One of the most interesting items of "street furniture" in Hungerford is the "tumble stile" (or "clapper stile") on the path leading from The Croft to the churchyard of the Parish Church of St Lawrence.
- The Tumble Stile, being replaced by Geoff Eatwell and Colin Honeybone, 27 Jan 2012
- The Tumble Stile
- The Tumble Stile at Linton near Cambridge
- The Tumble Stile at Charlecote, (Kindly sent by Graham Gould)
- The Tumble Stile at Kenilworth Abbey, now restored, and in the Kenilworth History & Archaeology Society Museum. (Kindly sent by Graham Gould)
- A postman at the Tumble Stile, 1923
- The Tumble Stile, 1980 with the weights upside down!
- A new tumble stile built in Virginia, USA, 2020 (kindly sent by Rob Legge).
What is the tumble stile?
This is a very rare example of an old form of stile which could be made using the simplest of materials. The four cross bars are hinged by single bolts (possibly wooden pegs in earlier years), and weighted with simple wooden blocks. To cross the stile, the user has to press down the cross bars, and step over. On releasing the bars, the weights return them to the horizontal, making a pleasing triple clattering sound.
During the mid 20th century, the wooden weights on the Hungerford stile were installed upside down - resulting in water pooling in the heart of the weights. The restoration of c1980 corrected this error!
The tumble stile was restored again (by Geoff Eatwell and Colin Honeybone) in Jan 2012.
Other clapper stiles:
It is thought that there are only fifteen other examples of this type of stile still existing in the country. Most, if not all have three bars not four.
Several people have kindly contacted the Virtual Museum with information about other clapper stiles.
Doug Caldow (from Vancouver) kindly emailed (Nov 2013) saying that for a number of years he has been "compiling information about clapper stiles located throughout England. It is becoming increasingly clear that there may be as few as 16 remaining including the stile at the edge of the churchyard at St Lawrence's Church."
His list includes:
Linton, Cambridgeshire: One is near the recreation ground at Linton near Cambridge, where there is a three-bar 19th century clapper stile which is Grade II listed.
Rampton, Cambridgeshire: I have no further details of this.
Snelstone, Derbyshire: Currently the most northerly!
Battle, Sussex: One of three in the county. That at Battle is recently rebuilt.
Great Dixter House, Sussex:
Sissinghurst, Kent: There are no fewer than three at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent, one of which is on the path leading to the woodland garden.
Wilcote House, Oxfordshire:
Chedzoy, Somerset: There are two clapper stiles at Chedzoy. One is in the north-west corner of the chuchyard. See "Clapper stiles", Country Life 18 Mar 1982.
Charlecote, Warwickshire: There are two clapper stiles at Charlecote Park (NT). Graham Gould kindly sent the adjacent photograph (Oct 2013). The old one is in the garden shop grounds.
Kenilworth, Warwickshire: Graham Gould kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Jul 2013) to let me know of The Kenilworth clapper stile, which used to be in the Abbey ruins. He adds "It was in a poor condition in the late 1980s and work was carried out to repair it. It is now in the Kenilworth History & Archaeology Society Museum (Abbey Barn Museum). We only know of its history back to the 1850s, when it can be seen on a Bedford stereoview of the Abbey."
Cornwall College: A modern reproduction clapper stile was crafted by students at Cornwall College in 2003-04.
Virginia, USA: Rob Legge (UK) kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (May 2020) to send photos of a tumble stile that had been made by his friend Neil Smith in Virginia USA. Neil and Rob had been so delighted to see the Hungerford stile c2017 that they each planned to make replicas!
Neil has posted a YouTube video showing him making his tumble stile. It's great to see the stages involved in making this little bit of modern history:
Neil Smith making his clapper stile, Apr 2020
Records (mainly old photos) exist for others in Kent, Sussex and even Yorkshire, but alas they are long gone.