The perfume shop
Favorite thing: Bourton is well known for its perfumery - The Cotswold Perfumery - that has been blending perfumes for over thirty years. To call it a factory is probably misleading. No steel structures or lorries here, and the only chimney to be seen is from a gently crackling log fire in the shop.
The company is based in a magnificent eighteenth century traditional stone building where oak beams and crooked floors are the norm. But behind this idyllic facade is in fact a thriving company that that has grown steadily over the past thirty years and now manufactures fragrances for some of the most famous perfume houses in the world. John Stephen is the perfumer and owner of the Cotswold Perfumery. It was John?s father who in 1965 decided to turn what was up until then just a hobby into a family business. John remembers those early years with mixed feelings. "We started with just one perfume. it was dreadful. It was a poor perfume in terrible packaging and we opened a shop in the wrong place. Needless to say it failed!" Later the family split up, but John's mother needed an income. With the benefit of their first failure they decided to give perfumery another try - this time in the village of Bourton on the Water, near to where the family lived.
A small shop was purchased on the riverfront for ?6,000. Using better quality raw materials was a crucial step in the new range. Being a family of animal lovers, a decision was made right at the beginning not to use any animal ingredients, or to test on animals, and this was at a time well before animal welfare became the issue it is today.
In the mid 70's John's mother died leaving him in sole control of the business. Soon other products came - Talcum Powder, Soap, Bath Salts etc. - and fragrances for men too. Then other perfumeries wanted fragrances made that they could sell under their own name, and this led to fragrances being produced for a wide range of applications.
Fondest memory: Products were only available from the one shop in Bourton on the Water so mail order became a popular choice for those unable to visit and also for the growing number of overseas customers. With no computers to deal with customer lists, the task of handling the names, addresses and orders required dedicated attention, with stacks of drawers of paper record cards, and wax stencils for printing envelopes. Soon the business was straining at the seams with the retail shop, perfume laboratory and mail order department in three separate premises around the village. Relief came a couple of years later a fine old traditional Costwold stone building on a 1/3 acre site came up for sale - not 25 yards from the original shop.
Everything was then on one site and it provided enough room for the now famous Perfumery Exhibition and Perfume Garden that opened in 1983/4 - an Exhibition dedicated to the sense of smell that attracts many thousands of visitors every year. In 1990 the adjoining property was purchased allowing further expansion of the Perfume Exhibition, and a new "Garden of Science" was created.
By this time it was clear that fine fragrances was where a small business could compete with the world's largest. Work had already been done with a London perfume house (Czech & Speake) and in 1992 the Cotswold Perfumery was proud to announce that Buckingham Palace had selected "Pallas" over all the competition - a beautiful Jasmin perfume.
In 1998 the first wins were achieved with a French perfume house (Fragonard) against competition from French perfume manufacturers. In 1999 John was commissioned by the Queen to produce two perfumes for Her Majesty as well as other fragrances for the Royal family. Today John still passionately believes that maintaining the highest quality raw materials is the only path and goes to great lengths to ensure that all of the 600 essential oils, absolutes, gums and resins are the best available. The product range has increased to 116 products.
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Spreading your wings
Favorite thing: There are other ways to travel than via public transport or private car. One of those is motorhome, a style very popular in Australia where the terrain is vast, the roads are wide and, despite what locals might indicate, petrol is relatively inexpensive.
Since it is my dream to do this one day I noted with a smile that some people choose exactle the same in England. I first noticed them in Cornwall where they were not uncommon but it the Cotswolds it was also apparent that some people utilize this mode as well.
This was shot in someone's backyard just across from our accommodation.
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The inns of Bourton
Favorite thing: I've included some shots of the hotels in Bourton-on-the-Water. Quite a few of them are in Victoria Street which sits astride the River Windrush.
The first hotel was built for the first baptist minister in 1748, hence its name, the "Old Manse Hotel". I wonder what the church would think of its use now!
The second one is the Old New Inn that originally came into being as an amalgamation of two cottages and a barn in 1714. This became a lodging place for travellers on their way via Burford to Oxford across Westcote Heath.
The Heath at that time was renowned for footpads and robbers who came from the Wychwood Forest, on the Oxfordshire side of the hill, and it was not safe to cross except in broad daylight. (So much for the good old days!)
Since then the Inn has built its reputation for hospitality and good cheer for totally different reasons. In fact, in 1860, it was given, as a present, by Mrs Florence Bloss, mother of John Alfred Bloss, in recognition of the love of a mother for her son (we know not what the Inland Revenue thought of that).
After the railway arrived, the Inn became a stop over for Commercial Travellers, who would hire horses and traps to visit the local villages with their samples. Today the inn's location at the front of the Model Village, one of the ex-owners bearing responsibility for that, makes it just as popular as it ever was.
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The Water in Bourton-on-the
Favorite thing: After lunch, while my sister did some shopping, and the guys went into the small motor museum, the kids threw some sort of small pear (like crab apples but they were pear shaped) into the stream (aka the River Windrush). Just downstream was a Mum and child with a net fishing the pears out as quickly as ours threw them in. They started talking and the Mum let them use the net for a while and she and her son threw pears into the water to be fished out. They didn't actually fall in, but it was close on a couple of occasions (water was probably about 12 inches deep).
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The colour of the Cotswolds
Favorite thing: Though Bourton didn't have any building to rival the Bibury's Swan Hotel there were still enough places with ivy and such for a bit of colour here and there to break up the Cotswolds' stone houses.
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