Last night as I reclined on my bed wondering whether to change the sheets now it was August I decided on a day in Camolodunum (which the spell checker thinks is 'Numerological' for some reason) and so i rose somewhat earlyish and made for the bus station and the 9:20 bus.
Naturally being me the bus leaves at 9:15, someone has amended the timetables again!
So thinking clearly I changed my plan and got on the free bus to the shopping centre where I realised my runabout jacket was fine for carrying a camera in the pocket but not for a sun which had decided to shine for once. We arrived at 9:30 only to find the shops there don't open until ten!
Grrr! My plan was to look for a sports/dress type jacket to make me look smarter than I was today, and many clearly agreed with this plan. I glanced at a window or two, a young shop staff member arriving for work or two and got a dirty look or two in response.
I made for the free bus.
However instead of returning home I took another bus, grasping my free bus pass for old people in my hand and we wended our way past the harvested wheat fields, through a village here and a village there and after around an hours quiet tour we arrived in Witham some six miles from home. A car would have taken the straight road and been there in fifteen minutes. It was however a good day out, no screaming kids on the bus, the country views were enjoyable as I have not been amongst them for a while and some villages were part of the WW2 research and I saw them close up.
Witham is not a great place to be. It lies on the road from Camolodunum to Londinium and during the medieval period the Knights Templar who owned the land in the towns original centre in 'Chipping Hill' obtained permission (which means promised taxes to the King) for an Inn and associated buildings on the main road. This blossomed into the grubby town that stands here today. Fifty years ago it was not a bad place however the London overspill, trains take an hour to Liverpool Street) meant it grew abundantly and not very nicely with lots of Londoners and their outlook forming the majority of the near thirty thousand populace.
The 'Spread Eagle Inn' pictured above in a grubby state today has they claim stood here since 1300. This may well be right, although much of it is 15th century and the Victorians did it up somewhat, and along the road the Town Hall stands where the 'George Inn' stood for several hundred years. Travellers by foot, horse or coach would find this a suitable stopping place before the railways came. Methuselah Head was publican here in the late 1890's and into the 20th century, that's the sort of name a publican requires!
At first sight it looks like this was once a jolly nice house that has been ruined by changing first into a
shop and then into a bookies! However while once it may have been a nice house, without water or toilet, it may well have been inhabited by some rough nasty type of whatever 'class.' We alas do not know. he lived well, the chip shop is next door!
This derelict building was once very grand. The town found a mineral Spa during the late 1700s and made capital out of this for a while, and the number of late Georgian/ early Victorian buildings lining the High Street indicate money was coming from somewhere but I am not sure where. Agriculture was certainly big but what industry at that time I have yet to discover. There are many delightful but now grubby buildings used for purposes other than that for which they were made.
This dwelling like many in these parts appears to be timber and lathe, such a fragile looking building material yet it has stood here since the 14th century like so many others. I remember it as a book shop a few years ago.
Witham's most famous resident outwith the English legal system is one Dorothy L. Sayers famous for her detective fiction featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. These are still popular and have occasionally turned up in TV dramas, possibly they contain too little guns, explosions and naked wimmen for audiences today however. I did hear on a TV or was it radio programme that she was married to a man who spent his time in the pub down the road crawling home drunk each evening. Possibly because of her Christian humanism she never divorced him but luckily he died seven years before she did, she died in 1957.
You would be surprised, if not disappointed, if I omitted the Witham War Memorial wouldn't you?
The better half of the high Street possesses Georgian and Victorian buildings still in excellent condition costing excellent prices. I am not quite sure what goes on in this one but it represents many of similar design along the way. They all possess several steps and a railing or two, usually with a boot scraper alongside. In the days of dirt roads and nothing much for a pavement such steps were required for the genteel and everybody else. How mucky must the lobby indoors have been I wonder? The Greek influenced doorways show the lack of understanding of ancient Greece by those who travelled there on the 'Great Tour.' They thought all Greek temples were white but most had colours all over the pediments and friezes. These in this country were always white. White stone is marvellous in Greece where the sun shines daily, not so marvellous in Edinburgh where the skies are gray and soot from the chimneys turns them black!
