Chairman’s Letter - April 2011
The Painted Church becomes Bury’s Cathedral
Marks Hall and The Phillips Price Trust
Brewing in East Anglia
Bures Mill Over Nine Centuries
Landscapes by Munnings Exhibition at Gainsborough’s House
Website and Email Addresses
The Colne Stour Countryside Association. Minutes of the 45th Annual General Meeting
Annual General Meeting 2010
This has been a busy year, with considerable time being taken up in resisting National Grid’s proposals for an additional line of pylons across the Lamarsh and Henny valleys through to Twinstead. Because of its importance to many of you and its complexity, I have covered this in a separate article. However, we are approaching a critical time. With the finalisation of the relevant National Policy Statement and possible revision of Ofgem’s powers and duties in relation to electricity transmission, as well as National Grid’s pending decision on the chosen corridor, it is inevitable that matters will have moved on by the time of the Annual General Meeting.
Whilst on the subject of energy, and the vexed topic of wind farms, British Telecom received permission last August to erect a temporary 60 m meteorological mast at Leys Farm near Stoke by Clare to test suitability for the erection of six 100 m wind turbines on what is one of the highest points in the upper Stour Valley. Although the application was strongly opposed, it was likely that the temporary mast would be approved. But this should not be seen as indicating that, even if the site is proved suitable so far as wind strength and consistency, permission will be granted. Wind turbines at this site would be visible for miles around and create an unsightly scar across this beautiful part of South Suffolk. They would be unnecessary, providing a trivial amount of electricity compared to the huge size of the wind farms planned off our coast. Your Association supports the need for renewable energy, but takes the view that, at least in our area, all wind farms should be located offshore. If and when any application is subsequently made, we will provide whatever support we can to all those opposing it.
But, this may be just one example of what is to come in other areas. We must all be vigilant. As I have said before, if you hear of any threat, do contact your local representative immediately. It may be the application has gone in unnoticed and time for objections is running out. Please do not suppose that others are already on the case.
The Buntings’ application to create a theme park and retail centre at Great Horkesley, which has generated so much hostility, will not now be considered by the Council until after the local elections in May. To allow time for reconstituting the planning committee, the decision may not now be until late June or July.
At last BAA have abandoned their attempt to get a second runway at Stansted. Although some of you may still be affected by aircraft noise, NATS scrapped their changed flight path proposals due to strong opposition from those affected by the new proposed stacks outside of our area. Because of a very large decline in passenger numbers, air traffic has dropped significantly. NATS estimate we will not return to the peak levels of 2007 until 2013/14. It will therefore be some time before they come forward with revised flight paths.
Of particular interest to some of you, is our involvement in supporting opposition to The Environment Agency’s plans to deal with flooding in Steeple Bumpstead by closing Church Lane and deepening the river where the ford is. There are, we believe, other alternatives to deal with the problem, which we, along with others, have put forward. The problem has been caused in part by the Local Authority permitting Church Field to be built over without regard to run off, and a failure by the Water Authority to ensure the river downstream has been kept clear. The Agency is examining these, but, as with everything nowadays, it may come down to cost. For those who know it, Church Lane and the ford are most attractive ancient features of the village, which should, if possible, be kept open.
Shortage of funding, amongst other factors, has I am sorry to say also put back for some years any possibility of getting the AONB extended along the Stour Valley up to Sudbury.
We have had to deal with at least two sites occupied by travellers. At Ferriers Lane, Bures, the occupants, who own the site and have a history of breaching planning conditions, are applying for a number of extra pitches. Although, after very considerable objection, permission was refused, the application has gone to appeal with what appears to be less than wholehearted opposition from the planning officers. There is, undoubtedly, considerable pressure on Local Authorities to provide extra sites, but this should not absolve them from promoting suitable sites, which do not despoil the countryside, our footpaths and bridleways, such as would happen in Bures.
There have been a number of other matters with which we have been involved over the year, including Persimmon’s proposals to build 170 new houses in Carson’s Drive, Great Cornard, where, not least, the access is inadequate. We have also objected to persistent attempts by Colchester Skip Hire to establish an even larger waste disposal plant at Wormingford.
Much has been heralded with the New Localism Bill, giving greater power and involvement to local communities in shaping development. However, bodies such as CPRE are rightly concerned that the Bill leaves too much power in the hands of developers, making neighbourhoods vulnerable to damaging projects being forced on them with no mechanism for appeal. With an acute shortage of funds, Local Authorities may be attracted to allowing less than ideal proposals in return for developers offering much needed planning gains elsewhere.
The Committee agreed to include within your Newsletter an application form to join either CPREssex or the Suffolk Preservation Society, if you have not already done so. Each is a division of CPRE, which is a vital voice in defending the interests which we are so passionate to protect. Whatever the eventual outcome, their support in joining us, the Dedham Vale Society and others in opposing National Grid has added considerable weight to our cause. I do hope that as many of you as possible will give them your support. Please forgive me for also repeating here my annual bleat that we need many more younger members.
Finally, as well as hoping to see as many of you as possible at our AGM to listen to an interesting talk from Professor Jules Pretty, may I welcome you all to our Summer Party on the 16th June at Twinstead Manor, the home of William and Henrietta Drake, where I am sure you will much enjoy their lovely garden and grounds.
Yours, Charles Aldous
Looking across the Stour Valley from Cornard Tye.
Much has happened since I last wrote to you about the “dreaded” pylons. National Grid’s decision on its preferred corridor has been put back until the late spring, over a year since the date originally planned. We would like to think that this has been due, in part, to the work put in by the opposition group formed by Stour Valley Underground, your Association, Dedham Vale Society and Bury not Blight. Recently, we have been joined by CPR Essex and The Suffolk Preservation Society, giving us even greater influence in opposing all overhead pylons across any of the four corridors. Both Suffolk and Essex County Councils have also, at last, realised that the threat to both counties is not just from an extra power line from Bramford to Twinstead, important though this is.
I do not propose to go into all we have sought to do on your behalf during the previous year in challenging many of National Grid’s assumptions for requiring this additional overhead line (liaising with other opposition groups elsewhere and attending meetings with the National Grid, politicians and specialists, both locally and in London), but rather concentrate on the current position. There is undoubtedly considerable Government pressure for much more “green” electricity. Although the date for the nuclear power station, Sizewell C, has
slipped by several years, there is to be a vast offshore wind farm off East Anglia; Round 3 eventually generating twice as much as Sizewell C, with the first 1.2 GW planned to come on shore and connect to the Grid at Bramford by 2015. If this is to happen, then, with the additional power generated by the new gas-powered stations in Norfolk and Lincolnshire, there will likely be a need for additional capacity between Bramford and Twinstead, beyond that achieved from reconductoring the existing lines.
Offshore wind farms are planned all around the UK. The ideal solution is to integrate these via an undersea Supergrid, transmitting electricity around the coast, with connection nodes taking power direct to the main centres of consumption (in our case London), and not (as the current regulatory system caters for) by connecting each separate wind farm to the nearest connection point to the Grid, as and when each comes on stream. Although both the British Government and the European Commission are signed up to an eventual Supergrid, and the technology will be there, the difficult issue for us is whether there is sufficient political impetus to get this started in time. Those interested in the concept can visit “Friends of the Supergrid” web-site.
All possible short-term measures to avoid the capacity constraints between Bramford and Twinstead, before the Supergrid becomes a reality, are being explored, such as re-routing the electricity from the first stage of Round 3 down to Bradwell and on to the Grid at Rayleigh.
There is now a growing movement in many parts of the UK against pylons. People have begun to realise that these issues are not isolated, as National Grid wanted to portray them. There is now seen to be a threat to the Waveney Valley, if National Grid were to be allowed to bring power from the more northern part of Round 3 into Lowestoft. Other important environmental areas of England are also now seen to be under threat.
If National Grid pursues the corridor route, every effort will need to be made to force them to lay the cables underground. We are awaiting an independent Government commissioned report on the true cost of undergrounding, having attended a meeting in London, convened by KEMA, at which various technical papers were delivered. It is believed that the true cost of undergrounding in countryside, such as here in East Anglia, although substantial, will be shown to be significantly less than that portrayed by National Grid, and that if National Grid were to select and have to underground the route traversing the AONB, the incremental cost in undergrounding the remainder could be even less. These costs will likely fall further with new technology.
A major difficulty facing us, however, is the failure of the DECC, so far, to require that an environmental detriment cost analysis should be taken into account in the decision making process, and to make it easier for National Grid to recover this cost. If looked at from the point of view of society’s “willingness to pay” to avoid loss of amenity, the cost of undergrounding even across much larger parts of the UK would have a minimal effect on consumers’ electricity costs. The Government must see that there is an environmental detriment from the visual invasion of such things as pylons, as can be seen by the extent to which it is willing to provide much greater subsidies for offshore wind turbines as compared to onshore. This additional subsidy is of a similar order to the costs of undergrounding today.
There will, for sure, be further developments by the time of the Annual General Meeting, on which I can then update you. Meanwhile, you may rest assured that we are doing all that we can to oppose any further pylons, and that within the amenity group there is a wide variety of required expertise that we can draw upon. Even so, we will be assisted if members put pressure on their local County Councillors to ensure that everything possible is being done to coordinate effective Local Authority opposition across the whole of East Anglia.
St James’ Church today.
St James’ Church by Henry Ladbrooke.
One of the lesser known features of the Norwich School painters was their interest in travelling the length and breadth of East Anglia in search of subjects. This was not only for their desires but also for their clients. After the big city of Norwich, Yarmouth became their next town of choice in which to settle, with its vibrant coastal and fishing scenes that were to fill so many canvases. John Sell Cotman, the great Norwich School watercolourist, lived there for many years; and John Berney Crome, son of the famous John Crome, fled there when bankrupted. Quite surprisingly, it’s only recently been realised, that their third choice of town was Bury St Edmunds. Primarily, it would have been Bury’s ancient buildings, with its abbey ruins, which provided the picturesque attraction. It must also have appealed as a pleasant place to dwell and work in.
Now is the moment to introduce the fascination that several artists had with church buildings. Robert Ladbrooke, who had founded the Norwich School with Crome in 1803, set out in the 1820s to draw all the rural churches of Norfolk, aided by his son John Berney. Over ten years later they published nearly seven hundred church lithographic plates (many of these churches exhibit their own examples today, culled from the volumes of the books published). Robert’s eldest son, Henry, born in 1800, decided to enter the church and then changed his mind. He, too, got the bug for painting landscapes with churches or even, better still, Norwich Cathedral. In 1823 he made his name in the Norfolk press with the magnificent scene from Mousehold Heath of the City of Norwich centred on The Painted Church becomes Bury’s Cathedral this building. Around 1830, John Berney Crome, Henry’s cousin, visited Bury to paint the old abbey ruins, a version of which is housed in the Norwich Castle Museum. Perhaps encouraged by this endeavour, Henry did likewise and may first have chosen to paint the distant view he saw (or invented) on his approach over high ground; he portrayed the old abbey and churches and even the dome of Ickworth Hall on the far horizon. Then, in the early 1840s, two of Henry’s brothers, another ‘Robert’ and Frederick, moved into the town.
The Ladbrooke family members all taught people to draw and paint and, perhaps for this reason, Henry moved into virgin territory away from his brothers and settled in Kings Lynn in 1847 for twenty years. He used to visit Cambridge regularly for a period to teach an undergraduate. Arriving one day, he found a note pinned to the student’s door: ‘Sorry, gone hunting, you will find luncheon on the table’. So that source of income, it seems, was not very reliable. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that he should continue his way to Bury to see his brothers and seek work.
