• Sean Callery

Cotswold safari part one

Updated: Mar 25

Let’s go on a Cotswolds safari to find some unlikely animals, including apes, dolphins and elephants… and you can be sure to catch them because they are all standing still. This is my Cotswolds menagerie of carved creatures that live alongside the sheep that are part of the history of this beautiful area.


A is for ape

In the middle of Uley is a little white sculpture of a gorilla. The story goes that in Uley, resident Major Rupert Penny bought a gorilla from a pet shop and took it to live with his sister, Alyce Cunningham. The ape had his own bedroom and went on wheelbarrow rides around the village. When he grew too big, Alyce sold him and he went to America, where his body is displayed in New York’s American Museum of Natural History. The sculpture was carved in 2018.








B is for bee

The charming bee-themed decoration

on the keystone over 14th-century Woolstaplers Hall in Chipping Campden was added by Charles Ashbee around 1904. It could well be a pun: the wood is ash, and the insect completes his name. Ashbee set up many Arts and Crafts workshops in the village and the tradition of quality craftsmanship continues in the area.




C is for cat

Tiddles the cat was a faithful member of Fairford’s St Mary the Virgin Church for so long that when she ran out of lives she was given her own tombstone. She arrived as a scraggy stray in 1963 and never left, earning her keep by seeing off vermin. Her paws padded the pews until she died in 1980, when her memorial was placed in the graveyard by the south door.











C is also for crocodile

You might get a surprise if you fill your bottle from the spring at Compton Abdale. The water pours from the stone jaws of a crocodile first carved in the mid 19th century. More than 150 years of service wore its sharp teeth down, and the head was re-carved by local stonemason Richard Pods.




D is for dolphin

Dolphins appear on two trade tokens thought to date from 1669 and used in Tetbury, but they may have earlier origins. Choose from:

  • Early Norman rulers the de Valery family, who had two dolphins on their family symbol. Or…

  • A member of the de Braose family (who were medieval Lords of the Manor), was sailing on the Irish Sea when their ship started sinking. Two plucky dolphins saved the day by blocking the hole with their bodies. Or…

  • The dolphins are based on the emblem of later Norman-era rulers, the Lucy family, who had pikes (the fish, not the weapons) as a family emblem. Or…

  • Servants of the local Berkeley family had collars with dolphin motifs.

Whatever you believe, you can make up your own sea animal trail and seek out the many depictions of dolphins in the town.


E is for elephants

Sezincote is an Indian Mogul-style domed palace in a Cotswold valley. Charles Cockerell inherited the site from his older brother in 1798. Both made fortunes from the East India Company and he paid another brother, Samuel, to design the house in the style of a Rajasthan palace … with these very smart elephants in the gardens.



H is for horse

This fine specimen juts into the narrow medieval streets of Stow-on-the-Wold. It must have been travelling pretty fast to burst through the wall... perhaps it was eager to join Stow's famous horse fair.






T is for tours

I hope you enjoyed the safari: part two covering the remainder of the alphabet will be along shortly. To find out more:





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