Saturday, 28 May 2016

A Mill, A Bull, A Pond and A Church

Townsford Mill stands on a spot used by mills of many types going back centuries.  It is thought grain was first milled here in the midst of agricultural land but over the years weaving became the norm.  Samuel Courtauld, one of a family of Unitarians, became sole owner in 1825, one of many mills he was to possess, and soon developed a powerful steam worked silk mill one of the biggest in the country.  However by 1850 foreign competition hit deep into his output this led to a development of Black Crepe often used in funerals, which with a stroke of luck brought him much profit when prince Albert died.  With Victoria descending into deep mourning the nation followed on and Courtauld's Black Crepe was in much demand.  The Mill soon employed over 1400 women using a thousand looms.  Weaving of one sort or another continued until 1982 and soon after the closure the antiques people moved in and what a success this has become.

Where once a thousand looms deafened the girls working them now a variety of units peddle items some of which my family still put to good use.  Imaging how many items now considered 'antique' are still lying abode the abode?  There is a restaurant in the bottom and two floors of junk valuable items much of what I found very interesting and a great deal of it not too expensive either.  If I had money and wall space I could have gone for several pictures and the number of books on show tempted me, I kept telling myself to go back to charity shops for them.  After wandering I retrieved my bag from reception, they somehow did not trust me, and asked the young lady about the gun she had by her side.  A rifle of great age lay there which she said she kept for troublesome customers. she waved it in the direction of her friend who ran for it.  However  it turns out to be a toy!  An expensive toy for a young lad 150 years or more ago I suspect.  I decided not to buy as getting on a bus these days with a rifle gets funny looks from others I find.

These two houses are part of a row which Samuel Courtauld built for his workers.  He was not penny pinching when he asked George Sherrin to build them in 1883 was he?  I suspect the more loyal workers with their families were placed in here.  Courtauld employed 70 men and boys as well as the women, many of those rescued from London's workhouses and offered jobs in Essex.  Long hard hours for seven shillings and sixpence may not seem much now but it was better than a life on the street which was the future for many of the girls otherwise at that time.  The weavers cottages from yesterday were probably built by him for his workers also.

 Amazing how dingy clearish brown water runs up to the mill but on the other side the river is overgrown all the way along.  Reed clutter the river bed and had I the energy I would have walked along for a few miles to see a bit of countryside.  Instead I came upon this bedraggled old building once a hive of industry and now awaiting its fate.

Originally part of the railway yard this large double sized building looks derelict and rather sad at the moment.  This is a reflection on how important railways were to industry in times past as the goods yard was big for such a town and business must have been brisk.  Today little remains although one or two station building have been reused, however I suspect few under seventy remember the line in operation.

Some folks like it however.  Three windows had such a bird taking ownership of the place.  Plenty large windows to go round for everybody.

As I avoided spilling my lunch in the Bull Inn I gazed at the thick aged beams that hung above me.  These may have been part of the original building when created in the 1400's.  Imagine, in spite of adaptions and renovations over the years, imagine how many have supped here over the past seven centuries?  Impossible to miss at the bottom of the hill the bridge over the river is outside the door and I wonder if any careless driver or runaway horse and cart have clattered into the Bull?  I can see many drivers of both horse and car doing so.  

Waiting at the door for the taxi to come through...

The public gardens are well maintained by the excellent council workforce and here the memorial to the lost of WW2 is found.  A small four sided plinth is engraved with the names of the lost and the gardeners have created this magnificent Lancaster Bomber as tribute to the airmen who lost their lives.  Apparently this is the second Lancaster, the year before that a Glider was made.  I see this as a magnificent gesture and who knows what they have in mind for the next one. 
Well done to the council gardeners!

The gardeners also maintain the excellent pond which has found favour with several ducks.  So happy are they that mum has produced at least four chicks who stumble around the pond searching for lunch.  Kids are always hungry, at least when it suits them.