Before the Manor House Museum, once the town home of the Bristols, was closed down, a striking painting of St James’ Church and the Great Churchyard and Norman Tower could be seen hanging next to the entrance hall. It was described as being by the architectural artist, Richard Bankes Harraden a contemporary, who lived in Cambridge and is known for his college views. Whoever informed the museum of this attribution knew little, if anything it seems, of the Ladbrooke family’s association with the town.
The painting had been acquired, or commissioned by, the Gage family who lived at nearby Hengrave Hall, where it hung until put up for sale in 1952. So, purchased as a piece of town history by the museum, it soon found pride of place upon its walls. The church is painted pretty much as it had been built by one of the greatest English masons, John Wastell of Bury St Edmunds, in the early 1500s. However, in 1777, the original very low pitched roof over the nave, then lined with ornately panelled timber, was replaced by a new one of deal. This was removed and replaced a second time, in 1864, by a steeply pitched roof erected on an entirely new hammer-beam structure. It is said this bold construction, featuring painted angels, was built to emulate the finer roof of St Mary’s next door. The rest is history: in 1914 the church became the cathedral of the newly created Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich. A close look at this oil painting reveals the characteristic handling of foliage belonging to none other than Henry Ladbrooke; a late painting of his suggesting it was done no earlier than the 1860s. The colours of the masonry, the pathway and the sky all relate to Henry and are distinct from those used by RB Harraden. Henry used the frond-like effect of drooping branches at that time of his life (difficult to pick out in the small illustration) – today limes still line the churchyard avenues. The curious building on the right side, Samsons Hall, is part of the old abbey but stripped of its facing stone. So, was the painting commissioned by the Gage family, who knew the church was going to be disfigured by having its roof removed in 1864, or was there another possibility? By 1865, incidentally, the Ladbrooke association with the town had ceased upon the death of Frederick, with Henry having little reason to visit thereafter. Henry himself was shortly to return to Norwich, where he died in 1869.
John Wastell, the famous mason who helped build Kings College Chapel, also had a hand in Hengrave Hall, in which he had built an oriole window and similar fan vaulting in the great hall ceiling. Maybe the Gages wanted to display another exhibit of Wastell’s handiwork, for his services were employed abundantly. He supervised the rebuilding of the nave and aisles of elegant St Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden, in the
perpendicular style of the period. It is mooted he had a part in work on Dedham and Lavenham churches. He is famous, further afield, for the building of the cross tower at Canterbury Cathedral, one of the great works of the perpendicular, known as Bell Harry.
Upon closure of the museum, the Henry Ladbrooke picture was removed for storage to West Stow. It would be a nice surprise if it could be rehung one day in the Guildhall, the oldest civic building in England, which is to undergo refurbishment. Another of his large paintings, which is sadly no longer accounted for, is that of the Abbott’s Bridge over the River Lark on the other side of the abbey grounds. However, another Norwich School artist, who moved to Cambridge in 1854, has obliged with his own identical view. This shows the black poplar tree overhanging the water and bridge, as it still does today, though now older and larger, with its weeping branches. The inn, still standing, was close to the old East Gate. These were the essential ingredients of Henry’s oil too. The smaller painting illustrated is by Samuel David Colkett; he has managed to add St Mary’s church in the distance with St James hidden. In the V&A there is also a fine watercolour by Michael Angelo Rooker of the west end of St James’ church, at the end of the eighteenth century, showing the softness of its low roofline held by gently matching triangular stone framework, which many may have been sad to see so altered.
Thus, with fresh research, more entwined history emerges about an accomplished painter of the Norwich School, a great English architect and an old Suffolk family, not to mention a cathedral, all woven together by its many connections. Henry’s painting is the best I have seen of the original church and represents a potent record of just how Bury St Edmunds’ Cathedral, like a slowly hatching chrysalis, has emerged from the confines of a pretty 16th century parish church. Finally, the transformation is complete.
Peter Kennedy Scott
This is the third article Peter has written for CSCA Magazine. His knowledge of the Norwich School is encyclopaedic and his definitive book on the subject is awaited. He is in demand for lectures, and the cataloguing of pictures by the well-known auction houses.
St Mary’s, Saffron Walden.
Abbotts Bridge by Samuel David Colkett.
Marks Hall near Coggeshall (circa 1930).
The Marks Hall estate just north of Coggeshall had belonged to the Honywood family for almost 300 years when it was bought by Thomas Phillips Price in 1897. The estate was famous for the splendour of its Jacobean House and gardens and in particular for the magnificence of the oak trees in its park.
When Phillips Price died on June 28th 1932, he left Marks Hall and the surrounding estate of about 2000 acres to the nation “for the advancement of agriculture, arboriculture and forestry”, specifying that the management of the estate should be put under the control of the Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. He furthermore expressed the desire that the house itself should be occupied by whoever should be Director of Kew at the time. Unfortunately, as it turned out, he also left a life interest to his third wife, May Elizabeth, who outlived him by 34 years. By the time she died in 1966, part of the estate had been turned into an airfield, the house had been demolished and the vast majority of the oak trees cut down. Not surprisingly, Kew was tempted to look this gift-horse in the mouth. In the end it didn’t; the nation has come into its inheritance and a new arboretum is gradually taking shape on the site of the former park.
Following the Norman conquest, the manor of Markshall became part of the estate of Hugh de Montfort and it was the descendants of one of his tenants who adopted the name of Markshall as their surname. De Montfort’s estates having been confiscated, they were given to Hugh de Essex, a notably undistinguished Standard Bearer to Henry II. Morant, in his history of Essex, tells us that during an expedition that the king made into Wales, Hugh “behaved very unworthily, throwing down the standard and cowardly running away; which so animated the Welsh and discouraged the English, under an apprehension of the king’s being slain, that the whole army was utterly routed”. Having been charged with treason and vanquished in trial by combat he was fortunate that the king spared his life but, thereafter, “partly thrust, partly going into a convent, (he) hid his head in a cowl under which between shame and sanctity he blushed out the remainder of his life”. His lands, unsurprisingly, were confiscated and the manor of Markshall granted to the Markshalls, descendents of the tenants at the time of the conquest. They managed to retain ownership for four hundred years until 1562. After a short period when it belonged to the Cole and Deraugh families, the estate was bought by Robert Honywood in 1605 and it remained in the possession of successive generations of the talented Honywood family up to the end of the nineteenth century. In 1897, acrimonious law suits over the succession led to the sale to Thomas Phillips Price.
Robert Honywood pulled down the front of the tudor house and replaced it in 1609 with an impressive brick front in the Jacobean style. Above the elaborately decorated porch his arms impaled those of Browne of Beachworth Castle in Kent, the family he had married into. Christopher Hussey, in an article in Country Life dated September 1923, refers to the appearance of Marks Hall as “being well calculated to whet the curiosity”. This is a considerable understatement. Phillips Price was, with reason, extremely proud of his country seat and approved the publication of two articles in Country Life dealing firstly with the gardens and next with the house. The illustrations to the latter article shew the interior to have been quite exceptional, in particular the superb Jacobean hall as well as the later Georgian dining room and gothic room.
Thomas Phillips Price with his third wife May under one of the great oaks. (Thomas Phillips Price Trust)
More celebrated than Robert Honywood was his mother, Mary Waters, of whom there is a portrait in the Colchester Castle museum and about whom there are a number of well-worn stories. She lived to see 367 living descendants - 16 children, 114 grandchildren, 228 great grandchildren and 9 great great grandchildren. Mary Waters apparently suffered from religious melancholia and amongst those who attempted to comfort her was John Fox the author of the eponymous Book of Martyrs. According to Morant, Fox’s ministrations having been of no avail, she took up a Venetian glass saying “I am as surely damn’d as this glass is broken”. Thereupon she threw the glass “with violence to the ground, but the glass rebounded and was taken up whole and entire”. In spite of this apparent miracle she remained as disconsolate as before, but then at last, “God suddenly shot comfort like lightening into her soul” and she lived out the remainder of her days “in spiritual gladness”. In 1933, the Essex Review published a picture of the glass which had been discovered in Ireland in the possession of one of Mary Waters’s descendants.
Sir Thomas Honywood, Robert’s son, was knighted by Charles I but nevertheless became a parliamentarian and played a prominent part at the siege of Colchester when the Royalists were besieged in the town. It is said that the parliamentary army, while encamped at Marks Hall, were employed digging the lakes to keep them out of mischief. After the Royalist surrender, Sir Thomas was left in charge of the town with orders to demolish the walls, which fortunately he failed to do. In 1651 he commanded a regiment of Essex men at the battle of Worcester. At a key point in the battle, the Essex militia stormed and captured a redoubt called Fort Royal and turned the royalist guns to fire on Worcester, thus making the royalist position untenable. Worcester was a disaster for the king and put an end to the Second Civil War. At the Restoration Honywood was nevertheless granted a royal pardon.
The Honywood family produced a number of successful soldiers of whom the most famous was General Philip Honywood whose huge portrait by Gainsborough (10ft x 10ft 8 inches) shows him in his scarlet uniform with drawn sword and atop his favourite charger. (The picture is now in the John & Mabel Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, USA). The general did all in his power to preserve the estate, the house and its contents for future generations of Honywoods. In particular he stipulated in his will that any of his successors who failed to take the name Honywood within 3 months of inheriting the estate or who felled timber other than for repairs on the estate should forfeit the property. As a result, the oaks in the park were so carefully looked after that, by the end of the nineteenth century, they were amongst the finest in the country.
In 1859, William Philip Honywood died without issue and to avoid the estate going to his brother, a notorious gambler, he left it to his wife for her lifetime and then to a godson, fearing that otherwise within 6 months “there will not be a timber tree left on the estate”. Endless lawsuits followed, leading ultimately to the sale of the estate, the house and its entire contents.
Thomas Price was a Welshman who in his early twenties inherited a substantial fortune from his uncle Sir Thomas Phillips. Having for some time led the life of a country gentleman, he entered politics and sat in the House of Commons as member for North Monmouthshire for ten years. Needing a base within reach of London, in 1898 he bought Marks Hall, a house suitable to a man of his standing with fourteen principal bedrooms, two lakes and a deer park. He embarked immediately on a programme of improvement to the estate which had become run down while the various Honywood claimants concentrated on fighting each other in the courts.
Phillips Price married for the first time in 1884 but his wife died in 1896 and he married again in 1898. His second wife suffered from chronic ill health and died in 1926. Undaunted, he was married again in 1927, this time to May Elizabeth Swann who had been his sister’s companion and was aged 51. He was already 83.
As far back as 1907, Phillips Price had been worrying about what would happen to Marks Hall after his death. In September of that year he wrote to the then director of Kew Gardens, Colonel Prain, as follows “I am the owner of this estate which is richly wooded, principally with oak, some of them very fine trees – I have no children – and after the death of my wife, I should like to leave the estate to the Kew Garden Authorities, to be maintained by them for ever, on condition that they preserved the timber, the income of the Estate to be used for this purpose for the sake of Arboriculture. I want to know whether the Kew Gardens Authorities are capable of holding such an Estate on such conditions…My object is that the timber should be preserved as far as it is possible to preserve it”.
