Our excursion to Coggeshall on 28th
June was well attended. Seventeen members went in all,
travelling in a minibus and a car. The day was packed with so much to see
and study that we came home feeling quite inebriated – without touching a drop
of Coggeshall wine!
What a happy bunch! A group photo taken by
is a truly rich resource; nearly everything on display has been donated by local
residents, and as you look round this becomes so apparent, as there is a strong
object has been cherished in its lifetime. It was like being shown round a
beautiful garden by its gardener.
One couple in our group
with Coggeshall roots had a
good natter to some locals, and even discovered a framed photo of
an ancestral home displayed in the museum.
(We also met someone in town
with roots from our corner of the county.)
Magical Mystery Tour
Shirley Ratcliffe, the Museum
Curator, then gave us a potted guided tour of the centre of town. There are over
200 listed buildings here, including many 16th century timber-framed
wool-merchants' homes. There was so much for her to explain to us that time
seemed to cease to be, and then she said that she’d only scratched the surface!
Like the Pied Piper, she led us all over town, but not out of it, for we found
ourselves at the door of Paycocke’s House next – and
what a marvel it is.
We spent a delicious hour at
Paycocke’s, a merchants' home that is now run by the
National Trust. its resident guide Orlando giving a very spirited talk on
its history before sending us off
to explore the rooms and find our way to its beautiful garden.
Enjoying Paycocke's garden
Again, the ambience almost made us
feel like we had stepped back in time to the 16th century. Or was it
Orlando’s colourful Shakespeare-esque outfit, which
someone dryly described as “pyjamas”?
Paycocke's House, with the Fleece to the
Lunch at the
Fleece, next door
to Paycocke’s and in a building of the same age, served us admirably, and next
we found ourselves at
Coggeshall Grange Barn, a 12th century monastic
barn that has parallels with Cressing Temple. Yes, it may look like any old barn
in the photos, but up close its timbers and beams are exquisite, and our
allotted 30 minutes swiftly became more like an hour!
It was fascinating to learn that
the dimensions of the main uprights exactly measured a standard Medieval
unit (based on the Rod)
in width, and also to appreciate just how carefully such barns were built
as wind-tunnels, designed so that a constant breeze flowed through each set of
main doors to blow the chaff from the wheat, even when it wasn’t particularly
windy outside. Even the location of the barn, until very recently on an open
gentle hillock, had been chosen for this purpose. And there we were thinking
that they just built them as storage sheds!
Nicholas’ Chapel came next, and again when you get inside what you expect to
be a fairly unsurprising and modest little building, its features are so
overwhelming that we lost all track of time once again. (After all, what else
would you expect from a historical society group on a day out?) To stand inside
a chapel that was once attached to the abbey's gatehouse, and
that is still lit by candle and parrafin, brings you perhaps more in touch with
what our ancestors’ lives were like throughout history, from the dawn of
civilisation up to even as recent
as perhaps a hundred years ago.
But it was our tour of
Coggeshall Abbey Farm that was the grandest finale that we could have hoped
for. Our more than magnanimous hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Hadlee, treated us more like
close family than strange visitors; their hospitality must surely have lived up
to anything that the Cistercians would have provided on that site in their day.
They even went beyond it too
- after all, tea and
home-made flapjack hadn’t been invented in Medieval times! And of course the
tour itself was a dream, the abbey remains, now farm buildings, and the
farmhouse itself, are truly fascinating places to explore.
What made the day special, is that
on every stage, someone was on hand and more than eager to tell us all about the
sites. But what made the day was to be able to enjoy
all these delicious experiences as a group, sharing each other’s pleasure and
learning from each other about little facts and
snippets of understanding that one or other of us might have. If any group of
students could be so enthused on a field-trip, then it must surely be the best
of all reflections on their guides for the day, tutoring them with such care and
tenderness, and evident love for their respective
Perhaps we’ll go back another
year, and catch up on some of the other
features of the town that we couldn’t squeeze in this
Coggeshall Grange Barn
Nicholas' Chapel (contact the
Parish Church for opening times)
Coggeshall Abbey Farm (Historic Houses Association)
Council website (lots more info on Coggeshall)
For More Information please