Not far from the pond stand the disused Holy Trinity Church.  The architect one Sir George Gilbert Scott a man famous for many buildings such as the Midland Hotel, The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Albert memorial.  This was one of his earlier works in 1843/44 and now stands bare and rather sad.  The outside is impressive but as almost everything relevant has been removed the building is in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

It was as I turned and looked down the nave that I suddenly became rather depressed by the disconsolate appearance a disused church has.  It matters not that this was a 'High Church' in times past (It appears a golden cross was offered  for processions and some objected, possibly the protestant types. This cross soon disappeared and was later found bent over in the River Colne.  It was returned to the vicar in 1911 and soon back in use.)  

One of the few remaining items is the Great War Memorial which appears to be still made use off.
Some people have not been forgotten.

Scott had a sense of humour it seems to me.  Just what encouragement these faces high above every pillar in the church gave I am unsure.  There was a variety of faces and I winder if he had someone in mind for each of them?  Were they posed I wonder?

OK, you can wake up now.  No more from Halstead that I will show.


Jenny Woolf said...

You've made me want to visit Halstead. I was reading an old magazine about Essex from the 1950s and it was describing several mills in the county, most of them gone, so it is good that this one is still there and so picturesque. I sppose it didn't feel that picturesque working in it though.
Yes the Churches Conservation Trust does good work but I wish there were new uses for these disused churches. Near us there is a large beautiful Victorian church which is still in use but they have cleared a big space in the back and have a soft play for the kids, a cafe, a little shop and a post office! I am sure they don't have the kids swinging around during services etc. but it means the church is really popular with the local community and the vicar seems very outgoing so I am sure he bumps up the congregation that way. And the post office is so much better than the old one which used to be in a dirty little corner shop run by some really surly guys. It is a pleasure to go to the place now.
Anyway I will remember Halstead. I do pass not too far away sometimes. thanks for this interesting post.

carol in cairns said...

thank you Adullaman .. I will probably never visit Halstead, but feel as though I am a little more knowledgeable. The weather looks great.

Lee said...

I searched and searched for the bull but he was in, not out, so that's why I couldn't find him!

What an interesting stroll...thanks for inviting me along. :)

Adullamite said...

Jenny, Essex has lots of places to visit and many churches remain open, I know of three worth visiting.
We have a loom from the local Mill and I suspect these made a great noise when in operation.
Silk weaving was done by hand and a great and quiet skill.

Carol, The weather has been great for a few days.

Lee, There is always Bull in my posts...

the fly in the web said...

I have enjoyed your visit to Halstead....that tribute in the gardens is just superb.

soubriquet said...

Thank you for writing so well on your interesting excursions. I've spent a lot of time in weaving mills, and I can imagine the noise in there!
Probably that's one of the reasons people accuse me of not having good hearing.... Eh? What was that? Did you say something?....

I attribute it to the fact that parts of my brain that might be used for listening are busy doing thinking.

And right now I'm thinking of the Courtaulds, and their legacy. I remember Courtaulds weaving mills in Leeds, one of which my old boss looked at with an interest to buying. A splendidly ornate Edwardian building formed the front and offices. It's protected, listed, but the old weaving sheds are gone. Our chairman's view was that the listed status limited greatly any options for subdividing and letting as commercial space, or converting to fancy apartments, so the company declined to buy it. And it's now been standing empty for close on twenty years. Someone must be maintaining it, no idea who.
Their other legacy was the Courtauld Institute, and the Courtauld Gallery, located at Somerset House in The Strand, London.
Well worth a visit.

Adullamite said...

Fly, Excellent tribute, designed and built by the gardeners.

Soub. Courtauld's were everywhere! US, Canada,etc! I think the buildings are all Grade II listed at least. Inside the units are not built as such, they just lay the items out in a way to separate themselves from one another. Little changed upstairs anyway. The restaurant may be different.
Most other mills have gone though we have three, somewhat altered in Braintree.
We had a reunion for Courtauld's at the museum and a talk by a an from the art gallery. The folks at the reunion ignored the art talk and the folks at the art did not go to the reunion!
All went well it appeared!

Mandy Southgate said...

What a gorgeous place! It looks like it is frozen in time. I'd definitely like to visit now.

Adullamite said...

Mandy, Most small towns round Essex are worth checking out. Always something to see.

Kay G. said...

Courtauld...could he be the one who founded the art gallery in London? Never been there but I have always wanted to see it!

Adullamite said...

Kay, Indeed he did.