Saturday, March 7, 2009

Essex musings

Ugley Green. Yesterday we went looking for a puddingstone, something very particular to Essex - at least I think so. Eventually we tracked it down, to a small hamlet, thatched cottages around a green. The stone itself was placed at the junction of three lanes, next to a green pump. Stones, crossroads and water of course all have a symbolic meaning, and in the middle ages people were hung at crossroads and buried on the spot, apparently, I have been reliably informed so that their wicked spirits would not know which track to take.

After the stone we went hunting for Ugley Green church, strangely about a mile away next to a large house. To access it you drove down a long track, and you are greeted by the brick church tower, at the end of a short row of pollarded trees. The bricks are 16th century though the church itself is 13th century, and the bulk of the church is flint and mortar. Surprisingly it is rather large, and fortunately someone arrived who opened the churchfor us. She had brought a great armful of forsythia for decoration, the branches forced indoors to flower. The church itself had been restored in the 19th century, but its east window was rather beautiful.

There were four small panels of christian stories either done by William Morris or Burn-Jones, though presumably the workshop is the place of attribution. The church could only afford these four small panels, so the rest of the window was filled in with a lovely traceried pattern of Morris's 'wallpaper' flowers in a sort of trellised effect in the glass.

Which reminds me that there was a very large tapestry by the Pre-raphelite workshop that appeared in the papers a couple of weeks ago . It was in the Yves St.Laurent collection, but I think the tapestry was withdrawn and will stay with the Musee D'Orsay due to export licence complications...

One of the things about Essex is its glorious house building tradition, cottages with thatched roofs, some so tiny that they are one-up, one-down. Tudor timber and plaster, and exquisite pargetering, think that is the term for the decoration you find on the plaster.

Audley House was the next place on the list, a very large splendiferous house in the Jacobean style, though it looked very Elizabethan to me it had been a Benedictine monastery but dear old Henry had got his grubby little paws on it in 1538...

The gardens were put together in the 'Capability Brown' style, again you cannot beat a large expanse of land with sculptured waters, fountains, bridges and tastefully arranged trees around some of our larger estates but the 'pattern' book these 18th century gardens came out of are strikingly very similar. I still love an untidy garden of flowers, a bit William Morris or Elizabethan, herbs, flowers, fruit trees nudging each other for space, a useful garden is so much prettier than a functional view.... No photos till I get back to my own computer but a couple from earlier on.

Thaxted, the view up to the church, and on the left somewhere Dick Turpin's cottage

Payecocke House Coggeshall

Elizabethan House at Terling

1 comment:

  1. I know the village of Ugley as we used to live in Saffron Walden many years ago. I'm afraid that we always used to giggle about the Ugley Women's Institute! Essex does have some wonderful pargetting, there are some lovely examples in Saffron Walden. I had no idea that Dick Turpin had lived in Thaxted - think I was too involved in small children in those days to track down things like that.