Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Water mills have always been a source of fascination from the great tidal mill at Carew Castle to the medieval water mills. Medieval abbeys have a wealth of information of how water was used in the self-sufficient environment of these establishments. Drains serving the kitchen and abbey buildings were a great feature,and at Castle Acre priory in Norfolk I spent summers excavating and drawing the medieval brewery, kilns and circular malthouse etc and the canal that lay alongside them, so in a way I got to understand the role of water in this part of the world.
So wandering along rivers in Essex and coming once again to these mills and their great water wheels set me thinking. First of all I learnt that there was a total of about 6000 mills recorded in the Domesday book, but that the Anglo-Saxon wheel was horizontal rather than vertical, though there was a period in their history when they were horizontal. Mills have been excavated from the 7th century, one at old 'Windsor' had three large parallel leats diverted from the Thames, though this it had a horizontal wheel above an earlier vertical mill (the horizontal was called a Greek or Norse mill) and these mills were normally without gears.
An example at Tamworth of a horizontal mill, excavated in 197l, showed a leat being diverted from the River Anker, which filled a millpond. From this a chute directed water onto a wooden paddled horizontal wheel, which caused it to rotate clockwise. The wheel was pivotted on a steel bearing, was set in a plank, which could be raised or lowered from the mill house above (mill dated by dendrochronolgy to 955 ad).
Of course with the event of the Norman Conquest, and the feudal system, the small Saxon mills were not terribly practical to large scale use needed by the Norman overlords for economic gain, and so the introduction of the more expensive vertical wheel came into being, the monastic houses would also adopt them as well, the monks coming from their mother houses in France would bring about this innovation in rural Saxon England.
So those rather magnificent mills I have seen in the last few days as we have wandered by rivers have dates well back into past history, one can almost summise that any medieval mill will have been founded on a Saxon mill.
In Chelmsford there is probably about five mills to be found in this rather watery enclave, the Springfield Cursus perhaps pointing the way to its valuable location in the landscape, subsequent settlements taking advantage of the power of water.
ref; medieval mills;
Moulsham Mill (craft centre)
Barnes Mill (by Fox and Raven)
Riverside Inn Mill (still has wheel in 17th C building)
Bishop's Hall mill (now disappeared)?
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The Swan Hotel
A very beautiful town with lots of quaint buildings, wealth built on wool, and of course the labouring class backs.
Coffee at a small B&B cottage, front room was the cafe bit with a tiny, kitchen in the corner, and a vast menu of various sandwiches, toasted and plain, with jacket potatoes, etc. What was so funny was the very warm helpful, quite elderly couple who ran it, getting into a muddle with all the orders, eventually everthing was toasted to order and extra free coffees for those who had been waiting. The piece de resistance is when they opened the door leading into the house and their dog came out to greet everyone in a friendly manner. But the cat came out too, a great Bagpuss of a tabby stalked around and refused to go back when she was lifted, clinging to a chair with a certain amount of outrage.
Friday, May 22, 2009
The interior is indeed cathedral like, and in the medieval period would have been wattle and daub between the timber posts, though nowadays after its restoration in 1985 it is weather boarded. Inside enormous solid posts down the centre, the wood has almost become petrified stone, and you can well imagine that these great tithe barns had their pedigree in the Anglo-Saxon mead halls of old.
Compulsorily bought in the 1980's by the council because it was falling into wrack and ruin, £200,000 was spent restoring it. The river runs behind, and a big old farmhouse in front. Inside the barn there are two great 18th/19th wagons at one end, and at the other a threshing machine.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Essex is a very pretty county, having been used to 'stone' country in the south west, the timber framed houses always come as a bit of a revelation. Discovering that the Springfield Mill and farm had at one time been rented by the Cistercian monks at Coggeshall Abbey, yesterday we decided to visited this pretty little town.
First of all stopping off at the great tithe barn but it was shut in the morning, I had spied on the map that the buildings of the abbey were still there to some extent, and so after some mulling over the map we decided to walk down the little gravelled lane opposite the track leading down to the tithe barn.
Hidden secrets lay down this unmarked lane, and one must respect people's wish to keep their homes secret, but there was a public footpath marked, and it is one of the green walking ways route of Essex.