At the time there was considerable public concern about the effect of pollution from coal smoke on the plants at Kew and Phillips Price evidently envisaged the possibility of moving the botanic gardens to Marks Hall. In 1927, in anticipation of his marriage to his third wife, Phillips Price made a new will which shewed that his concerns about the estate had not in any way changed over the course of the previous 20 years, although the estate was only to go to Kew if he failed to have any children. Almost every paragraph refers to the possibility that he might have children and yet his wife to be was 51. Perhaps it is just the legalese in which the will is inevitably written but, reading it, one is tempted to wonder whether he was acquainted with the facts of life. Alternatively, he may have been under the impression that his wife was a great deal younger than she was, although from photographs this seems unlikely. The third paragraph of the will reads “I appoint my dear wife May Elizabeth during her life and after her death my trustees to be the Guardian and Guardians of any infant children I may leave”. Again and again in the will the possibility of sons or daughters or both is referred to. Ultimately the will deals with the possibility that he will not have children in which case the estate is left to Kew.
Underlining Phillips Price’s near obsession with the oak trees, the very next paragraph, before dealing with the house, deals with the timber “And as the timber on my Essex estate has been preserved with great care for centuries and is of exceptional size and beauty, it is my wish (except in the woods where the Timber will be dealt with in a due course of Forestry) that no timber shall be cut on my Essex estate except from dead trees and I wish my trustees so far as may be possible to see that no such timber (except as aforesaid) is cut during the life of my said wife.” The inability to cut down any trees 138 years previously, had caused the then owner of the estate, Filmer Honywood, to bring forward an Act of Parliament to allow the felling of dead and decaying trees and the thinning of younger wood. (He was not entirely motivated by the need to keep the oaks in good condition as there was a £8750 mortgage to be redeemed which was financed from the sale of timber).
Quite apart from his enthusiasm for the park, the oaks and the gardens, Phillips Price comes across as exceptionally generous both to his wider family and to his employees. His relations and god-children having been well provided for in his will, he left £500 each to his carpenter, his driver, his gardener, his gamekeeper and his butler. The head housemaid got £200 and the under gamekeeper £150. (In a codicil dated some two and a half years later, the bequest to his housemaid was revoked…) The bequests reflect his keen interest in the gardens and the shooting which perhaps meant even more to him than the house.
After his death in June 1932, the estate, almost inevitably, fell into decline. The 1920s and 30s were a terrible time for agriculture and Mrs Phillips Price, who had no children, had only been left a life interest, so she had little incentive to spend money on upkeep. Furthermore, she may have felt relatively badly off because of her
husband’s rather generous bequests. Phillips Price’s Welsh estate, which benefited from the income derived from several coal mines, had been left to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport. It is said that the fact that his wife had only been left a life interest came as a considerable shock to her, although why is unexplained. What had she intended doing with the estate if she had been left it without strings? From her portrait she looks an unlikely fortune hunter. But perhaps she genuinely felt short of cash and would just have liked to have lived on a rather more lavish scale than turned out to be possible. In any event, her husband’s will made it quite clear how important it was to him that the estate and in particular the trees were looked after. But they were not.
Within a few months of Phillips Price’s death, the church which stood only a few yards from the house, was demolished. The church had become redundant following the amalgamation of the parish with that of Coggeshall and the decision to demolish it had been taken before Phillips Price’s death. Mrs Price, who would then have been only 56, is said to have disliked the church as her predecessor, the second Mrs Price, had been buried there. The demolition caused considerable public protest. “How comes it,” the Essex County Standard demanded melodramatically “that a parish church should secretly be blotted out by a gang of navvies which came over the fields like a thief in the night?” It was claimed that the church was “stout, solid and substantial with 3 foot (thick) walls.”
And then came the war. Mrs Price moved out of the house and into Marygolds, a dower house on the estate which she had retained in her own name. Like most large houses in East Anglia, Marks Hall was requisitioned, part of the estate had Earls Colne airfield built on it, large numbers of huts and other buildings were erected and the house became the headquarters of the United States Ninth Army Air Force. The airfield became operational in spring 1943 and losses were heavy. In June, on a single mission over Kiel, 9 Flying Fortresses were shot down over the North sea and 80 crew lost. In one month of operational flying, the squadrons lost half of their original aircraft and 150 men.
Marks Hall – the final act.
The US Air Force was succeeded by the RAF, but following the end of the war Marks Hall’s travails did not cease as Braintree Rural District Council then requisitioned the huts erected by the Air Force to house displaced persons wished on them by the Ministry of Health. By 1949, as a result of vandalism, the house was alleged to have become dangerous, the fittings were stripped and sold and in 1950 the house was demolished. Questions were asked in parliament and the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked if members were aware that the house was listed Grade 1 and had been bequeathed to the nation. Lord Euston, writing in The East Anglian Magazine in 1953, said the house “had been carefully looked after while occupied by the United States Air Force and the RAF during the war, but was afterwards so badly damaged by local hooligans while standing empty that it has been demolished”. Those hooligans can only have been displaced persons housed in the neighbouring huts by Braintree RDC. It seems likely that the Council, encouraged by the Ministry of Health, had herded together problem families within their jurisdiction and dumped them in the former air force huts without making proper provisions to protect the house.
The iron bridge with house and church in background.
In 1956 came the final insult. The deer park with its famous oaks was leased to the Forestry Commission for 999 years. Under the terms of Phillips Price’s will the proceeds of any sale of timber were to be counted as income and therefore accrued to Mrs Price. Virtually all the oaks were cut down.
Phillips Price’s will made crystal clear his desire to protect the oaks, so why did his executors not intervene? One of the two executors, Phillips Price’s brother-in-law, Major General John Christopher Swann had died in May 1939 and the other, Arthur Graham, would have been in his nineties. (I can find no trace of his death). No replacement executors seem to have been appointed. Mrs Phillips Price, who was by then 80, lived on in Marygolds, but she had become very deaf and was virtually housebound.
Braintree RDC should have intervened to protect the house, but they did not and seem instead to have hastened its demise. Similarly, the Forestry Commission failed to protect the oaks in their single-minded determination to plant conifers.
In 1966, having moved into a nursing home in Bournemouth, Mrs Price died at the age of 90 and Thomas Phillips Price’s bequest became effective. After extensive discussions, Kew decided to accept the bequest and, in 1971, The Thomas Phillips Price Trust was established to manage the estate, the trustees being appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture. In 1972 the trustees decided to create an arboretum of national status within the former park and the Forestry Commission were persuaded to release sufficient land to make this possible.
By now - 2010 - the lakes have been repaired, the walled garden restored and there has been extensive replanting. Only one of the huge Honywood oaks remains and vast amounts of work remain to be done, but a new arboretum is arising phoenix-like from the undergrowth. The trustees are doing their best to see that as far as is possible Phillips Price’s intentions are put into effect.
One can go from Boulogne to Athens” says Oliver Rackham, “without seeing a tree more than 200 years old. But at least since Shakespeare the English have loved the beauty and mystery of ancient trees. Ancient trees are full of meanings which young and middle aged trees do not have at all and it has become the duty of the English to cherish them”.
Marks Hall is situated just north of Coggeshall in the angle between the A120 and the B1024 to Earls Colne. The Gardens and Arboretum are open April to October, Tuesday to Sunday; on Bank holiday Mondays and on winter weekends including Fridays from 10.30am to dusk. For further details consult www.markshall.org.uk
Jeremy Hill has, once again, written another very interesting article. Marks Hall has featured in our “Places of Special Interest” on our website, since very soon after I set up the site. The garden is well worth a visit and there is a good selection of plants for sale, and a good restaurant.
Old picture of Westgate Brewery.
I first thought of writing an article on this subject about three years ago, and at that time I hoped that Greene King might have enough information to enable me to do so. I attended the 2009 Greene King AGM, held at the Rowley Mile Racecourse, and established contact through the Company Secretary and eventually managed to set up a meeting in May last year. When I visited the brewery in Bury St Edmunds, the Operations Director, Steve Magnall, (now Deputy Managing Director of the brewing division) and their Head Brewer, John Bexon, did their best to point me in the right direction, having given me a conducted tour of the brewery. However, there seemed to be a scarcity of collated information, so I set about trying to find out the history of brewing in East Anglia.
I soon discovered that in the last one hundred years the counties of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk had between them nearly three hundred breweries. I therefore decided to narrow the area to be covered by my article to the towns and villages within the CSCA’s area, only to discover that there had been thirty-seven breweries, which suggests that our area was a thirsty one! Many pubs had a brewery at the back, supplying ale just for their own consumption. Clearly, there were still too many brewers to write about, so I have limited this article to those that I found most interesting and relevant. However, for the record, the following villages in the CSCA area, in addition to those mentioned later in this article, had breweries in Essex: Finchingfield, Gestingthorpe, Pentlow, Sible Hedingham, Wakes Colne and Wethersfield and in Suffolk: Clare, Glemsford, Great Cornard and Stoke by Clare.
Horse and Dray in the 1800’s outside Adnams Brewery, Southwold.
The CSCA area straddles the Essex / Suffolk border. In Essex, it is worth mentioning the White Horse Brewery at Ballingdon, owned by the Mauldon family and founded by a Mrs Morgan around 1793. The brewery was at the White Horse Inn in Ballingdon Street. The Inn occupied a building which had previously been known as Porter’s, which had extensive gardens and orchards. The brewery flourished and the family soon owned over twenty-five pubs in the Sudbury area. A fire destroyed most of the premises in 1900. The brewery was rebuilt by Grimwood & Sons of Sudbury, with a handsome new office facing the street alongside the Inn. The business was acquired by Greene King in 1958, along with 26 houses and one off-licence. The brewery was demolished, but the office buildings remain standing (Talas House, 47/48 Ballingdon Street), and are opposite the Strawberry Stores. The Anchor in Friars Street was a Mauldon pub, and the name was still visible in the frosted glass windows, until the pub became redundant and the windows were covered over last year.
In December 1982, Peter Mauldon, the great-grandson of the original founder, set up a microbrewery on the Chilton Industrial Estate which in 2000 produced 1,200 barrels of beer. The business was bought in March 2000 by Steve Sims and now produces 2,500 barrels. Another small local brewery is Nethergate. The brewery was started by Dick Burge and his brewer, Ian Hornsey, in Clare in 1986. In 2005 it moved to larger premises at The Street, Pentlow. In 2010 the business was bought by Rob Flanagan, Mike Atkinson, Mark Holmes and Paul Knights, three of whom had worked for Adnams. The Head Brewer is Tom Knox. Their most well-known beer is Old Growler. This is a very dark beer almost like a stout but which is known as Porter (Beer). They also brew various other beer styles and various Bitters. Current production is 5,500 barrels a year. There is another microbrewery, which I suspect is unknown to many people, and this is The Mill Green Brewery, in the grounds of The White Horse pub at Edwardstone. It was started in 2008 by John Norton, and his son Tom, who is the brewer, and Ian Robinson. It is an eco-friendly brewery as it uses solar panels and a wood boiler to produce most of the heat. The brewery produces five permanent beers, of which Mawkin Mild, a very dark traditional beer, loved by the farm workers, is best known. They also brew seasonal specials, and they sell mainly to The White Horse and some other local pubs. They brew 350 barrels a year.