I love finding buildings like these, now commercial I guess they were once houses though it's possible they were used as shops from the beginning of their life one way or another. A charming short row at the traffic lights where traffic thunders by daily. Just where you wish to eat lunch.
Luckily I missed my bus. This meant with time to kill I wandered down an area I had never ventured into before. This took me along the River Brain and up to the best and oldest part of town. Here I found this aged bridge and as I attempted to take pictures of the stones a few inches below the surface the dog appeared along with a despairing owner. On holiday in the south west he got used to going in the water and insisted on doing so here. When I moved on he was still standing there failing to understand why she wanted him out on a hot day and why she was not joining him in the cool water. He might still be there.
At Chipping Hill I was almost at the oldest part of Witham. There was an Iron age fort here in the distant past and from there a market appeared some time later. I believe 'Chipping' comes from an old word meaning market but the book with the info is in the museum, not here! Shown is an ancient bridge which carries innumerable traffic daily. It is a suicide bridge in that only one vehicle at a time can pass and the drivers view is not perfect, indeed neither appears to be the drivers attitudes here. Coming from this direction has priority but not all understand this.
The church of St Nicolas, note spelling, was built here in the 14th century, that's the 1300's to you. This reflects the town's wealth by that date, wool mainly until the 1700's, but I suspect a previous church, possibly a Saxon wooden one, may have stood here before. I was intrigued by this large memorial. Church graveyards usually have one or two memorials from long ago for those who were great or thought themselves to be great in the land. Unfortunately I have no idea who he is, and it will be a he.
To be honest this building was a wee bit disappointing, it was dark and gloomy inside in spite of the sunshine and had little going for it from my point of view. I was not even sure what type of Anglican these were. Clearly set up as Anglo Catholic but without that smell of candle wax so where are they I wonder?
There is also a candle burning, usually a Catholic thing this as it indicates the wine and bread, the blood and body of Jesus, are kept nearby. All very confusing, but not so confusing as my camera. In attempting to convey the proper shades I went from too light to too yellowish, as shown here. It's al so confusing, especially when getting tired wandering about.
Anglican churches can surprise me and finding two helmets, one 15th C and one 16th C, was a surprise although later I remembered another church has similar. The 1500's memorial on the far wall had this grisly feature at the bottom. The writing was a form of Latin so I ignored it! Many Scots graveyards from that time also feature such reminders of death. Cheery lot then...
Cheery indeed, here lie, with broken noses, Justice of the Queens Bench John Southcotte 1585, dressed in court dress, alongside his wife Elizabeth (nee Robbins). I suppose these grandees must have known they were to be perpetuated thus? With the reformation rising he might have been Roman Catholic and wished for the priests to pray for his soul and this would have been a good reminder. Had he been protestant, as he should have been, he was just continuing the fashion of important souls everywhere of not being buried at the back of the graveyard amongst the paupers.
The old Iron forge still exists though I doubt you would get much done here today. Tastefully redesigned for the discerning rich amongst us it stands in the old part of town and probably was in use in the 20th century still.
"What," I hear you cry,"Is this all about?"
A crummy picture of a railway station with a vast Maltings in the distance?
In fact we are standing on a hill, Chipping Hill to be exact and this there 'ere was once an Iron Age stockade, the origin of Witham. Built around 100, possibly a couple of hundred years before that, this was once surrounded by two ridges with a wooden stockade all around the core. Round huts, that could last two or three hundred years, stood in the middle and people went about their business farming, hunting, fighting and watching football on TV. During the 19th century the Great Eastern Railway, concentrating on reaching to Ipswich and Norwich did not notice the history as they cut through the small hill in front of them.
I suggest the Iron age dwellings were better than the present London overspill myself.
With 70F degrees of heat upon me, that's about 21C in foreign, and my jacket weighing me down by now I headed for the bus. A mere ten minutes brought me the way home once again through the narrow village streets with cars thoughtlessly parked where stone headed locals parked them. Once again the harvested wheat offered a light golden sheen between the greenery, once again I noted the names in the villages. Jeffery's Road was named after Jeffery's farm that stood here during the war and possibly for thousands of years before that. Valentine Way in Silver End commemorated the Valentine Crittall of the metal window company of that name who built the village for his workers in its particular design.
So with this in mind I ask who was this road named after...?