We passed elegantly expensive horses liveried out in some fields, hardly any cows or sheep in arable Essex, just horses everywhere. Then on the left a small chapel stood in a field, St.Peter ad Vincula, the 12th century gate house to the abbey, restored in the 19th century from its previous use as a barn. We were walking down the track taken by the monks and the workers all those years ago from the old barn and entering the claustral buildings of the abbey. Though to be truthful you would be hard pressed to find them, but rounding the corner of this (private driveway), a deep pink timber and plaster house, decorated at the moment with a cloud of the palest mauve wistaria. In the front garden a great cascade of yellow from the laburnum bush, a tiny frightened baby rabbit in the grass, and the dormitory of the abbey still attached to the old house, with an arch to the ambulatory underneath, in the literature nothing mentions it as a cloister walk.
There is a great yard of old timbered barns and stables, and just past the house, a small brick house with a chimney,this was the guest house of the abbey. Walking further on and you come to the Blackwater river, or at least probably the culverted leat for the mill pond and the mill itself, another timbered house astride the waters of the mill. The house itself was elegantly framed in a green sea of trees, willows trailing their slender branches in the water, and a deep pink horse chestnut reflecting its own pretty blooms back at it itself. Round here also would have been the great fish ponds of the abbey, and more horses scattered in buttercup thick fields.
Buildings behind the house
Part of the dorter attached to the house, the doorway leads to what would have been the ambulatory
The Hospitum or Guest house; Image LS
Restored 12th century door
12th c Gatehouse chapel to abbey, used as a barn to the 19th century when it was then restored. Dedicated to St.Peter ad Vincula
Coggeshall Abbey was founded in 1140 by the Savignac foundation but had quickly passed to the Cistercian order by 1147. The Cistercian order is interesting, if only for the fact that they are the original self sufficency monks, working and doing manual labour themselves on the land. Of course their noble aims of a self sufficient life eventually came to naught as they grew wealthy on their farming skills. Though on reading the Coggeshall Abbey's history online, the greatest crime all through their reign at the abbey and one which was part of the charges brought against them at the Dissolution was that they charged too low a rent to their tenants....
1370 - Alienation of land - Inquisition at Chelmsford, Brentwood and Rayleigh .....Abbot Roger had granted a parcel of the Manor at Kewton Hall in Springfield.
It seems that in 1408 a licence to require a rent in Springfield and Sandon was required for the maintenance of a monk. (presumably these two mills were part of the rent)
Further note; One of the corridors in the abbey was found to have painted stone lines probably very similar to the Great Canfield Church...
Also of note is the narrowness of the abbey buildings, which brings to mind the earlier 654 AD chapel at Bradwell - St. Peter on the Wall...
Coggeshall Abbey mill from the 12th century...
CORN MILL (Dated 1840AD)STEAM MILL (Dated 1833AD to 1960AD)TEXTILE MILL (Dated 1733AD to 1766AD)SILK MILL (Dated 1820AD to 1820AD)WEAVING MILL (Dated 1733AD)MILLSTONE (Dated 1540AD to 1900AD)WATERMILL (Dated 1733AD to 1833AD)THROWING MILL (Dated 1820AD)
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
One of the features of Chelmsford is the River Chelmer, it snakes through the town and it is perhaps one of the reasons for the Springfield cursus and the Roman history of the town. But of course there are other histories buried under the surburban housing you see today and just to explore one facet brings a whole host of fascinating detail to life.
18th Century facade of the pub
The river winds and curves through an old parish called Springfield, across great water meadows, home at the moment to a group of horses, they must be all mares as six young foals have appeared, fertile May bringing forth new life. Overlooking this pleasant pastoral scene is the pub called the Fox and Raven which is an old building, late 16th century timbered place with a Georgian 18th century stucco front.
But this rather charming building was'nt always a pub, in its earlier days it was a farm, Barnes Farm to be precise.Walking on Sunday we happened to go down a little lane behind the pub, and eventually came to a public footpath that led us directly to the Chelmer - Springfield locks, and even a greater surprise a large weatherboarded mill, now turned to residential use. This mill had a large mill pond in front, and as you walked by the towpath down towards the pub, the leat which must have been created in the medieval period to fill the mill pond was evident.
Barnes Mill House
Interior shot of old reused timbers in the Fox and Raven
Looking up the history of the mill on the web, I learnt that it had at some time, or at least the manor, had belonged to Coggeshall Abbey in the medieval period, some 20 miles away. But that is another facet to be written about later.
The pub or Barnes Farm overlooking the leat to the mill, and the water meadows.