Sudbury is recorded as having had ten breweries in the period 1890 to 2004. There was once a brewery behind the Black Boy Hotel on Market Hill, but this closed in 1891. Another familiar name was Oliver Brothers, who owned the Sudbury Brewery in Cornard Street, which was started in 1873. The original buildings were quite substantial with their own railway siding. Much of the brewery was rebuilt in 1902. They advertised themselves as Brewers and Wine and Spirit Merchants of Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds. In 1919 it was acquired by Greene King, in which the Oliver family already had an interest, together with 51 pubs. The brewery closed in 1932 at which time it is recorded as producing 10,829 barrels of beer, but the Olivers were to play a continuing role in the future.
Long Melford had five breweries, most of which closed in the late 1800s; however, it is worth noting the Cock & Bell in Hall Street, owned by George Frederick Grice, and which was acquired by Ward & Son of Foxearth in 1920. Ward’s was founded as a beer retailer by George Ward in 1848, and he turned his hand to brewing in 1878. It was registered as a private company in 1919 and was purchased by Charringtons (later Bass Charrington) in 1957, with thirty-one tied houses. The business was repurchased by the Ward family in 1960 but it proved not to be viable and the brewery, was demolished in 1962. The brewery and the workers’ houses made up most of the village of Foxearth.
Halstead had four breweries, two of which are worth mentioning. The Halstead Brewery in Trinity Street, founded in 1859 by Charles Stanton Gray of the Chelmsford Brewery and acquired by a Thomas Francis Adams in 1876, was sold to a subsidiary of Fremlins in 1939, along with forty-six pubs. The brewery has since been demolished. The other name, until relatively recently still around, was G E Cook & Sons Ltd. They owned the Tidings Hill Brewery, founded in 1885, and the Griffin in Parsonage Lane. A brewery was built in 1908. Brewing at the Griffin ceased in 1913 and at Tidings Hill in 1974. On display in Halstead is the steam heated and coal fired, 700 gallon, boiling copper once used in this brewery.
The Thatcher’s Arms in Mount Bures had a home brew house owned by Anne Downs, but sold to Greene King in 1892. However, records show that there was a beerhouse licensed to a Mary Wood in the village from 1601; one of the earliest references to a beerhouse I have discovered. Likewise, Bures St Mary had its own brewer, a John Death, until 1922. Bures Mill had a brew house, which still exists as a building, which supplied beer exclusively for those working at the mill.
In 2011, the names that stand out as our regional brewers are of course, Greene King and Adnams. I think a brief synopsis of their histories is worthwhile.
Records show that there was brewing in Bury St Edmunds in 1086 and that the Monks at the Abbey were allowed 8 pints of ale a day, and this increased to 12 if they were ill! In 1200 the Cathedral was built, and by 1400 there were taverns and alehouses that were open to the public.
It is recorded that in 1535 Thomas Cromwell visited Bury and found much drinking and debauchery. The monks at the Abbey were up to no good and the word chastity was not in their vocabulary! In 1608 there was a great fire which destroyed many of the Inns and Taverns in the town.
In 1799 Benjamin Greene came to Bury, aged 19, having just qualified as a brewer with Whitbread’s in London. A year later he, together with William Buck, bought the Wright’s Brewery and renamed it The Westgate Brewery. Benjamin Greene married a Catherine Smith and produced 13 children of which 8 survived. By 1836 Benjamin had grown tired of Bury and brewing, and set off to run a newspaper business and invest in plantations in the West Indies, leaving behind his third son, Edward, to run the brewery. In the same year, Fred King opened the St Edmunds Brewery, formerly Maulkins Maltings. This was close to the Westgate Brewery.
Westgate Brewery, Bury St. Edmunds.
In 1838 Edward Greene bought out his father. At the time it was only brewing 2,000 barrels a year. In 1886 the Greenes and Kings decided to amalgamate, and in 1887 Greene King was formed, capitalised at £555,000, giving scope for growth. Tangible assets amounted to £360,000. The brewery was managed by Edward Lake and was obviously doing well as dividends were between eight and ten percent. In 1887 there were 148 tied houses and this grew to 389 at its peak pre-1914. Greene King shares were first publicly quoted in 1927.
Colonel Basil Oliver, whose business had been taken over by Greene King in 1919, became head brewer and joint managing director of Greene King in the mid 1930s and during WWII the Colonel’s daughter, Margaret, became Head Brewer and there was a descendant of the Oliver family on the board until the 1980s.
In 1961 Wells & Winch of Biggleswade, was purchased along with 287 inns. This acquisition greatly strengthened Greene King’s presence in the trade and made it a more significant player and hence helped it remain independent. To this end much credit must go to General Sir Miles Dempsey who proved very adept at repelling the predatory brewers during the 1960s. General Dempsey had been brought onto the Board in 1953 when he was Chairman of Simonds, the Reading Brewers. Simonds had themselves taken over six breweries after 1945 and Dempsey was highly regarded in the industry. General Dempsey was helped by Sir Edward Greene and the other younger Directors including John Bridge, father of the present Chairman, Timothy Bridge. The latter had worked in Fine Fare’s marketing division, as a management trainee, before running Rayments Brewery, a subsidiary of Greene King, in the mid 1970s. He had joined Greene King in 1970. Timothy Bridge traces his family connection to the brewery back to Fred King whose grand-daughter Marion married Walter Bridge and their son was (Walter) John Bridge. He was a Director from 1948 and was Managing Director from 1969 to 1983, as well as Chairman from 1979 to 1989. His predecessor, as Chairman, was Sir Hugh Carleton Greene who had been appointed a Director in 1964 and was Chairman from 1971 to 1978. He was also Director-General of the BBC from 1960 to 1969. His brother was the well-known author Graham Greene.
During the 1960s the company fought to remain independent and emerged in the 1970s as one of the dozen largest UK brewers. Since then, the company has been acquisitive, buying the Magic Pub Company in 1996, Morlands of Abingdon in 1999; Old English Inns in 2001 and Morrells of Oxford in 2002, taking the number of pubs to over 1,700. In 2004 it acquired a further 432 pubs from the Laurels Pub Company and in 2005 it bought Ridleys for £45m., a family run business, with a brewery at Hartford End near Chelmsford. The brewery was built in 1842, and the River Chelmer had originally provided both the power and water to run the brewery. This acquisition added a further 73 pubs to the Greene King portfolio, but the brewery was closed.
Another acquisition in 2005 was the Belhaven Brewery in Dunbar, Scotland. This brewery can be traced back to 1719 when a John Johnstone took over and started commercial brewing. The Johnstone family were succeeded by the Dudgeons in 1815. The brewery then traded as Dudgeons. In 1876 Ellis Dudgeon was succeeded by his son-in-law, Alexander Hunter, who met an untimely death when he was killed by bits of a disintegrating flywheel at the West Barn Maltings. He was succeeded by his son Ellis Dudgeon Hunter.
The railways arrived in Dunbar in 1846, opening up Dunbar to outside competition, but also giving scope for wider sales. At about this time, the brewery started diversifying into malting whilst still producing beer, and this enabled the brewery to survive an amalgamation or even closure, as happened to many of the smaller Scottish breweries. During the two World Wars, Dudgeons supplied beer to the military with a notable customer Belhaven Beers. After WWII, Sandy Dudgeon Hunter (son of Ellis) spearheaded the development of some award winning ales with a Belhaven label. In 1972 family ownership came to an end, but this heralded a twenty year period of growth. However in 1989 the business was sold to Control Securities, which in 1992/3 was seriously affected by the collapse of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International. A syndicate of banks then allowed the business to continue to trade and in 1993 there was a management buyout, through a newly formed company Belhaven Holdings Ltd. There followed a London Stock Market floatation in 1996. Belhaven was then bought by Greene King in 2005 for £254m.
In 2006 Hardys & Hansons of Kimberley in Nottinghamshire was acquired for £270m. It was the last independent brewery in Nottinghamshire and was the result of a merger of Hardys, who had taken over a
brewery owned by a Samuel Robinson in 1857, and Hansons, who had built a brewery in 1847. These two companies had merged in 1930. Greene King transferred the brewing to Bury St Edmunds.
In January this year Greene King acquired the Blackburn based pub/restaurant group, Cloverleaf, at a cost of £56m. This added another twelve pubs in the North and Midlands, which offer a “carvery” style food. This latest addition joins the Loch Fyne seafood restaurant chain, which was purchased for £68m in 2007. Greene King also own the Old English Inns pub hotels, as well as the Hungry Horse chain.
Today there are almost 2,500 tied houses, and the Company brews some 500k barrels of beer per annum. The Company had a stock market value of £1,038m on 31st December 2010.
Records show that Southwold may have the longest brewing tradition of anywhere in England. It is recorded that in 1345 a Johanna de Corby and seventeen other “ale wives” from Southwold were charged with breaking the law for mis-selling ale. Her cheating continued for at least twenty years at her alehouse, which predated “The Old Swan.” Her husband was the baker and he sold underweight loaves and was regularly before magistrates! In medieval times this pub became known as The Swan, but was destroyed along with most of the town including The Town Hall, the market place, the prison, shops, granaries and warehouses in a fire in 1659. Before the fire there were over 2,000 inhabitants, but three hundred people were made homeless and many of these left after their houses were burned, and by 1750 the number had dropped to 666. The Swan was rebuilt but the brewing activity was moved away from the inn to the present site behind the Swan Yard. During the 1700s the business was owned by the Thompson family. In 1818 The Swan was purchased by Thomas Bokenham who overstretched his finances and after a few years had to sell the brewhouse to a local maltster, William Crisp, for £350. The brewery flourished under Crisp who died in 1844, when it was sold. It then passed through a number of owners before George and Ernest Adnams, with the aid of their father, George, bought the Sole Bay Brewery in 1872. Father George came from the Eagle Brewery, Speenhamland, near Newbury, where the family traded as James Adnams and Sons. By 1880 George had found Suffolk to be a lonely place and departed to South Africa for a career in prospecting for gold and diamonds, in which he failed, but he came to an untimely end when returning drunk to his boat late one night, only to fall off a gang plank into the Zambezi and be eaten by a crocodile! His death certificate records that this was how he met his end! In 1890 Ernest Adnams and the head brewer, Thomas Sargeant, signed the first Memorandum of Association establishing Adnams & Company Ltd.
Brewery glass panel.
In 1902 Jack and Pierse Loftus acquired a stake in the business through their stepfather, Maurice Lindsay Coates. Coates was a Northern Irish citizen whose family were heavily involved in the linen industry, and several members of his family were Lord Mayors of Belfast. He may well have been disowned by his family for marrying a Catholic. Pierse had trained at Morgan’s of Norwich in 1895, and on qualifying as a Brewer he worked in breweries in Denmark and Berlin before venturing to South Africa, where he worked under Head Brewer, Paul Adnams, at the Castle Brewery in Johannesburg. Later he moved to another of their breweries in Natal, where he worked under the Head Brewer Tom Adnams, who advised him of an opportunity at Southwold, where his cousin, Ernest, needed a partner who could inject some capital into the expanding business. In a deal involving the acquisition of 49% of the equity of the Company, Pierse Loftus became the dominant member of the Company. Having acquired a stake in the business, Pierse Loftus ran the brewery, but it did not pay a dividend until after the First World War. He became Chairman in 1912, when Ernest Adnams became ill and died the following year. Pierse was instrumental in acquiring a number of small breweries. First was C J Fisher & Co of Eye in 1904; then, in 1922, Edward Rope & Co of Orford; and, in 1924, Flintham Hall & Co Ltd of Aldeburgh. By 1932 he felt the time had come to enter politics, and he was elected MP for Lowestoft that year. The company was then run by two company secretaries: Richard F B Colling, whose father owned the Chard Steam Brewery Company, and came with money to invest in 1890 and died in office in 1942; and his successor, Edward G Parke, who joined the company in 1888, and who died in harness in 1958 aged 84, after 70 years service. Pierse Loftus remained as Chairman until his death in 1956, and was succeeded by Bertie Adnams, the second generation, who was appointed to the Board in 1920 and became Chairman in 1956, retiring in 1967.
