The building in which I dwell was erected in 1812, or so my late Landlord told me. Life then before Victoria came to the throne was I suppose quite different. Whether the occupants worried over much about that nice Napoleon chap who was spending the year in Russia, a place that rejected him in similar manner to many others taking also the lives of many thousands of his soldiers, I do not know but they were probably more concerned with the goings on at the ‘Big House’ behind or the many farms in the locale. I suspect the educated women were more concerned with the likes of Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ There being no census at the time it is difficult to work out exactly who resided here or how they made their name. The building indicates some degree of wealth.
Comprised of two dwellings one house would be a quite small but for the day more than acceptable. The smaller would have three rooms upstairs, the larger possibly four. Modern amendments to the layout make it difficult to understand the original, the rear section being knocked down and rebuilt slightly amended from first. Questions arise that I cannot answer, most irksome. Before the car park they could at least get the gardener to grow veg in the rear of the house and possibly kept a horse in a nearby stable.
Had they been the types interested in the world around them I suppose they would have purchased some sort of newspaper or rely on common gossip, and there would be plenty of the latter around. The years happenings would not escape, news travels fast, bad news travels faster. For a start there were ‘Luddite’ risings in various parts of the country, something they no doubt hoped would be kept ‘up north’ where such behaviour belonged, there was also Lord Byron, home from Naxos to upset married men everywhere objecting to a Bill demanding the death penalty for Frame Breaking at the same time publishing a book, ‘Childe Harold.’ ‘Childe’ as you know being a medieval title of a young candidate for knighthood. Having travelled across Europe, missing out the bits that were at war Byron says too much about himself in the poem. Young men sick of the many years wars seeking some adventure in their lives, young men from wealthy backgrounds that is with nobility thrust upon them of course. Most men wold be lumbered where they were at the time. Byron of course found distractions, mostly female, and a purpose in fighting a war for Greece, not bad for someone avoiding war.
Farm types would have heard about the meat cannery that had opened in Bermondsey and questions would have been asked concerning whether this was a good idea or not. The use of hammer and chisel to open such cans would imply a negative approach at first I suspect.
While few would have heard or cared about the birth of Charles Dickens and Edward Lear that year the women of the house would certainly have heard about and been willing to participate in the new dance that swept Europe, the Waltz. Even Byron mentioned this.
One event that could not escape notice was the shooting of the Prime Minister Spencer Perceval during May that year by one John Bellingham. Bellingham had been working in Russia and fallen foul of intrigue and spent several years in prison before being allowed to return home. His feeling was he had a justified grievance and wished for compensation from the government, something the government was not willing to give. Having been advised by one civil servant to “Take whatever action you think right” Bellingham obtained a pistol and was noted often hanging around the Lobby of the House. At 5:15 on the 11th May as Perceval was making his way to a committee Bellingham stepped forward and shot him dead, the only British Prime Minister ever to have been murdered. The deed done he sat down and awaited his fate. At his trial an attempt was made to prove he was insane but the judge disagreed and three days later Bellingham was hanged, he had however for various reasons some degree of public sympathy.
Whether there were arguments for and against the shooting of a prime minister in these houses is unknown but as they trimmed the wick in the oil lamps and huddled under several blankets in a vain attempt to keep out the northern winds hammering against the windows such events must have caused a reaction. Such things did not occur along this road however the highway to the north did have a gallows at one point where offenders were left hanging about for considerable time, as a warning to others.
I am not sure this worked.
Outside the view over fields would be acceptable, a cow or two roaming there, slow moving traffic on the dirt road, few houses further down leading out of town but as this was the main road to Colchester it may have seen many a traveller pass by let alone the workers heading to and from the fields.
The road had indeed been a busy one for many a year. This road was aged by the time the Romans decided to harden it, thus giving it the name ‘Stane Street,’ and enabling their well armed troops to pass on their journey elsewhere quickly. ‘Quickly’ is not the best word as it is around fifteen miles to Colchester and that was around a day’s march for a man carrying his equipment over his shoulder. Resting here for the night they would continue West for a day before the next stop at Dunmow a further fifteen miles away. Long before this traders as well as armies had passed by this area. The Trinovantes reached over this area even though their capital was in what is now Hertfordshire when Julius Caesar popped in. Trouble brewed with those to the west and it was Julius who convinced the Catuvellauni to cease attempting to take over the area and remain back home towards Swindon, their home area, this they did but once he retired to Gaul they returned and became lords of the district. The road was old even then with people having moved around long before the North Sea came into being so possibly ten thousand years have elapsed since this trail changed to a muddy track that soon turned into a major road for the Romans to harden.
An archaeology dig in the centre of town has revealed the road layout from the past with a large centre at the junction of roads from east to west and north to south existing for considerable time. During the creation of a town centre shopping precinct many Roman and Iron Age artefacts were discovered alongside an idea of the homes used by the locals. Edinburgh, that huge, magnificent and important city has been a powerhouse for over a thousand years yet this wee market town has been around longer, a lot longer. The meeting place would provide accommodation and respite and in 1108 the Market Charter developed the town economically. I bet the shops were better then than now.
As I speak cars pass by mostly ignorant of those who have preceded them on this road. Do people care these days as to who came before them? Some find History dull but we need to know who came before us to ensure we understand just exactly who we are. Sadly this upsets our chosen outlook on life all too often and we reject what we see. Myth is better than fact. I cannot travel this road without considering the many feet that have trodden before me. Something I never did in Edinburgh but some time ago I realised we lived on an aged drovers road, a road many had driven their cattle or sheep along for eons before us. When children we discovered a cave made from a small rocky outcrop that many years before had become a drovers bothy. There was a clear door and indeed a window therein so possibly this had also been home to someone, a shepherd possibly, one not from afar off but based here, the local castle still has sheep on its land after all. However as kids naturally we called it ‘The Witches House.’ It may well be hidden amongst trees surround the new well to do housing in that area today. Whether witches reside there I do not care to know.
The truth is that following any major and many minor roads in the UK we walk in the footsteps of many who have gone before us. Thousands of years of life, in spite of ice ages, have left their mark. Almost all main roads and many faintly visible today go back millenia.