Monday, 29 August 2016
Black Notley Churchyard
I took a mad turn this morning. No, not the usual type, a real mad turn. Having ridden the bike on both Saturday and Sunday mornings I decided at 6:30 this Bank Holiday morning to ride the rusting beast up to Black Notley, see some countryside and explore. It was indeed a mad turn for someone as unused to cycling as I, someone as patently unfit as I, and someone who forgot how steep the hill is! Who put that hill on Notley Road? What was the point of that? I am convinced it wasn't there last time I came this way. However, wheezing like an old man I made it to the top, continued without falling off, turned up Buck Hill, struggled up there and dragged myself over the road into the churchyard. I considered just lying down as I wondered if it was worth trying to go back home again!
Silence, only the grouse grumbling as I passed them by (Grousing grouse?) a few birds flapping in the distance and an occasional car or van hurrying past on the now distant road. Sun, silence and occasional birdsong, sounds good to me.
St Peter & St Paul, Black Notley was begun in the early 1100's by some Norman overlord and it is situated next to Bocking Hall. This would be built by the new Lord of the Manor at the same time as the church building, although it is possible the Saxons had already created a wooden church on the site. This solid edifice would impress the peasants in their rough homes. Interestingly Castle Hedingham is a Norman Mott & Bailey castle built by the De Vere's, clearly to impress and possibly suggesting a fear of rebellion. What made this Lord happy to build his Hall here without a castle defence? Possibly his early house was fortified I expect however later works have lost the original building and the present one appears to date from the 15th century but has obviously been upgraded as and when. The church would have been run by him and his man would have led the services, as long as he obeyed. Such arrangements were found all over England, much less so in Scotland and is one reason for so many empty redundant English churches today.
As you would expect that by seven in the morning I was looking for gravestones, military ones, which I found and the grave of the family killed by Zeppelin bomb in 1916, which I failed to find. One grave that cannot be missed however is that belonging to John Ray, the father of natural history. Born just along the road from the church Joy proved to be an intelligent young man and eventually spent time in Cambridge University. From his childhood he and his mother, a herbalist, much valued in the days when medicine was so limited, had walked the area and John learned much about the plant life from her at that time. He then continued this study, classifying plants and researching them. In time he became a 'fellow' at Cambridge lecturing in Greek, Maths & Humanity. However he lost his job because he held on to the truths of scripture rather than follow the 'flow' of the day and spent time travelling in Europe and the British Isles during which time his collection of specimens, both botanical and zoological grew. Much of this learning was expounded in his 1691 book (available at the museum shop for a reasonable fee) "The wisdom of God Manifested in the works of the creation." His many such works had a great influence on all who followed from him. Not bad from a wee lad who's father was the village Blacksmith!
There are four WW2 graves in the yard but I doubt these are Black Notley people. It is likely one of those found there is however the nearby hospital took in many during the war and not all made it back to their homes. The CWGC site is down and Ancestry does not appear to know this man so I can tell nothing from his stone regarding how he came to be here. I hope his family got to know, and Glasgow is a long way from here.
The church underwent some degree of renovation in the past and those involved were keen to make their mark in 1680. Putting a date on a building seems a good idea but for the first fifty years it looks a bit daft. Such dates only really matter several hundred years down the line.
On the night of March 31st 1916 Braintree suffered heavily. That night Kapitanleutnant Alois Böcker brought his airship ‘Zeppelin L 14’ to Braintree, arriving around eleven in the evening. He dropped a bomb which landed on Number 19 Coronation Avenue. Inside Ann Herbert was killed while asleep in the back bedroom. Her daughter and two children survived even though they crashed down from the first floor to the ground. Next door the chimney collapsed into the house killing the sleeping Denningtons and their three year old niece Ella, while the entire street suffered concussion damage from the explosion. (Taken with permission from 'Into Battle' available at the Museum shop)
The Denningtons and their niece were buried in Black Notley but I could not identify the grave.
The small graveyard reflects much of the village. Most down the years would be buried here and the population was small, with few being able to afford gravestones the vast majority over the years would have a paupers grave, somewhere at the back of the church grounds. Most churchyards would be the same but I wonder how many ended up in those unmarked graves?
The modern manner of commemoration for those cremated is rather more caring I note. Many churchyards now include such a remembrance, cheaper for those who have lost someone and a place to remember also.
Trying to be clever I attempted to picture the John Ray grave through the doorway but failed miserably, twice! The window is a little like my own, it needs cleaning! On the way out a sound heard in the distance came very close. A young couple walking their three big gray dogs came past. The dogs were keen to have me for breakfast but being well controlled we bade one another good morning, the dogs rather too loudly for me, and I hastened the other way.
At this time of the year there are many taking the early morning balloon flights across the county. Two were seen today, offering Champagne Breakfasts and occasional tree top hitting. With Harvest having been mostly completed there are plenty of emergency landing grounds available if required.
There will be a heck of a bang if he hits those wires!
This is the house John Ray lived in while writing his many books and other works. It is just as well he lived here as it says 'John Ray Cottage' on the gate outside so he had little choice in the matter. His studies and his writing continued in spite of ill health and having a family to bring up. The road outside, then a mere dirt track in summer and a mud bath in winter, now offers the usual local madmen plenty of opportunity to kill themselves as they race past at all hours of the day and night. One reason I went there today was the Bank Holiday which meant few were out on the roads bar those who had to be. A nice little cottage still in spite of the traffic, thankfully hidden by a tree or two, but probably costing a buyer around half a million today.
I suspect the small garden in John's day was full of flowers and herbs recommended by his mother. These would be alongside vegetables to help feed the family. John did have two other famous local men as friends, Benjamin Allen and Samuel Dale, both local worthies who participated in the running of the town and other organisations. One told the story of how he went to London and while there one of his patients went to the other for medical advice, he died! On hearing if this the first thoughtfully said "It served him right for not waiting for me." Ah friends, who needs them?
John Ray showing himself to the world. This type of decoration is very much an Essex thing. It has been done elsewhere but a great many aged houses in the locale have a variety of such decoration.
I came across this on the way home, what an annoying sign to offer a cyclist who is wondering if his legs can get him home. He is not too concerned about breaking the speed limit, he fears he may be breaking his bones or his bike chain first. 30 MPH indeed, I canny do that downhill on a ski slope!