Nico Loftus, Pierse’s son, was elected to the Board in 1944, and seems to have taken over running everything, apart from finance. By 1953 the business had expanded and had won awards in Brussels and at the Brewers Exhibition. During the 1960s Adnams was the subject of takeover rumours, but succeeded in remaining independent. In 1963 Nico Loftus was killed in a car accident, and this led to John Adair Adnams, the third generation of the Adnams family, becoming Managing Director, a position he held until 1973. In 1967 John Lee became Chairman. Prior to this he had been the Company auditor, having joined in 1945 and became Company Secretary in 1949, joining the Board in 1953 and retiring in 1973, when John Adair Adnams succeeded him. He retired in 1996. Jonathan Adnams, the fourth generation of the Adnams family, joined the Company in 1975, having learnt the art of brewing at Youngs. He was appointed Managing Director of Adnams in 1996, taking over from Bernard SegraveDaly who had held the position from 1973. He was the grandson of Jack Loftus. In 2006 Jonathan Adnams became Chairman, following the retirement of Simon Loftus, who was the grandson of the original Loftus, Pierse. He had joined the Company in 1969 and was appointed a Director in 1973, and Chairman in 1996.
In what may be the first brewery in the UK to branch out into distilling, Adnams has just opened a Vodka, Gin and Whiskey distillery in the refurbished Old Copper House, part of the old Adnams Brewery.
The Company had a stock Market value of £31.4m on 31st December 2010. It runs 70 pubs and five hotels, as well as wine merchants in Southwold and Norwich, and ten Cellar and Kitchen shops. It produces 90,000 barrels of beer a year.
When writing this article I became aware of some large discrepancies in recorded dates, particularly in relation to Greene King in its formative years, so please do not tell me I am wrong as there are no definitive records!
It is clear from my research that the brewing industry went through massive changes after WWII and many familiar names such as Bass, Ind Coope, Watneys, Trumans, to name but a few, all became part of larger conglomerates. Regional brewers became a rarity and from this Greene King emerged as one of todays largest national brewers, competing with Marstons at the top of the league. Adnams remain independent, concentrating in Eastern England. It is interesting how both these brewers managed to keep members of the founding families so closely involved in the business throughout their history. I am grateful to Jeff Sechiari of The Brewery History Society for his guidance and for checking this article; to Tim Bridge, Chairman of Greene King, and Jonathan Adnams, Chairman of Adnams, for their help with this article. I am also grateful to John Bexon, Greene King’s Head Brewer, for getting me under way, and Steve Magnall, now Deputy Managing Director of the brewing division of Greene King, for his support.
Bures Mill and the Mill House.
In March 1994 a bad tooth led to the good fortune of finding Bures Mill. While waiting at my dentist’s in Highgate I picked up a two year old copy of ‘Country Life’ and found a mill on the Stour advertised for sale. As I was born at Mistley and brought up on the river Stour, I was fascinated, and I immediately contacted Roy Chapman, the estate agent, who told me that, surprisingly, after two years Bures Mill was still for sale.
We went to meet Witgar Hitchcock, the owner, at the Mill on 1st April, a beautiful spring day, and he proudly showed us over the Mill, the house and the lovely old garden with its great variety of fruit trees. Mr Hitchcock had been born and brought up at the Mill, as had his father before him. He was keen to tell us the long history of the Mill and of his family’s association with it over nearly one hundred and twenty years, since his grandfather, Cornelius Hitchcock, became the miller in 1875.
Though we were anxious about the enormous modern buildings which would have to be demolished, we fell in love with the Mill and offered to buy it. Mr Hitchcock seemed taken aback; perhaps he was sad to part with the house, where he was born, and the Mill, where he had worked all his life. To our amusement, however, he took the precaution of looking up the Temple family in the Directory of Mistley of 1935 and finding that my parents seemed respectable and had been resident at Dorset House. He obviously felt reassured that we were a suitable family to take on Bures Mill, as we completed the purchase a few weeks later.
There has been a mill on this site for at least the past thousand years. The earliest story of its inhabitants was a favourite of Witgar Hitchcock. One of the first stories he told us was about the Anglo Saxon miller who, at the time of the Norman conquest, patriotically sabotaged the Mill by throwing the mill stones into the deep floodgate pond.
Witgar Hitchcock on his retirement in 1992. It shows the absestos-clad Mill in the background.
The Domesday Book of 1086 records two watermills at Bures. Leigh Alston, our local Bures historian, holds the opinion from his reading of the Domesday evidence, that the Anglo Saxon mill might have been elsewhere in the village. On the ground, however, it appears more likely that the Saxon Mill was situated to the south of the site of the present mill house and the county archaeological map suggests this. Recent evidence from excavations to build a conservatory, when traces of a building were found, suggests that the site may have been some ten yards south of the mill house, where the floodwater still runs and delineates the possible course of the Anglo Saxon mill leat. The Anglo Saxon mill would have been on a much smaller scale than the Norman mill and only harnessed part of the flow of the river. It may have been similar to a small crud mill or cheese mill, which was situated about three-quarters of a mile down the river, and in medieval times processed the famous local sheep’s cheese. There is still a “crud mill” meadow on the site near Staunch Farm, Mount Bures. The owner of the Bures Mill was recorded in the Domesday Book as a Saxon landowner by the name of Witgar. It is remarkable that the last miller at Bures Mill, Witgar Hitchcock, should have been romantically named after Witgar the Saxon mill owner.
This view shows the Tudor Mill on the right of the picture, which was largely demolished in 1962. It shows the Mill cart and horse of that period. c.1900.
A century after the Conquest in 1066, in the middle of the 12th century, the Norman Sylvester family were responsible for building a new mill at Bures. They began a large scale diversion of the river to the north, leaving the old Anglo Saxon course of the river to the south. The course of the river was shortened and taken more directly to the site of the new Mill. This required a cutting of four hundred yards and must have involved a large workforce.
When the river was dredged in 1968, geological differences were noticed; the bed of the river cut by the Normans was different from the bed of the river higher up stream. The ancient course of the river is still visible in the ditch, which has some large pools in it and runs alongside the field upriver of the Mill, and this forms the county boundary between Suffolk and Essex, which has not been altered since Saxon times. By 1462 this ditch was known as Le Oldestore. Between it and the new course of the river, there is an island of about an acre known as the Wooping, which is a favourite haunt of otters. The ancient course of the river is still visible in a ditch which runs through the field upriver of the Mill and fills with water only in heavy rain. This old course of the river was opened up in 2010 by the Environment Agency as a European Union project as a by-pass for elvers, so that after 800 years water is again flowing in the Anglo Saxon river. Elvers have suffered an enormous decline and are a threatened species as a result of overfishing due to their reputation in Spain as an aphrodisiac.
The Norman Mill was able to harness the great power of the river. It was a long building standing to the north of the present mill building and had an open water wheel on its south side. Later building extended the Mill to the south and enclosed the wheel.
On his marriage in 1329, Robert de Bures took over the ownership of the Mill. At that time the Mill had three waterwheels: one main wheel drove the corn mill and there were two other water wheels in the building. One of these drove a fulling mill, which dressed the woollen cloth that was woven locally, and the third one ground malt for making beer. The meadow to the south of the Mill was called the Tenter field on old maps, as this was where the woollen cloth was pegged out to dry after the fulling process had been completed. The medieval Common Meadow of Mount Bures Manor was immediately across the river from the Mill and was allocated in strips for haymaking by the Lord of the Manor to the villagers of Mount Bures. The old manorial maps show that eighteen strips were allocated. This was carried out each year and only ended in 1860 when the meadow was sold from the manor. It now provides grazing for our flock of black Hebridean sheep and small herd of Suffolk Red Poll Cattle. There is local evidence of Bronze Age circles and linear features, which show as crop marks, and which were the sacred burial places of Bronze Age chieftains.
Manorial account rolls, written on vellum in Norman French, exist for the manor for 1384/5 1410/11 1428/29 and 1438/39 and have been researched by Leigh Alston. In 1384/85 the Mill was no longer part of the manor home farm but was let out to on a lease to an independent miller. In 1439 Stephen Cokerell paid 10 sticks of 24 eels to the manor of Netherhall as part of the rent for his tenancy of the Mill. In the same year, in the reign of Henry VI, detailed accounts are given for extensive repairs to the Mill including mending the water wheels with oak timber cut from the lord’s demesne. A large number of carpenters, sawyers and labourers were employed to mend and reinforce the millpond and the mill leat with oak timbers and rammed clay. In total, 1,666 feet of timber was used. One bay remains of the 16th century Mill. Sadly, most of the rest of the building was demolished in 1963 to make way for a modern milling plant. This bay survived because it supported the Lucam above it, which contained a hoist to lift sacks into the Mill. Leigh Alston surveyed this part of the building and found evidence of a mullioned window facing south above the water wheel as well as original posts and studwork. He noticed that the structure was very similar to the manorial court building at Ferriers barn, built by the Waldegrave family in the 16th century, who owned the Mill as part of the manor, and he believed it was built by the same master carpenter. The Waldegraves built both Smallbridge Hall and Bevills in the parish of Bures St Mary in the 15th Century. I’m grateful to Leigh Alston for his help in researching the history of this period.
The Mill House dates from 1650 and so was built in the interregnum during Oliver Cromwell’s rule. With its fourteen inch brick walls it was a very warm house in winter. The 1650 attic bedrooms were designed for housemaids; one contained a bell connected by wire to a bell pull in the bedroom of the mistress of the house. Little is known of the millers of this period.
Cornelius Hitchcock and his wife on arrival at the Mill in 1875.
During the 18th century the Mill was leased to John Constable’s grandfather, who was also called John Constable. The Constable Family had many connections with Bures and Wormingford and the artist’s Father, Golding Constable, spent part of his childhood in Bures. The river was opened to navigation in 1713 by the Stour Navigation Company, which enabled barges to transport corn to the Mill. Canadian wheat was used for grinding into flour, which arrived by barge from Mistley. The Stour Lighters, which so often appear in John Constable’s pictures, were pulled in pairs or gangs by one sturdy horse. The horse had to be well trained as it had to jump the gates on the towpath and hop onto the barge to get across the river when the towpath changed sides, as it did four times in Bures. Fully laden, the two barges could carry 50 tonnes, and the journey from Mistley to Bures took one and a half days. According to Witgar Hitchcock, the last barge came to Bures from Mistley in 1913. In 1914 all of the Stour barges were sunk in Ballingdon Cut at Sudbury. They were apparently sunk because of the fear that they might be used in a German invasion. In the 1980s one of these barges was dug out of the mud and partly restored. This barge, named the John Constable, is undergoing complete restoration at the Pioneer Sailing Trust at Brightlingsea, a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is hoped that when the restoration is complete in 2012, the John Constable will operate on the River Stour at Flatford, no longer pulled by a horse, but powered by electric motors.
