There are times of the year when you’d normally think about staying indoors, days when it rains and days when it’s cold and there’s snow on the ground. It is at these times of the year when you have to make the most of days, when the rains and the snow stops and the sun shines brightly. It’s January 2nd and today was a day just like that. Jumping in the car we headed North West out of Chelmsford on the B1008, heading towards Great Dunmow. After all the rain, the first stop was at the bridge that crosses the River Chelmer to see how flooded the surrounding countryside was. We then drove through Great Dunmow famous for the “Flitch Trials” and onwards towards Thaxted. Once in Thaxted we parked and visited the old streets surrounding Thaxted Church. During our visit the aeroplanes were in their final decent into London Stansted and this gave me a chance to get some good shots.
Thaxted is a town in the Uttlesford district of Essex and Thaxted appears in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Tachesteda which is Old English for “place where thatch was got.” Once a centre of cutlery manufacture, Thaxted went into decline with the rise of Sheffield as a major industrial centre. A light railway, the Elsenham & Thaxted Light Railway, eventually opened in 1913, though the railway itself never reached nearer than three-quarters of a mile (1.2 km) from the town, as building earthworks across the River Chelmer proved too costly. With the growth of road transport, the line was closed to passengers in 1952 and closed altogether in 1953. The name of Cutler’s Green, a small hamlet about a mile to the west of Thaxted, recalls the trade that yielded the area’s early wealth.
Notable Thaxted buildings include Horham Hall, Thaxted Guildhall dating from around 1450 and John Webb’s Windmill built in 1804. The large parish church of St John, built between 1340 and 1510, is renowned for its flying-buttressed spire, which is 181 feet tall and is the only medieval stone spire in the county.It has perpendicular windows and a stained glass representing Adam and Eve. The church, which stands on a hill and overlooks the town, is often referred to as “the Cathedral of Essex”.
Back into the car we moved on to Saffron Walden then after a quick stop in the market place we headed off past the grand Audley End house to a small picturesque village named Wendens Ambo. The village has railway cottages, as well as many thatched cottages, a church and a cricket pitch near the railway station. We drove alongside the M11 for a while heading towards Henham where we stopped to take some shots of the village duck pond before moving on passing close to Stansted once again.
After this the next stop was to take some shots of the old gatehouse of Easton Lodge, which as you can see from the photos is just about to fall down. Easton Lodge was a Victorian Gothic style stately home to the west of Great Dunmow, Essex in England. Once famous for its weekend society gatherings frequented by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), it was one of many country houses destroyed during the 20th century. Part of the west wing (rebuilt as a separate house after a fire in 1918 for use as servants’ quarters) still stands; and the Grade II listed gardens designed by Harold Peto have been largely restored and opened to the public.
Designed by Thomas Hopper, Easton Lodge replaced an earlier Elizabethan mansion destroyed by fire in 1847, which in turn replaced an earlier hunting lodge. The hunting lodge and grounds were granted to Henry Maynard in 1590 by Queen Elizabeth. Most famous of those who lived at the house was Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, who was born Frances Evelyn Maynard at Easton Lodge in 1861 and inherited the estate when just four years old. She become a socialite and mistress to King Edward VII, and continued to live at Easton Lodge with her husband, the 5th Earl of Warwick after her marriage.
As a result the Lodge became famous for its society gatherings. The family of H. G. Wells also lived in one of the properties on the Easton Lodge estate. During World War II the estate was requisitioned by the War Office, leading to the destruction of some 10,000 trees to enable the construction of RAF Great Dunmow (also known as RAF Little Easton) in the former park. The house was largely demolished following its return by the military in 1950.
After 30 years of abandonment the west wing was purchased in 1971 and is now used as a private house. The late 19th century stable cottages and a red brick water tower also remain, and are Grade II listed buildings. Then it was time to head home through Roding Valley spotting at times the overflowing River Roding while at the same time taking some wonderful sunburst photos as the clouds gathered.