotswold Stone. However, in Worcestershire and adjoining Herefordshire, black and white cottages are more numerous than in other parts of the UK and give the area a very distinctive style. Hereford’s “Black and White Trail” links several villages and towns notable for their black and white buildings. The towns and villages of Worcestershire are equally idyllic, and the black and white cottages seen here are a feast for the eyes of cyclists on our bike tours.
Black and white cottages are traditional, timber-framed constructions. This method of building has been used for thousands of years, and examples can be seen today all over Europe and North America. The frame construction is formed from large oak timbers, joined together by a pegged mortice and tenon joint carved by craftsmen using only hand tools. There are two basic shapes, box-frame and cruck frame. Box frame cottages are formed from timbers set at right angles to one another, while the cruck frame style uses timber from trunks which have grown into an arch shape to form the framework for the end walls of the cottage. Once the frame has been put up, the walls are completed with an infill, often of wattle and daub; wattle consists of panels woven from willow branches, and the daub usually consists of a mixture of mud, lime and animal hair.
Many of the black and white cottages of Worcestershire date from medieval times, when timber frame and half-timbered construction was widely used. Originally, the oak timbers would have been left to weather naturally and fade to a silvery-grey colour. The infill would have probably been left in the natural earth colour of the district. The fashion for painting the oak timbers black and the infill white only became fashionable in Victorian times.
The Commandery in the centre of Worcester, which is now used as an exhibition centre, is an extraordinary example of black and white Tudor style. This group of half-timbered buildings was used as the Royalist headquarters during the battle of Worcester in 1651. Humbler, but equally charming, black and white cottages can be seen in many Worcestershire villages and will be an unforgettable feature of your cycle tour.