Water in the early years was the only and obvious source of power to turn the massive water wheel, which was 16 feet in diameter and 10 feet wide, driving four pairs of stones.
The Stannard family who also ran Wiston Mill leased the Mill in the early part of the 19th century. The Mill was greatly extended in 1820 to increase its capacity to use imported hard wheat coming up the river from Mistley by barge. The Mill house was also much enlarged at the same time. These extensions were paid for by the prosperity brought to the Mill by the Napoleonic Wars, when there was an agricultural boom and, no doubt, also due to the skill of the Stannards as millers, who extended Wiston Mill at the same time.
The Mill remained the property of the manor until 1860 when it was sold to Mr Cooper. Mr Cooper installed a steam engine in 1867 with a large chimney for the boiler. This was a large beam engine which augmented the water power. Newcastle Coal for the steam engine was brought up to the Mill by barge from Mistley as well as for the Bures gasworks.
The Hitchcock Family 1875-1994 I am grateful to the late Witgar Hitchcock for all the details of his family’s history, which he generously gave us, and for the many historical photographs he provided.
He often came to see us to inspect restoration progress, especially before Christmas when he came to cut holly from his favourite tree across the river from the Mill. He remarked somewhat reproachfully that he had been trying to bring the old place up to date and we had taken it back a hundred years! But, generally, he approved our restoration work and efforts to be faithful to the Mill’s history. There are many tales in the village of his formidable mother, Mrs Hitchcock, a JP and an early feminist as well as a Liberal councillor, who frightened not only the village boys but also the gardener. He was not allowed to use manure to fertilise the garden and, no doubt, there were many other strict rules. She believed that the flood brought down nutrition for the soil, just like the Nile in Egypt.
Cornelius Hitchcock purchased the Mill in 1875 and the fine Mill at Wormingford in 1879. Sadly it burnt down in 1929 when the oil engine set it on fire. The fire nearly burnt the paintings of John Nash, who rented a cottage adjacent to the Mill. Cornelius’s greatest achievement was in changing over from stones to roller flour milling at Bures in 1893. Instead of producing wholemeal flour on stones, the new Hungarian system of roller flour milling produced the white flour demanded by the public. The roller mill, made in Dresden, still remains in the building.
At one time on the Stour and its tributaries there were 30 mills producing flour. Only three changed to roller milling, which extended their life span considerably. The three were Dedham (flour milling, closed 1982), Bures (animal feed, closed 1990) and Cornard (dog food) which is still in existence, although production has been moved to the site on the Industrial Estate at Sudbury.
Scattered about East Anglia in recent centuries was a network of families engaged in flour milling. When Cornelius Hitchcock came to Bures Mill in 1875, he was a man of twenty three, the son of a farmer at Hitcham in Suffolk, where the rector had been the Reverend J S Henslow. Henslow had been Professor of Botany at Cambridge, and numbered amongst his students was Charles Darwin, whose voyage on the “Beagle” Henslow had arranged.
Cornelius did not stay with his father John on the farm, but went off to learn his trade as a miller at the windmill at Buxhall owned by a relative named Isaac Clover. He subsequently went on to the Water Mill at Sudbury as an “Improver” with another member of the Clover family. The old Mill at Sudbury is now the Mill Hotel where the mill wheel is still kept turning in the dining room. For a short period Cornelius ran the small mill at Lawford before coming to Bures.
Cornelius Hitchcock and his family having tea on the lawn by the millpond, 1895.
When Cornelius Hitchcock took over Bures Mill it had already ceased to be totally dependent on the water wheel and was using a steam engine for auxiliary power. The tall chimney can still be seen in old photographs but was demolished in about 1900. The steam boiler was very handy for warming the Mill House and its greenhouse. The steam pipes can still be seen in the walls of the house. The water wheel, as with other Suffolk mills before the arrival of mains power, was used to generate electricity for the house, which was stored in 50 volt batteries.
At the time of the 1881 Census, when Cornelius Hitchcock and his wife had spent six years at the Mill House, there were ten people living there: Cornelius and his wife, their four daughters Nell, Grace, Ester and Emma, two maids and two apprentices. In the Mill, ten men and three boys were employed. After 1881, five sons followed the four daughters: John, Manfred Cooper, Alan Flinders, and Cornelius Franklin (who died at the age of six months). They also had a fifth daughter named Olive. It was a notable achievement to have reared, in those days, eight out of the nine children born to them. All the family are shown in the fine photograph taken in 1895 of tea on the lawn by the mill pond.
The 20th Century brought immense changes to the ancient mill. The steam engine installed in 1867 was replaced by a suction gas engine about 1900. The generation of electricity by dynamo began in the early years of the twentieth century. In 1932 power came from a diesel engine, and by 1948 all the mill machinery was worked by electricity. Many new buildings were built of steel and asbestos to accommodate the milling machinery and these dwarfed the old buildings. A 70ft grain silo was constructed on the foundations of the old maltings.
Cornelius’ grandson Witgar has charmingly described life in those early days: “Fewer and fewer people can now visualize a homestead where water was pumped up twice daily from a well below the scullery floor. Electricity was made on site and stored in batteries at 50 volts, which were topped up on winter Sunday evenings by running the water wheel.
“All classes of livestock were kept up until 1920; carthorses, ponies, house cows, pigs, chickens and ducks as well as bees. In the 20s and 30s there were only pigs, poultry and, of course, shooting dogs, but these were joined for the period 1940 - 1955 by Jersey House cows. Butter was once again regularly made, and hams, chaps and sides of bacon were pickled in lead-lined pickling troughs before being coated with essence of smoke (pyroligneous acid).
“In earlier times, say until 1875, malt was made in the maltings at the base of what was the grain silo, and the beer was brewed in the ancient building called the Brew House.” (When the Brew House was restored recently, it was found to have been repaired with naval ships’ timbers, dated 1792.) “The beer was stored in casks in the dairy (which is now the dining room). These casks were connected in turn by pipes to the Mill so the men could each draw a pint before starting work. No doubt they needed plenty of liquid refreshment working in the dusty conditions of the Mill.”
“My father would often take advantage of bad weather, in the depth of winter, to walk down by the river for a mile or so with gun and dog and return with a brace of widgeon or occasionally snipe. The cleaner and deeper river of earlier days was also good for fishing, particularly for bream. My father and a friend would go out all night in the boat, and on one such occasion, in August 1913, they got several bream, three weighing six pounds each. Tench was regarded as the finest fish in the river and these were most likely to be caught in June. Of course, in those days, what was caught was for the table.” “Eels were a commercial proposition. They could be netted as they came through the floodgate as the water became increasingly muddy on a dark summer night, following heavy rain. A violent storm early in August 1915 came just right, and the following evening four stone of eels were easily caught. In World War II the floodgates had gone but eels were regularly caught in a trap set in a little arch at the tailwater of the Mill. Packed in special boxes, they were despatched by the first train from Bures and arrived at Liverpool Street station in time for the daily morning auction at Billingsgate.”
“Then there was the garden. Tea would be the only meal taken outside in Victorian days. A special round iron table was made with uneven legs to take account of the sloping side lawn which was favoured for this. A full-size greenhouse with a vine was heated by hot water from the Mill’s steam engine. At the bottom lawn was a summer house in which Victorian daughters of the house did their embroidery on sultry summer afternoons. Among the trees in the garden were two fine and large D’arcy Spice apple trees, a Norfolk Beefing and an Iron Pear. Along the banks of the river, charcoal willows were planted on a commercial basis until the 1920s, when they were superseded by cricket bat willows.”
Bures village fete at the Mill in 1933.
We have extended Mr Hitchcock’s orchard and planted many local old varieties of apples and we have also replaced the D’arcy Spice trees which were blown down in the 1987 hurricane.
The Hitchcock family were very proud of their ancestor, Matthew Flinders, who was one of Captain Cook’s Lieutenants (together with Bligh and Vancouver on his first voyage of discovery in HMS Endeavour).
Flinders surveyed much of the coast of Australia in 1803 and is a national hero in Australia. On his return voyage, he had the misfortune to be captured by the French and imprisoned for five years in Mauritius. His remarkable achievement is commemorated by a bed in the lawn by the millpond, which is cut in the shape of the continent of Australia. As it is on a slope by the river, we use the Australia bed to measure the height of the floods. A flood which reaches Tasmania is modest, but if Sydney goes under we become concerned and when Darwin gets wet we start to think of putting the furniture upstairs!
In 1932 the mill wheel was removed and replaced by a 220hp diesel engine. However, within a year, all flour milling was transferred to Fingringhoe Mill (a tide mill on the Roman river also owned by the Hitchcocks) to take advantage of transport for imported corn by ship and barge. Soon Bures Mill was concentrating on animal food production alone.
In 1935, three feet of water was lost from the river following the breakdown of the floodgates at Wormingford Mill. The gates were never re-installed and the river has never regained this full height since.
In 1948, mains electricity came to the Mill and this allowed larger machinery to be installed.
As production of animal feed increased, the buildings were extended three times, in 1957, 1963 and 1980. During the last extension, a second production line was installed and by 1989, 64 different types of animal feed were produced.
However, the great changes in agriculture, culminating in the almost total demise of mixed farming, led to the collapse of its market. Production fell sharply between 1984 and 1989, with the result that the business was sold to Clark & Butcher of Soham.
1990 was the last year of animal feed production at the Mill, and the end of three generations of milling by the Hitchcock family over a period of 115 years.
The buyers purchased only the stock and business of the Mill, so consequently it was put up for sale. After buying the Mill, we obtained planning permission to demolish all the modern steel and asbestos buildings attached to the Grade 2 listed timber Mill, and to remove the asbestos cladding from the ancient mill and restore it. We were able to reuse the salvaged timber from the modern buildings to re-clad and rebuild the damaged parts of the ancient mill. This leaves the 16th, 17th, 18th century and 1820 buildings intact and in good condition. Despite a number of possible plans, we have not so far found a modern use for the mill buildings, apart from incorporating a hydro-electric plant in part of them. We are working on a plan to replace the water wheel so that the Mill could again harness the power of the river to generate hydro-electricity. A similar project is well advanced at Flatford Mill, using an Archimedes Screw. The average flow of the Stour at Bures is two and a half tonnes per second, and this flow of the river could power a 17.5 k/w generator producing enough electricity to provide for about 25 houses. The water company is planning to increase the flow of the river Stour by increased pumping from the Great Ouse at Denver. The water will be pumped from Wormingford to Abberton Reservoir. So, after many years of inactivity, the Mill could resume its active life and make a contribution to providing green power to combat climate change. This follows in the tradition of Cornelius Hitchcock, who installed a generator attached to the water wheel in the 1890s which enabled the Mill to be one of the first houses to have electricity in Bures. The use of the Mill to generate hydro-electricity would also require opening up the tail-water pool and the mill leat and would further restore the mill to its 19th century condition, when it was a very beautiful building as viewed across the tail-water pool.
We also plan to rebuild part of the Tudor Mill, which stands on the site of the original Norman Mill built in the 12th century. We hope to set up a small museum to record Bures Mill’s long and interesting history. We have greatly enjoyed restoring the Mill, the mill house and the garden. It is very rich in wildlife, including otters, water voles and numerous badgers. Among the many species of birds are herons, egrets and reed and sedge warblers. The reed warblers are accompanied by a unique strain of cuckoos, who can lay a perfect copy of their eggs. We are most grateful that Witgar Hitchcock decided that we were worthy successors of the Hitchcock family at Bures Mill.
