Willy Lott’s Cottage, or rather Willy Lott’s House to give it the name that Constable used, is a building in Flatford Suffolk. It is most well known as being in the background of Constable’s most famous work ‘The Hay Wain’.
The building was restored in the 1920s when Constable was at his most fashionable, it was also at this time that the word cottage replaced house, however it then fell into a sort of decline until the National Trust acquired it in the late 1980s. Again at a time when Constable was in vogue.
There are many photographs of me outside Willy Lott’s Cottage. When I was younger we had a caravan permanently sited in nearby Holland on Sea. At least once during the season a trip would be made to Flatford and a photograph of me would be taken at the gate to the cottage.
This became something of a family joke in very short order. Each trip to Flatford necessitated the photo. Even if it meant just getting out of the car in the pouring rain to take the photo before driving on.
In the early part of the 1980s there was not much around Flatford. There was the mill and the flat ford from where the place takes its name, this is of course the location for the Hay Wain, plus a small museum about the paintings. This included a photo of ‘The Reverse Hay Wain’ a painting from the opposite bank of the river. This includes more of the Cottage but has been lost since the late 19th century. But most of the area around the river was working farmland. The mill from where The Hay Wain was painted and the titled subject of another Constable work was closed off. The nearby lock, also painted by Constable, was still in use and the most exciting thing was to watch the water drain and the gates open.
Throughout the 80s the area became more associated with Constable. A walk along the River Stour was created with markers showing the locations used by Constable. Who himself would daily walk the river and nearby area sketching. The mill was opened up with a small gift shop, the cottage was renovated and renamed Willy Lott’s House.
Willy Lott himself was a second generation tenant farmer. He was born in the house and lived there his whole life. He was not able to read and write but was able to earn enough money to buy the house and some farmland. By the time that Constable was painting in the area Willy Lott was an established member of the local community. After his death in 1849 the house took his name and has been known as such ever since.
However no photos of me outside the cottage have been made since 1992.