Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Coggeshall Abbey



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.

The Elizabethan house hiding parts of the Abbey


Buildings behind the house

Part of the dorter attached to the house, the doorway leads to what would have been the ambulatory

The Abbey Mill


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

Notes;
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)
Of the abbey church and the conventual buildings, all that survives now are foundations and buried remains, except for parts of the eastern wing of the claustral range, the guesthouse and the abbot's lodgings, which still stand. The farm's timber-framed outbuildings date mainly to the late 16th to early 17th century. Despite being post-Dissolution they are still fine examples of their kind and have been listed.
The earthworks of the abbey's fish ponds still survive, and adjacent land includes an area of former water meadows which has recently been restored. The abbey precinct and surviving remains are designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.


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)

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