Nicholas and Elizabeth Temple have done some amazing work on the Mill, and obviously want to do more. Nick is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, who has been interested in talking treatments in mental health. He retired in 2008 from the NHS when he was Chief Executive of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. Nick is currently President Elect of the British Psychoanalytical Society in London and continues his clinical practice and teaching. His wife, Elizabeth, is also a child psychiatrist and pyschoanalyst.
One of Sir Alfred Munnings paintings.
An exhibition bringing together over thirty magnificent paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings (1878-1959) will be shown at Gainsborough’s House this Spring. Landscape Paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings is the first exhibition to be devoted solely to landscapes by Munnings. It has been selected from the collection of the Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum at Castle House, Dedham, where Munnings lived from 1919 until his death. It opened as a museum in 1961, the same year that Gainsborough’s House opened to the public. It was Munnings, in fact, who had generously given one of his paintings for sale, who helped to make the purchase of Gainsborough’s House possible.
A pastoral scene with trees and a stream in the foreground.
Sir Alfred Munnings was a leading figure in the British art establishment in the first half of the 20th century and is one of the greatest equestrian painters in the history of British art. Although it was his horse portraits that brought him widespread acclaim, he was also a highly accomplished painter of pure landscapes, as the exhibition will hope to demonstrate.
Mill Hill, Oar, Exmoor.
Munnings rose from rather lowly beginnings as the son of a mill owner, to become President of the Royal Academy, one of the very few ‘sporting’ artists to achieve such an accolade. He received his knighthood in 1944. His early years were spent in Mendham on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, followed by an apprenticeship as a lithographer and artistic training in Norwich.
A barge on the Stour at Dedham.
As a native of East Anglia, Munnings followed in the footsteps of Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable. Like them, he drew his inspiration from the surrounding countryside, with its flat terrain, river banks and open skies. During World War II, he lived on Exmoor, where he painted a bleaker and more dramatic landscape but with an equal devotion to direct observation and a passion for colour, light and form. The landscapes of Munnings are very different, of course, from those of Gainsborough. He was less interested in the activities of country people or animals and concentrated on the simple landscape elements of hills, foliage and skies. They were evocative of particular times, places and seasons and he was particularly interested in the ever changing effects of light and shade and of the weather. Munnings painted some extraordinary observations of the shadows cast by clouds on a hillside or landscapes in the snow – a difficult subject for an artist that neither Gainsborough nor Constable dared to tackle.
Study for The White Canoe.
Many of the paintings on display at Gainsborough’s House, such as A Barge on the Stour at Dedham and Langham Mill Pool on the Stour are of places renowned for their picturesque beauty and remain largely unchanged to this day. The stretch of the Stour between Dedham and Flatford, now so popular with tourists and Constable enthusiasts, is the easily identifiable backdrop
to a series of subjects that Munnings made of a white canoe, represented in the exhibition by The White Canoe on the Stour at Flatford. Other landscapes by Munnings are more personal to the artist, including scenes of his gardens at Dedham and at Withypool, Exmoor.
Suffolk landscape with farm buildings.
What sets Munnings apart from so many other artists of his era is his sheer ability as a painter, which is perhaps even more apparent in his landscapes than in some of his more laboured equestrian commissions. The freedom and spontaneity of his brushstrokes and his obvious enjoyment in the lusciousness of the paint itself combined brilliantly with his subtle and highly individual colouring.
Langham Mill Pool on the Stour.
By focusing on his pure landscapes alone, the exhibition aims to highlight a lesser-known, yet equally fascinating, aspect of Munnings’s work. The artist has something of a mixed reputation today. While he is widely regarded as one of Britain’s greatest painters and his work fetches large sums at auctions and other sales, his life and works have, surprisingly, not been widely researched and he is rarely the focus of books or exhibitions. This exhibition hopes to redress that balance.
It is one of a series of special exhibitions in 2011 to mark the 50th Anniversary of Gainsborough’s House. As well as the Munnings exhibition, there will be a major exhibition in the summer centred around Gainsborough’s late mythological masterpiece, ‘Diana and Actaeon’, c.1785, from the Royal Collection. It will be shown alongside Gainsborough’s preparatory drawings of the subject and other artists’ treatments of related themes, including paintings by JMW Turner, Renoir, Cezanne and Manet, many of which will be shown in Suffolk for the first time.
A view on Exmoor with bushes in blossom.
Landscape Paintings by Sir Alfred Munnings will be shown at Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury from 5 March to 4 June 2011.
Diane Perkins Director, Gainsborough’s House
Diane Perkins is the Curator of Gainsborough House and has previously contributed to our Magazine.
In the mid 1930s Lionel Edwards came to stay with my Grandfather, at Danbury, to paint The Essex Farmers Hunt. Whilst staying there he asked my Grandfather if he could meet Alfred Munnings, as he had never met him. My Grandfather knew Munnings and took Lionel Edwards to meet him at Dedham. A comment that was often quoted to me by my Father, who went along, was: Munnings to Edwards “Lionel, I wish I could paint your skies!” Lionel Edwards was a master at capturing skies, a skill where Munnings obviously felt he could do better.
Winter in our garden at Withypool, Exmoor.
If it hadn’t been for my uncle who gave me my first birdcage with a real living bird inside, I don’t think I would have developed the fascination for collecting them, with or without birds inside.
In February 1966, my uncle, the actor Stewart Granger, offered to give me a Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in a modern but huge and beautiful white-painted metal cage topped with a gilded knob. Jimmy, for that was what everyone called him, had given it to his Belgian wife Caroline, known by the family as the ‘Brussels Sprout’, for Christmas 1965.
‘Snowy’ (already named by the pet shop) the Cockatoo must have been a male because it fell madly in love with Caroline and instantly disliked Jimmy! So much so that two months later Jimmy issued an ultimatum – either the Cockatoo must go or he would. Luckily for the marriage Caroline chose to keep Jimmy and I was duly given Snowy.
In 1965 my mother had come to live at Hovis Mill, on the Colne, which she renamed ‘Maplestead Mill’, although since her death the name has reverted back to ‘Hovis’.
The arrival of the cockatoo at the Mill was an excitement and a novelty and I spent hours getting to know Snowy. My uncle had bought him from the pet shop in Gloucester Road, but no-one knew whether he was male or female, or indeed how old he was, and as they can live for over 100 years, he could still be alive today.
Parrot keepers will recognize that these birds tend to relate to one person at a time, and the adoration for the ‘Brussels Sprout’ transferred itself to me! So when I got my first job at Sotheby’s in September 1966, Snowy was left all week at the Mill with my mother. Apparently, he screamed incessantly from the moment I left until I returned, attacking and pecking my mother if she dared to approach him.
Snowy plus cage were given to an old couple in Colne Engaine!
Twelve years later, after my mother had died and my two sons were 3 and 4, I took them to the couple’s house to meet Snowy, and as I entered the couple’s living room it was obvious that Snowy had been given the freedom of the house for, having recognised my voice, he landed on my shoulder with a screech of delight and began pecking my cheek. Like elephants, parrots never forget!
Needless to say my sons begged me to get Snowy back, but he had obviously become the equivalent of the couple’s dog or child and it would have broken their hearts to lose him. The next time we went in search of Snowy the couple had either moved or died, and to this day we long to find him again.
This article was supposed to be all about birdcages but Snowy took over, just like he did at the Mill so long ago!
When I joined Sotheby’s Furniture Department, their catalogues only included pre-1830s furniture, Victorian furniture being considered too modern. As a result I became, and still am, fascinated in and a great admirer of Georgian and earlier furniture, in particular bird-cages and their place in our domestic history.
In researching for this article I was amazed to learn that caged birds were man’s first true pets. Although the dog and the cat predate the cage bird as companions, these were originally kept for hunting and vermin control respectively.
Keeping trained or tamed birds in cages was a hobby restricted to aristocratic and royal families, and pre-dated the keeping of birds for food as early as 1500BC. The stunning colours of their plumage and the beauty of their song played major roles in the choice of bird.
Fig. (1) Shows a Byzantine tile, circa AD300, with a quail in a bird-cage. These charming little creatures were an early favourite, with their pretty plumage, although I don’t think their song is particularly melodious!
Aristocratic families in Rome were known to have kept caged magpies in their porches as guards and, because these birds were good mimics, barbers had them to entertain their customers. Ravens, too, were thought to have been caged for the same purpose.
African parrots became the new treasured pets of the Romans and, later, with the opening of the trade routes, it was the Portuguese who brought over the nominate race of canary (Cerinus c. canarius) from Madeira, Canary Islands and the Azores.
Germany’s Harz mountain area became famous for some of the earliest bird-cages which were carved to emulate chalets, in the same style of the cuckoo-clock cases. These early cages contained tiny internal doors which could be opened or shut to control the bird’s song, and to enable the occupant to roost in darkness and to awake at dawn.
East Anglia, in particular the area around Norwich, became famous in the 18th century for canary-breeding by the Huguenot refugees from the Low Countries.
The discovery of the ‘New World’ and its enormous range of exotic birds added to the noblemens’ colourful aviaries.
Charles II became a bird fancier, following his grandfather, James I, who had established a wildfowl collection in St. James’s Park. It was Charles who gave orders to line the adjoining street with all manner of caged birds, a street which, in 1691, became known as ‘Birdcage Walk’.
Canaries kept by Dutch burghers in the 17th century became a symbol of trading wealth, their cages showpieces of precious materials such as ebony, ivory and blown glass, with porcelain feeding vessels. The period between 1750 and 1850 was the most innovative in birdcage design.
The first half of the 18th century saw garden aviaries as important additions to formal layouts and, by the second half, fancy pheasants from China heralded the fashion of all things ‘chinoiserie’. Chippendale furniture exemplified the new craze. Fig. (2) A George III ‘chinoiserie’ birdcage with parquetry detail. To prevent seeds splattering over the floor a sliding tray in the base pulls out like a drawer which helps the cleaning of the cage.
The ‘Gothic’ style followed the Chinese influence, although these continued in parallel and indeed some
bird-cages incorporated both: Fig. (3) A French circa 1770 cast-iron bird-cage, said to have come from a monastery in the South of France.
By the 19th century, bird-cages were made in all manner of material. One of my favourites is shown in Figs. 4 and 5, a c.1820 rare travelling bird-cage together with its fitted case. Note the parquetry inlay not just on the surround but underneath, for hanging or standing on its four cut-glass feet. The fitted box is lined with handblocked printed paper. This case would not permit a poor little linnet to breathe for very long, so its visual attractiveness would appear to exceed its practicality.
During the 1830s the Swiss perfected singing bird ‘automata’ in gilt-metal cages, which could move and sing realistically, with clockwork winding levers, and bellows inside. The birds themselves would have real and colourful feathers.
Fig. 6. A Regency painted wood
Wirework bird-cage of architectural form inset with a timepiece.
By 1840, Edmund Perry and Henry Fearncombe had perfected a wire-drawing technique that spun a metal cage dome in a single operation, see Fig. (7) A modern Dutch example of this technique.
Fig. (8) This is a French blue-painted wirework bird-cage c.1880, as is Fig. (9) which is gilded and painted pink in ‘chinoiserie’ form.
Victorian bird-keeping was most popular in the 1860s, when it was estimated that at least 4,000 canary breeders in Norwich alone were engaged in supplying birds for the London markets. Apart from canaries and budgerigars, native goldfinches, cock linnets and siskins were also in demand.
