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Sunday, 10 September 2017

Chigwell Village

“Chigwell, my dear fellow, is the greatest place in the world.....”  Charles Dickens, in a letter to a friend in 1841.
Chigwell is right on the edge of the Green Belt on London's north-west boundary with the county of Essex and had been around for a long time. It was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1080AD and the Romans were known to have been in Chigwell from 300AD. From further back in time Iron Age flints and a bronze axe have been found. The British Iron Age is usually dated as from around 800BC until the Romans came in 43AD.
(If you happen to be unfamiliar with the term 'Green Belt', it is defined as a ring around a city on which new building is generally prohibited. In London this has the affect of inflating property prices within it while preserving the pleasant countryside around it.)
There are at least two theories as to the origin of the name Chigwell. One is that it is from Chicca's Well, referring to an Anglo-Saxon chief, Chicca meaning King. There are many natural wells in the area so another theory claims the name simply refers to that fact.
A thousand years after the Romans were there, in 1391, there were just 72 dwellings in the area.
The Kings Head pub in Chigwell Village
One of the most famous buildings in Chigwell is the Kings Head pub, much beloved of Charles Dickens. He actually based The Maypole pub in Barnaby Rudge upon this one. Each floor overhangs the one below and there is a story that King Charles I hid there when he was on the run. While quite possibly being true, that claim is made by many other places as well! The building is now owned by local resident, Lord Sugar. Former patrons include the highwayman Dick Turpin and Sir Winston Churchill.

Chigwell School is famous for many things, one of which is that a former pupil William Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania. Other former pupils include the actors Sir Ian Holm and Ken Campbell and the TV presenter Ben Shepard. Harsnetts House built in the late 1500s was purchased for the school in 1627.

Chigwell School today
The finest building in Chigwell is Grange Court which lately was used as a residence for boarding pupils at the school. However when I saw it recently it looked empty and neglected. It is a Grade II* listed building  so would be an expensive undertaking for any purchasers - and there have been many famous ones in the past.
Grange Court, a late 18th century house in Chigwell Village
St Marys church in Chigwell High Road was founded in the 12th  century. The view below shows the only Norman parts remaining. The door way is completely original but the bell tower is 15th century and there was extensive 19th century enlargement of the building. The church is also Grade II* listed.
St Mary the Virgin, Chigwell
Two other local features are Rolls Park, a former Stately Home that was once the lifetime residence of  Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey who fought alongside Admiral Nelson as one of the key figures in the Battle of Trafalgar. He was the Captain of The Fighting Temeraire in Turner's famous painting.
JMW Turner, The Fighting Temeraire
The other local feature worth seeing is Chigwell Meadows Nature Reserve,  a 21 acre park land with hard paths providing a circular route around the tree and flower lined walkways. Among others Poplar, Oak, Walnut and Willow trees provide shade while a plethora of indigenous wild flowers such as bluebells, creeping cinquefoil, red and white clover, cow vetch and yarrow  provide colour and texture to the landscape. 

Chigwell Meadows

If you tread carefully among the log piles you may witness the beetles, wood lice and other insects that help to balance the meadows delicate eco system. At night the site come alive with owls, bats and other nocturnal animals. The swale that runs through the centre of the meadow is a man-made water feature and is part of a sustainable urban drainage system connected to the tranquil pond. It is of special scientific interest as its ecological development can be studied from construction through to maturity. The reeds within the Swale help to filter the water and they also create valuable habitat for wildlife.

Postscipt: When I led my walking group through Chigwell Village a couple of weeks a go I told them as we entered a field through a Kissing Gate that I would like their opinion on whether or not a recent excavation on the far side of the field was a Roman bath. What I knew was that there was an abandoned modern bath-tub in among the long grass. When we came across it there was hysterical laughs all round. I don't know how long the bath had been there but you can just make it out on Google maps!
I'm listening to the magical Granada from the Suite Española by Isaac Albéniz, possibly my favourite composer. You can hear it here.


Parnassus said...

Hello Bazza, England is fortunate to have so many of these historic villages with their plethora of interrelated sites. So many American towns have been decimated by razed buildings, and highways (lines with Walmarts, McDonald's, and similar cheap development) cutting through the historic areas, or at least robbing them of all charm. It is difficult to go to small town American these days and feel oneself lost in time.
P.S., There are exceptions, and the next time I go back to Ohio I should get busy with my camera!

Hels said...

The connection between Rolls Park, the residence of Admiral Harvey who fought alongside Admiral Nelson as one of the key figures in the Battle of Trafalgar, must have been important back in 1805. But being the Captain of The Fighting Temeraire was even more important.

My late father was too young to be called up in 1940, but he couldn't decide whether to do architecture or engineering at uni. So he did a combined first year, including Art History I. In 1965 I asked which art he remembered and the ONLY painting he remembered was Turner's Fighting Temeraire!

He continued with engineering and never did Art History again.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - it looks quite interesting and pretty - particularly the nature reserve - that seems a good addition. I love the overhanging buildings ... Turner's art is a revelation of his time frame 1775 - 1851 ... so much going on. Cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Jim (Parnassus): Sadly many UK High Streets are becoming full of Charity Shops, Pound Stores and Chicken & Chip (fries) joints. Shopping streets in major towns and cities are full of the same big names.
However, as you say, there is a wealth of lovely historic villages with very long histories. I look forward to charming pictures of Ohio!

bazza said...

Hels: You are very well informed on this subject, as I might have expected. Rolls Park is now a site of 'luxury' homes and flats with high walls all around and security gates. I've never seen inside.
Funnily enough I did Art History for my degree but added psychology as well.

bazza said...

Hilary: Turner was, of course, an inspiration to the Impressionists and was ahead of his time in style. Most of Chigwell is occupied by extremely large houses owned by footballers, racing drivers, and actors but the Village is very beautiful.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

I loved this tour. Thank you for taking us bloggers along with you.

We need more green belts to protect us from those who concrete it all in the name of progress (greed).

bazza said...

Arleen: I agreed about Green Belts but there is tremendous pressure on Local Authorities in the UK to allow building of new homes on them. One factor that helps protect them is the high cost of laying-in water and power to the areas. Brown Field sites (ie, already having been built on at one time) are more cost-effective.

CherryPie said...

There is some fine looking architecture in Chigwell and interesting history.

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Sherry Ellis said...

Enjoyed seeing all the photos. The architecture is really interesting. Glad they have some green space, too.

bazza said...

CherryPie: Thank you too! Chigwell is a local gem.

bazza said...

Sherry: People are fighting the pressure to build on those spaces.

Ann ODyne said...

Chigwell? Birds Of A Feather!
St Wilfred's Church in Chigwell was used to film the funeral of Tracey's crim Ex.

bazza said...

Ann O'Dyne: Are you related to Phil E. Stein? Yes, Birds of a Feather was set there. You probably mean St Winifred's Church in Manor Road (unless they renamed in the show!)

shanaz@RS said...

Bazza, I'm listening to Granada too as you mentioned that you were and I am taken in by the tranquil sound. It's going to be on in a loop while I do my work! I admire your knowledge of the Chigwell village as I know not a clue! Haha. Your description about the log piles in the meadows somehow painted a vivid picture for me. Very interesting! :)

bazza said...

Shanaz: Well Chigwell is on my doorstep so I ought to know it well! I love Albeniz for guitar or piano. Thanks for visiting, long time no speak.