Barnes Farm hidden behind its Georgian exterior also has a large range of barns to the side, this of course have also been converted, this time into a restaurant, but the thought that two centuries ago this was once a working farmhouse next door to a busy mill is a nostalgic reminder of past history. The Mill at one time came into the possession of the Marriage family, millers from the 17th century, and still a working company, their history online uncovers the history of all the mills in the Chelmsford area, and a small nugget from the Cropping Book about Brick Barns farm gives a sense of the hardwork of a small farm...
Take one field, Redricks, on one farm, Brick Barns. From 1878 to 1891 it was sown with wheat, clover, wheat, barley, mangold, wheat, beans, wheat, mangold, wheat, trifolium, wheat, barley and beans. It needs little imagination to people that field through the seasons and the years; the ploughman and his horses in a cold and foggy dawn, the boys who cleared stones through winter holidays, the men and women with hoes, and bent backs, the hay-makers and the harvesters and the band of gleaners, the farmer and his family working through the year beside them.
Water lily pads
Friday, May 15, 2009
Saturday; Wat Tyler eat your heart out that you are'nt around to lead the incandescent population on the Houses of Parliament. The Guardian takes great delight in pulling apart the scandal that has erupted round our politicians, from a gory cartoon of guillotined MPs (or should that be in lower case). Take for instance the mumblings of one...
"It is catastrophically bad for politics, but it is disproportionately catastrophically bad for us," was the verdict of one cabinet minister as he returned to his constituency in mourning to mark the week in which the last vestiges of a form of parliamentary democracy died. The initial postmortem is death by suicide.
Will our world recover, I expect so, decisive action to weed out fraudulent use of 'expenses', deselection, a new leader may be? thank god it could be Alan Johnston and not Hazel Blears, though some of us would prefer Vince Cable (he's clean).
Right action, moral and ethical codes, you must be joking, though it would be lovely to see some philosophical discussion take place on what has gone on, the shoddy betrayal of a socialist government, who let the markets and bankers rip, then were to be found with their own hands in the public purse. It will make a great historical book one day, when it is all written down in the future but it is like living through a comedy farce, and the end when the final curtain comes down is unpredictable.
Best photo appeared in the Money's section of the Guardian...Live like a MP - Get a Moat
I was devastated, my friend and constant companion for the last 5 years, Bonnie Dog, a friend to many of you, was murdered by a psychopathic trucker neighbour.
It was all very sad and wrong. A great loss… but she had completed her mission.. she had opened my heart.
I have had many beautiful texts and emails from people whose hearts she also touched.
I smiled in court on Wednesday when the video evidence was shown - Bonnie Dog was guarding the gates to Blundlestown, (or was it Lismullen?) at the second battle of Soldiers Hill….
She loved Tara .. it had miraculously transformed her from a scared angry frightened dog to a happy, healing dog.
I traveled on the same journey on along with her, she was a 4 legged anam cara (soulfriend) who came to learn and teach the same lesson.
Even dear Robert fell for her charms… I can still hear him saying ‘that is was the most attention he had received from a female for a long time!’(from Bonnie) Ha!
Animals can teach amazing lessons… horses, dogs and even cats. Loyal, faithful, honest and very perceptive.
I really think they are a higher species than us humans!…
They live in the NOW… no grudges, no ulterior motives.. they just experience life in all it’s fun and fullness.
I was in the valley of the White Mare.. on Rath Lugh for Bealtine… and could have wept all the hours I was there… the broken divided sacred valley, the sadness was overwhelming…
But after the 8 Tara cases were dismissed on Monday we all arrived in the valley, in the sun, on Rath Lugh, together in unity. Amazing healing took place, deep wounds and divisions were healed, arguments were forgotten and forgiven. It was beautiful to see and experience, the land responded, the trees even looked vividly greener to me, the energy surged skyward. Hope restored.
60 SIAC workers charged towards Rath Lugh in 25 cars fueled by Mark Cleary’s wounded pride… and they saw the 2 new born babies, 2 prams, love of the land and a powerful healing energy on the Mound of the Sages;
They beat a hasty retreat without a word, or even a verbal or physical assault !
Their twisted darkness just can not exist in the Light of truth .
Our Love of the land, of truth and integrity, can and will overcome and triumph over the corruption, lies and the money worshiping soulless and new slavery.
It was beautiful sight to see… their hi-vis hardhat, hardheart ‘SWAT ‘ team deflected by our unity and re-connection with the land.
We, the people, have the power, if only we realised it and claimed it! They are rightly running scared.
Their darkness, lies, corruption, treason and destruction can not exist in the light of truth and justice.
So let us demand it. Strike with hunger in our heart for it.