All manner of shapes and sizes, materials and colours can be found today, although the cheaper cages are manufactured in the Far East, ‘aged’ to look old and exported to Europe to be sold as ‘antiques’. Be careful!
Bunny Grahame, a.k.a. Bunny Campione, was at Sotheby’s for 30 years. After the Furniture Dept., she opened their Doll and Automata Dept. in 1981 and still holds the world auction record of £188,000 for an antique doll. She held the first auction for Teddy Bears in 1983 and, in 1988, while remaining as a Consultant, she started her own company Campione Fine Art, specialising in buying and selling antiques for clients. In 1987 she joined the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow valuing items under the ‘Miscellaneous’ category. She lives at Daws Hall with her husband, the antiquarian book dealer Iain Grahame, who started the Daws Hall Nature Reserve and Environmental Education Centre in 1985.
Saturday & Sunday 9th & 10th April, 11am – 4pm Open Days Thousands of spring bulbs, riverside walk, colourful waterfowl, observation beehive, teas. Adults £4, Children £1.
Sunday 22nd May, 10am – 12.30pm, 1.30pm – 4pm Introduction to Nature Photography, led by Tony Chadwick Families £10 & £5, Adults £10. Pre-booking essential. (tel. 01787 269766)
Tuesday 31st May, 10am – 4pm ‘Food for Free’, led by Dr. Steve Clarkson Adult Course. Learn what is edible (and inedible!) in the countryside around us. £25. Pre-booking essential. (tel. 01787 269766)
Saturday 4th June, 10am – 4pm French Conversation on the Reserve, led by Carole Deux (French tuition) from the Secret Garden in Sudbury, £50 to include a French picnic with wine. Basic French required. Pre-booking essential. (tel. 01787 269766)
Sunday 19th June, 11am – 4pm Garden Open – Rose Day Over 100 different old-fashioned shrub roses. Numerous rare trees and shrubs. Cream teas. Adults £4, Children £1.
Saturday 27th August, 10am – 4pm Molluscs, led by expert Simon Taylor £25. Pre-booking essential. (tel. 01787 269766)
Saturday 8th October, 10am – 4pm Fungus Foray, led by expert Ian Rose £25. Pre-booking essential. (tel. 01787 269766)
All proceeds to the Daws Hall Trust. Regd. Charity 800069
Front Cover The picture on the front cover shows a familiar summer scene of combining wheat with Borley Church in the background. It is in this Churchyard that Robert Andrews and his wife Frances are buried. The Andrews portrait is the very well known one, painted by Thomas Gainsborough in about 1750.
Magazine The cost of producing this magazine, in colour, is over £1,200 a year and this cost has, for the last two years, been largely covered by the advertisements that we carry. Prior to 2009 the cost for the black and white magazine was considerably less and was borne by the CSCA, but this did weigh heavily on our small annual income, and could not continue when we decided to upgrade to colour. Some of the articles would have been meaningless with photographs in black and white.
I would therefore encourage members to use the services of our advertisers all of whom are known to me, and most have been used by me.
Advertising is vital to the CSCA and if any Members have their own businesses that can advertise in the future do please get in touch. Furthermore if you can influence any friends who have businesses who can be persuaded to advertise do please let me know. Cole & Son (Wallpapers) are aware that they have received orders as a result of their advertisements in the Magazine. The advertisements will be on our website for at least five years which gives a potential exposure to a large number of people.
Bates Wells & Braithwaite have acted for me since about 1967. That should say enough!
The NFU have been my insurers for about ten years and have proved very helpful and charge a competitive premium and have met the few claims I have had without a quibble.
I have enjoyed a pint of Greene King for at least the last fifty five years, and I remember being given my first IPA when I was helping with the harvest in 1956, aged 15. After a long day stacking or loading sheaves of corn onto a trailer, drawn by a Suffolk Punch, or an old grey Ferguson tractor, it was pure nectar! In those days there were six people stacking or collecting sheaves, and a crate of Greene King always appeared in the early evening.
As I have not moved house for a long time, Savills have not been able to help me but their reputation is well known.
Seago & Stopps are my accountants and have proved very reliable and do not charge the earth for a relatively simple tax return.
A & G have been servicing all my garden equipment for several years and they have proved to be very reliable and charge a competitive hourly rate. (This I have checked out) They have agreed to offer a discount to CSCA Members who are listed in the Magazine. You need to tell them you are a CSCA Member when you go to see them.
Charles Stanley have been my Stockbrokers for a considerable time and their performance has been well ahead of the FTSE index. They seem to identify undervalued companies that then become takeover targets, whilst investing in a wide selection of good performers and blue chip companies. The service is very much geared to knowing their client and having a dedicated team to be on hand whenever one makes contact.
Visits to our website www.colnestour.org continue to increase with the year on year numbers up 50% in 2010. Up to 1,000 people, visit the website, every month, a large proportion coming from overseas, particularly the USA. In the last year, the most read item has been the updates on the pylons. From the magazine, which is on line, the article on Coggeshall Abbey was the most visited.
I currently have the email addresses of 284 Members. If you have email and have not heard from me on, for example, the pylon issue, then I do not have your email address. If you are one of these, and you are on the internet, can you please let me have your email address?
email@example.com. Your email address will not be given to anyone else.(I have been asked for the list, but the answer will always be “afraid not”) All emails are sent Bcc, which ensures that your address does not get passed to other Members, and therefore become open to any virus that they may get, and then get sent back to you.
I have, what I am told, is the best anti-virus program from Esmart Security, which I hope will ensure that I do not pass on any viruses.
Important issues such as pylons need to be acted on and we need members to write to the respective public bodies stating their views why our countryside must be protected. We cannot communicate with the Membership during the year other than by this means. Therefore, if you have recently become an internet user or are thinking of doing so, please let me have your address. I am sure there will come a time when it will be almost impossible to be without the internet as the Banks seem determined to do away with cheques, and no doubt will then do away with statements, other than sending them via the internet. As we get older, we will no doubt, resort to ordering our weekly shop via the internet! No-one is too old to learn!
Our 2010 visit to Sissinghurst Castle and Great Dixter was a sell-out although the coach company decided, at the last minute, to give us a larger coach. Unfortunately I was unable to join the party, and I am grateful to Gill Eadie and Clare for running the visit for me. There seemed to be universal approval and from, what I gather, we could not have chosen a better time to see these two spectacular gardens, where there was an abundance of roses in full bloom. The only adverse comment I got was that members who fail to return to the coach at the appointed departure time should be left behind!
Garden Visit 2011 Highgrove 27th April I applied to go on the list to visit Highgrove some two years ago. The running of visits to Highgrove was passed to staff at Buckingham Palace last year. As it turned out, they would have given us a date in 2010, but I explained that we only made one visit a year and asked that we be put at the top of the list for 2011. However, waiting lists have now obviously become a thing of the past.
I contacted Buckingham Palace in early January this year to find out about a possible visit in 2011, and was told that we would be allowed up to 50 people, split into two groups of 26. I was told to make contact on 1st February when the opening dates would be known and bookings could be made. I was also told that I could book on line on 1st February.
I tried telephoning at 09.05 on 1st February, and got a recorded message saying that opening hours were from 09.00 to 17.00. I tried again some ten minutes later only to get a number unobtainable reply. I reported this to BT and kept trying. When this continued to fail I tried the internet website to discover that it was only possible to book 26 places, so with 70 people wanting to go I thought that I had better rely on the telephone. I still could not get through and when I finally did so all tickets had been sold. (Mostly on the internet) I stressed to a very helpful young girl that we had been very unlucky and could she try and do something if more dates became available. I received a telephone call on Monday 14th February saying that we could have two groups of 26 with two different start times on Wednesday 27th April. Those Members who indicated that they wanted to go to Highgrove have been contacted. Everyone who reads this will realise why their Royal Highnesses are not going to be there!
All tickets have been allocated and there is a waiting list. However, if you would like to join the list, please send me a card including your telephone number so that I can contact you should people drop out. The cost of the coach and entry to Highgrove is £41.50 per person. My address: Cooks Green, Lamarsh, Bures CO8 5DY.
The Association’s financial position at the end of 2010 was almost the same as at the end of 2009. There was a drop in income from new Life members; however, as this is non-recurring, it is the aim of the committee not to be overly reliant on it.
Production of the Magazine containing the Chairman’s Report, remains the largest item of expenditure, but this is considered to be vital for attracting new members and achieving the aims of the organisation. These costs, including colour printing, are now largely covered by advertising revenue. Postage is not insignificant, and will continue to increase. The cost of Liability Insurance, which the Committee deems necessary, and is taken out to cover the AGM, Summer Party and Garden Visits, is a new additional charge. Overall expenditure was down slightly.
Membership increased by 3% during 2010 and now totals 656, of which approximately two-thirds is in the ‘Life’ category. Parish councils and other organisations account for a further 25. Subscription rates are reviewed regularly although they have remained unchanged for a long period and may have to be increased.
The Chairman, Charles Aldous, welcomed members and guests and announced that, subject to members’ approval, he had asked Jeremy Hill to take on the position of President, which had been vacant since the death of Malcolm Jones. Jeremy Hill was duly appointed.
The President, Jeremy Hill, then introduced Lord Phillips of Sudbury (Andrew Phillips). Lord Phillips opened by saying that he had considered talking about Reforming the House of Lords, but had instead, decided to talk about the Barnadiston family, who had been very influential, in ages past, in this area. His talk was wide ranging and very interesting.
The President, Jeremy Hill, took the chair.
1. To receive apologies for absence.
He reported that there was a list of these on record. He felt that recording apologies for absence was unnecessary and would be omitted from the agenda of future Annual General Meetings.
2. To approve the Minutes of the 2009 Annual General Meeting The Minutes of the 2009 Annual General Meeting were in the Magazine on page 24 and the meeting was asked to approve these. All agreed. The Minutes were then signed by the Chairman, Charles Aldous.
3. Matters arising from the Minutes None
4. To receive the Chairman's report The Chairman, Charles Aldous, stated that his written report was on page 3 of the Magazine. He said he would not repeat what was in the Magazine, but spoke about the current situation both with regard to Buntings’ threatened development at Great Horkesley and National Grid’s proposals to erect a new line of pylons from Bramford to Twinstead. His report was duly approved by the meeting
5. To approve the Annual Accounts The Treasurer, Michael Goodbody presented the
accounts which were set out on page 27 of the Magazine. He asked the meeting to approve these. This was agreed.
6. To appoint the Honorary Independent Examiner Michael Goodbody explained that the previous Honorary Examiner, John Sparkes had asked to retire and the Committee had agreed to ask Charles Dinwiddy if he would be prepared to take over this role. He had agreed and had signed off the 2009 Accounts. Charles Dinwiddy was thanked for taking over this role and the meeting approved his appointment.
7. To elect the Officers and the Committee of the Association The Chairman, Charles Aldous, proposed that the existing Committee, all of whom had indicated that they were willing to continue, be reappointed en bloc. The meeting agreed. In addition, the Chairman asked that the meeting approve the election of a new Committee member, Georgina Hunter-Gordon. The meeting agreed.
8. Any other business A point was raised, by a Cornard resident regarding housing development in the Cornard area. The Chairman responded that the CSCA was opposed to additional development.
The meeting closed at 9.30p.m