16 July, 2007

Braintree, Temple Cressing and unwelcoming Witham

Braintree was home to the Courtaulds and the Crittalls, two well respected firms. I took the town trail from the Town Hall, paid for by the Courtaulds, round by the Courtaulds silk mill and up to the hostel and fountain provided by the Courtaulds as a memorial to King George V. The walk then led me through the modern shopping centre and past the original workshops where Crittall windows were made. Crittall's mother injured herself on a wooden window and he went to work on a lightweight metal frame with great success. He found a market in India and other places during the days of Empire, as the steel windows were light weight and not subject to destruction by insects or warping with heat. Even today Crittall Windows are produced in their original styles but with modern innovations such as double glazing for those who want to replace their windows. There was a good coöp department store in the town.

The town museum in Braintree is double price if you're not local, it's obviously a local museum for local people - nothing for me there!

After Braintree I went to Temple Cressing, a former Knights Templar monastic foundation dating from the 12th Century. However the monastic buildings are gone, except for the meadieval barns, the large barn for wheat and the smaller barn for barley. Intensive agricultural production is nothing new as these barns were enormous the barley barn being 36m long and the wheat barn constructed 50 years later being 40m long. Truly awesome inside and marvelous examples of oak construction. There is also a farmhouse (not open to the public) and a tudor walled garden. it's a pity the weather wasn't kinder but the barns could beat the weather any day.

I did not realise that Temple Cressing and Silver End, the village built for the employees of Crittall Windows were within a mile of each other, otherwise I would have visited it. Perhaps another day.

Unwelcoming Witham

Witham town was a long way from the station and I arrived there after 4. The first thing I noticed was the Labour Hall and the Conservative Party HQ glowering at each other across the road. The labour hall looked better being more up to date and modern. The town hall contained a museum about the town but I got the impression that they were about to close and my prescence was not desired. There were a few coöperative artefacts there. The town was bricky and 18th Century, and it seems that its claim to fame was that Dorothy L Sayers lived there. There is a Dorothy L Sayers centre in the public library. I went in to the typical 1960s coöp department store, an interesting look at coöp history.
Then it was time to go home.

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