I have only just begun to understand and feel and believe in Tara , as the spiritual heart of this beautiful land and it’s aspect in this battle …
I have known it in my head… but only just now begun to feel it in my heart.
The battle has only just begun… the fat lady has not sung yet… don’t give up, bathe your wounds, heal and return to this battle.
Justice was delivered on Monday and Wednesday … all were freed from the legal chains of bail conditions.
So let us renew our fight! Pick up our weapons of truth and justice and engage in victorious battle!
A battle worth the fight, a battle we can win, it is ours for the taking.
I can see the armies of unemployed, FAS courses… digging up the tarmac in the valley! Local employment! sustainability ; )
On Wednesday we took the powerful symbolic Vigil flame to the Lismullen henge and held a ritual, in unity, lead by the group, and the land.
We called upon Truth and Justice: the indestructible infallible sword of truth, and the scales of justice that will call all to account for their actions.
We then took the flame up to the Lia Fail and sent out the energy of the fire, a flame of hope, faith, truth, justice and purification across the land…
Fianna Gael /Fail & Co. have failed us, raped this sacred land, but let us join with the Fianna buried in Collierstown, remember our ancestors and join their fight to defend this beautiful land from those who are trying to destroy it.
It was a late Bealtine fire festival… but I now I think I understand what Bealtine is:
The end of darkness, new hope, growth, sheding the old, fertility and rebirth.
I feel that the reverberations are echoing across the land… even to beautiful Glengad.. see http://www.indymedia.ie/article/92319
Reclaim your land, your heritage, your birthright and sovereignty from the thieves, developers and money grabbers.
I have just this minute received an email saying :
“that no cause is helpless if it is just.
John W. Scoville said that, and he was right.
Do not let a Just Cause go unassisted by you. Do what you can.
Never think that what you can do is not enough.
Every little bit helps. To do nothing is what hurts.
So please follow your heart and intuition, defeat is not an option… if Tara is not kept sacred as it has been for millennia, what is next?
Make a stand for you and for your children.
Be on the Vigil for the film show this Saturday,
Come celebrate and party in here in Leitrim next Saturday,
Go to Rossport.. demand the return of our billions of euro national resources and birthrights.
So Pixies, Poets, Pacifists and Warriors,
Artists, Anarchists, Estate Agents and Accountants,
Fianna Gaels/Fails, Labour, Greens and even Gormleys.
This is a call to arms, to all.
See you on The Hill!
If you can’t get there demand action from your TD, write to the papers, visit you local SIAC site,
just do your ‘thing’, do something!
(and Shadow, the Puppy)
“We have pledged ourselves to the dead generations who have preserved intact for us this glorious heritage that we, too, will strive to be faithful to the end, and pass on this tradition unblemished.”
Eamon de Valera
Sunday, May 10, 2009
and to quote...
"Morris dancing is an ancient seasonal pagan ritual male custom associated with the bringing of luck, the fertility and regeneration of the soil and the promotion of the cycle of the seasons...... In the dances there'll be much jingling of bells and stick-clashing to frighten away the evil spirits and high capers will encourage Mother Earth to ensure the crops grow tall in the coming harvest"
Well the countryside certainly looks in a fertile mood this May, the blossoms cascading everywhere and the bright yellow of rape seed flower assaults the eye at every turn. Apparently rapeseed oil is now fashionable... Brightly coloured male pheasants are strutting their stuff down lanes with their dowdy females lurking in the hedges.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
House opposite the church
Stone foundation, flint, coursed black puddingstone, and roman brick
Reused Saxon stone, seems to be part of a cross stone
Although I have no history to write about on Little Baddow church, apart from the fact that it shows all the building material that one comes to expect in these churches, prehistoric stone?, Roman and Saxon in the Norman rebuilding. One thing did stand out about the house opposite the church.
First of all its crooked beams, silvered oak, and its strong deep pink colour, it was only when I was sitting in the car that I realised where this particular colour had come from. It was the two magnificient horse chestnuts out in full dark pink blossom, situated in the church car park next to the house, exactly the same colour as the house. A clever eye had managed to match the shades! Horse chestnut to the left of the photo.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
This church is one of those hidden places that go deep back into history, how far? we may never know, but amongst the numerous finds around the area there is a neolithic axe head, celtic coins and roman remains.
Canfield has been settled for a very long time, it is served by the River Roding, and it seems that the small streams that abound in this area converge near the Norman church. Behind the church is a Norman Motte with an outer bailey, both of which remain, the church is surrounded by a deep ditch, with the river running to the north of the church, water surrounding it on both sides.
