Tuesday, September 29, 2009

castle hunting part 2 (aka beautiful Essex)

Current work: Modern Heat
Listening to: Def Leppard and Satie
Reading: next on TBR

Actually, this is probably a mistitled post, because the second part of our trip on Sunday was all to do with churches.

First up, Waltham Abbey. This was the abbey set up by Harold Godwineson, and was the last abbey to be dissolved in England. It also has the distinction of having the only church tower built in England during the reign of Mary Tudor. (This was a church that went through a lot of changes - obviously this tower is 16th century, but you can also see Saxon herringbone work at the east end of the abbey.)

The church inside is gloriously Norman. We’re talking HUGE pillars. It’s imposing. (And that ceiling is amazing - the central line of lozenges each contains one of the signs of the zodiac.)
When I went in, I was the only one there… or so I thought. Until the organ started playing. Very atmospheric!
I also saw Harold’s grave – which ties in to our Sussex trip earlier this year, when we visited Battle and saw the spot where he was killed. So the legend goes, William refused to have him buried, and Edith Swan-neck sneaked him back to Waltham, where he was buried by the high altar. (The spot now is outside the east end of the church.) William later refounded the abbey, but apparently didn’t move Harold. (There are other stories which say Harold didn’t die at Battle at all… but that’s for another place.) Wording:
This stone marks the position
of the high altar
behind which King Harold
is said to have been buried

Then we went to Greensted church, which is allegedly the oldest standing wooden building in the world.
Inside, the church is terribly dark and I didn’t feel particularly comfortable there – probably because I’m used to the very light churches in Norfolk. But the outside is really interesting because you can see how the logs were joined and patched.

From there, to Chipping Ongar – which, as DH put it, ‘Not another one of your castles where there’s only a moat and a mound.’ (Actually, it’s called a motte. And when I pointed that out, he sighed. ‘You’re such a castle geek…’)

And finally to Blackmore, which Pevsner says has the best tower in Essex.
Have to say, I was impressed – it’s very pretty. Sadly, it was locked. Next to it is a building that was allegedly the site of one of Henry VIII’s pleasure-houses, known as Jericho. (The house has since been rebuilt.)

All in all, it was a lovely day out. My inner nerd was very happy; my editor will no doubt be pleased that I am indeed cracking on with the pics for the book; and the kids were still talking about it on Monday morning, which is always a good sign.
I have more Essex trips planned - one to where my dad's family comes from, where I will make the kids go in to the churches because of the family connection, and one to where I grew up before we moved to Norfolk. I would so love to have shared these with my parents, but it just wasn't to be: Mum is in a better place, and Dad is just not well enough to cope with a journey that long, even if I left him at his brother's house. But hey. I can still show him the pics. I'm planning to take my laptop over today in case he'd like to see the pics from this journey. It might perk him up a bit to talk about the distant past (the blip is, um, still a blip).


Jan Jones said...

Love the way your top photo and the bottom photo both have 'stepped' towers. Nice and mathematical. And that ceiling! Well!

Not sure about the wooden church. It looks odd, somehow.

Carol Townend said...

This is another of your days out that has me turning slowly green!! Not such a good way to start the day...
I like Greensted Church, we visited it about a year ago. If you are inside and others are outside, you can hear their conversation quite clearly because the joints of the building have cracks in them. There really was little privacy in medieval times!
And your pics of Waltham Abbey have me itching to jump into the car RIGHT NOW!!

Caroline Storer said...

Great photos and bio Kate. From one castle geek to another I can totally relate! Take care. Caroline

Nicola Cornick said...

Wow, Kate, what a wonderful trip! I'm totally fascinated by Greeensted Church although it does look quite claustrophobic inside. Also very interested that the ceiling at Waltham has zodiac signs in the lozenges. I haven't heard of that before. More places to add to my "to visit" list...

Lacey Devlin said...

Gorgeous photos! So much history... it's just amazing to see! Hopefully I'll get there myself one day :D

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - that ceiling was fantastic. But the wooden church spooked me.

Kate Hardy said...

Carol - LOL! Course it's a good way to start the day because it will get you in the mood for your wonderful Norman stories.

Waltham isn't that far from you... And the park is really nice. (If you go, make sure you see the bridge and the gateway.)

And so true about privacy! That was brought home to me when we visited Hedingham: one bed, surrounded by curtains, and that was it. I so understand why brides were embarrassed!

Kate Hardy said...

Nicola - it's low and dark and I really didn't like it. I'm used to high ceilings and double hammberbeams. (Yeah. Spoiled.)

Waltham is in a class of its own, it really is - definitely worth a visit.

Kate Hardy said...

Lacey - glad you're enjoying them. And, as you say, one day :)

Kate Hardy said...

Caroline - glad you enjoyed them. And castles are just... (I drove them insane at Bodiam. Firstly for making them get out in the rain, and secondly because I took so many photographs of little details I hadn't seen in other castles.) Just fascinating...