Souters History

Souters, originally built as stabling for heavy horses circa 1850 and more recently used as an artists studio, was lovingly restored in 2012 to a self catering holiday cottage.

Meet the Marnos

Souters is found in the grounds of Valley Farm Cottage, home to Nick’s family for nearly 100 years.

It is just off the track leading to the smallholding and fields, which stretch as far as the river Brett, a picturesque tributary of the River Stour. Valley Farm Cottage is home to Nick and Cath Marno, their two children and Phoenix their lurcher.  It is a great spot for seasonal bird watching and present through various times of the year are nightingales, kingfishers, hobbies, woodpeckers, owls, buzzards, sparrow hawks and numbers of other woodland, river and garden birds. There is wildlife in abundance too including deer, foxes, badgers, slow worms, grass snakes, stoats and a great many rabbits. The river also supports otters and water voles.

When he is not busy with the smallholding Nick works as a self employed heating engineer.  He did nearly all the restoration work on Souters. He is a keen conservationist and any work he does in the woodland and fields around Valley Farm Cottage is done with habitat regeneration in mind. Cath works for a local organic grower, enjoys growing fruit and vegetables for the home and is known for her baking and preserving. She has planted a herb bed at Souters for guests to use. A freshly baked cake awaits every guest.

History & Art

Souters was lovingly restored by the Marno family with the project completed in the Spring of 2012. The name Souters reflects the strong artistic links with the property:

John Bulloch (Jack) Souter (1890–1972)
Vivien Gribble (1882-1932)
Cedric Morris (1889-1982)

Other artists associated with the area include John Constable (born in nearby East Bergholt) and Munnings and Thomas Gainsborough (born in Sudbury).

John Bulloch (Jack) Souter (1890–1972) was born in Aberdeen and attended the Gray’s School of Art in Aberdeen. A travelling scholarship allowed him to work extensively on the continent, where Velazquez, Chardin and Vermeer, especially, much impressed him.

Built as stables for heavy horses circa 1850. Used as a studio by visiting artists between the wars. Depicted here by John Bulloch Souter  and presented to the owner Douglas Doyle Jones; shown here with gun and dog.

In the mid 1930s we know that Souter spent some time in Suffolk, using what is now the cottage as his studio. A dated portrait by Souter of the owner’s mother shows the artist was definitely in the county in 1936 and it is thought he sketched his studio the year before.

Vivien Gribble (1882-1932), the owner’s grandmother is recognised as one of the finer Victorian wood engravers and book illustrators. She studied in Munich and then went on to Slade and then the Central School. Perhaps her most lasting legacies was her collaboration with Thomas Hardy when she provided the 41 woodcut illustrations for his Tess of the D’Urbervilles in 1926.

Vivien was married to Douglas Doyle Jones and 1926 was also the year in which the couple bought Valley Farm. Douglas was known locally as the “Old Man of the Trees” and is responsible for establishing much of the woodland around the cottage. In 1935 he planted the Jubilee Wood (celebrating George V’s Silver Jubilee) but this was largely destroyed in the gales of 1987. The ground was replanted with Sweet Chestnut in 1990 and is now managed as coppice woodland. Guests are welcome to walk through these woods.

The “Old Man of the Trees” is best remembered, however, for planting the copper beech on Higham Green, just down the road, to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation in 1952. It seems fitting that Souters Cottage welcomed its first guests in 2012 as we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Vivien and Douglas also owned a further property very close to the farm – The Pound – and that leads on to another artist connection.

The distinctive Copper Beech on Higham green

Beech Tree on Higham Green

Cedric Morris (1889-1982) was co-founder of the East Anglian School of Painting and Drawing at Dedham in Essex. Morris and Lett-Haines took over the lease on The Pound, in 1929, and acquired the freehold in 1932, after Vivien died.

At The Pound Morris  created one of his most accomplished gardens. A number of artists stayed there, including Francis Hodgkins, Barbara Hepworth and John Skeaping and their costumed parties were legendary. They remained there until 1940 when, after the fire at the Dedham Art School, they moved to Benton End.

The school was run on very idiosyncratic lines based upon the “free rein” approach that was then current in French academies. It had a great influence on many Suffolk artists and made an important contribution to art teaching in the east of England for forty years.

The Pound Higham

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