Essex countryside, picturesque houses as you wander through narrow winding lanes, the church substantial amongst the small hamlet it now serves is fundamentally a manor church.
On the exotic tymphaneum cloistered behind the porch doors, are depictions of Odin and his ravens, show a Norse influence in its sculptures, the decorative fylfot crosses are fascinating, but the 13th century Romanesque mural, uncovered in 1888 is also extraordinary, here a sensitive artist has been at work. There is fine scrollwork of vine leaf above the fresco and the masonry lines are painted as well on the wall, red and yellow ochre are used.
Right hand pillar of the tymphaneum with Odin and serpents?
Odin with the ravens Hugin and Munin and the Fylfot 'swastika' crosses
Odin and the left hand raven, see note on the ravens of Odin
the Norman Tymphaneum, the central half moon motif though typically Norman style seems to represent the sun
Note Odin's Ravens; Odin sends them out at dawn to fly all over the world and when they return, they sit on his shoulder and speak into his ear all the news they gathered.
20. O'er Mithgarth Hugin
and Munin both
Each day set forth to fly;
For Hugin I fear
lest he come not home,
But for Munin my care is more
Grímnismál, The poetic Edda, 13th century.
Translated by Henry Adams Bellows, 1936
There is an interesting reuse of a 11th saxon burial stone in the Norman archway to the chancel.
The Domesday book (1085) gives Ulwine, a great Saxon thane owning the estates around here at the time of the Norman invasion. And one wonders at the Scandinavian burial stone belonging to an invasion at the time of Cnut.
Cnut invaded Wessex through Kent at first but then went on to fight the English who were under the leadership of Edmund Ironside, Ethereal the Unready's son at London. A last battle at Assandun in Essex resulted in a victory for Canute. The battle is said to have taken place at Ashingdon in 1016 on the south-east side of Essex, and the church there commemorates this victory.
Pillaging and minor battles must of course taken place through this part of Essex and maybe the Scandinavian burial stone at Great Canfield is the gravestone of a warrior that was killed at this time.
Whatever, this church is remarkable in its detail of the Norman tymphaenum and the two pillars decorated in Norse style, Odin a god of the North decorating a Christian church, though how the stories were intermingled is now perhaps lost. History recorded in stone only reveals a partial truth, but this church with the reuse of Roman bricks and a Scandinvian burial stone has some fascinating secrets.
Note; According to the handbook, the gravestone has a speculated date of 1050, which rather puts my theory out, the Norman invasion happening in 1066 of course, and the explanation of the two 'ravens' is that they are christian doves on either side of God. Feasible but given that there are two serpents on the other pillar with fish tails as illustrated by Branston and that this following report also follows the same line of thought that the carvings are of rare Norse origin....
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Particularly like Great Canfield with its Odin carvings. I'd suggest a Danish influence here, rather than Norse (there are few Odin references in Norwegian place names. They're much more common in Denmark and southern Sweden). I'd expect more pagan symbols in Essex than anywhere else in the south-east. It became a Danish kingdom under kings Anwynd and Oskytel shortly after 878. But whereas Guthrum, who took over East Anglia, was baptized in 878, Anwynd and Oskytel are not mentioned as having joined him in baptism. It would seerm, therefore, that Essex remained under pagan rule somewhat longer. Essex already had a Saxon tradition of Christianity, of course - and, in your pic, we see the fusion of the two cultures. (Be careful when reading modern books on this subject. So many modern historians include Essex in East Anglia. But Guthrum had split up from Anwynd and Oskytel at Exeter the previous year. Essex was a separate Danish pagan kingdom until c.896). We get a lot of this stuff in NE Yorks. Here, we had Danes settling on the Wolds, and Norse settling round the edges of the Moors about ten miles to the north. They didn't get along - the Danes fought two battles with the Norse for control of York. So now we're left wilth a hotch-potch of Anglo-Irish-Danish-Norse symbolism - pagan symbols on Christian crosses, Christian symbols on pagan gravestones, and so on. I wrote a book about it once, but nobody wanted it. Every publisher or agent I wrote to said the same thing : fascinating subject but too specialized for our catalogue. In the end, I just threw it in a drawer and forgot about it. I liked your horse too. It's always depicted looking backwards - we don't know why. There's a good one at Lythe, just north of Whitby (which is markedly Norse, so the symbol seems to be common to all Scandinavians or it wouldn't also occur at Canfield) with a wrestling scene behind it - we don't know the significance