Tumbledown Cottage: A Mystery Solved

Over the past thirty years, I must have made hundreds of journeys by road from South Wales to the Midlands and back. My favourite route has always been to follow the A438 from Brecon, crossing the River Wye at Glasbury, crossing the border into Herefordshire at Rhydspence and continuing through the villages of Whitney-on-Wye, Winforton, Willersley, Kinnersley, and Sarnesfield, eventually reaching Birmingham via Leominster Bromyard and Worcester.

Every time I take this route I’ve been intrigued by the sight of a tumbledown old cottage on the roadside at Willersley, just before the junction between the A438 and the A4111. Back in March 1997, I stopped the car and took the photo shown below:

Tumbledown Cottage, Willersley 1997

Tumbledown Cottage, Willersley 1997

Google’s StreetView camera captured an image of the cottage in April 2009:

Tumbledown Cottage, Willersley (Google StreetView 2009)

Tumbledown Cottage, Willersley (Google StreetView 2009)

As time passed, the cottage became more and more ruinous and since the above shot was taken, a metal barrier has been erected around the building, presumably to protect any curious passers by.

The dilapidated state of the building has always intrigued me, but what intrigued me even more was that on several occasions I had spotted through one of the windows a bare light bulb suspended from the ceiling. And the light bulb was switched on! How spooky is that! Surely no one could be living there now.

I last saw the tumbledown cottage while en route to Hereford three weeks ago, and my curiosity was such that I decided to see what I could find out about its history.

I managed to find a large scale Ordnance Survey map published in the 1970s which identified the cottage by name (at grid reference: SO3134147426). It was The Old Crow a short distance away from Old Crow Farm. But why was it named The Old Crow? Had it once been a pub, perhaps?

Hunting for references to the Old Crow cottage on the internet, I came across two postings about the cottage on photography forums:

In 2009, it was reported that two brothers lived there, both well into their seventies or eighties. One lived in the house, the other in an old caravan in the orchard.

Two years later, a photographer intending to take some shots of the cottage was confronted by a man described as quite smart, middle aged and wearing a jacket and tie. He said he was fed up with people nosing about and taking pictures of his home. He, or at least his car, was still there in April 2013.

It seems the cottage may still be inhabited after all!

Subsequent searches on the Internet have revealed that the property dates from the 17th century and was indeed a public house at least as far back as the end of the 18th century – probably even earlier. But it seems to have ceased operating as licensed premises in the decade following the 1871 census.

Over the last few days I have gathered together a great deal of information about the Old Crow, its owners and its occupants. I hope in the next week or two to create a special feature on my website to display the story of The Old Crow.