Alan Crosby: The Only Way is (Rural) Essex

By Jon Bauckham, 17 September 2015 - 11:59am

Don't be fooled by the image of Essex created by a certain 'structured reality' series, says columnist and admirer of the county Alan Crosby

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 17 September 2015
Alan Crosby
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Great Easton, Essex – home to Alan's ancestors and now a Rolls Royce showroom (Photo: John Salmon, under a Creative Commons licence)

I’ve been down to Essex this week, leading a history study visit. Most people in the group were from north-west England and had never set foot within the borders of that ancient county, and their view of Essex was a bit distorted by a certain TV series.

Set in one of the less historic parts, it had given the county a bad image! But what a revelation the real Essex was for them – they discovered a county of medieval villages, thatched cottages, beautiful churches, delightful market towns and gentle hills, with woods and copses, lanes and many a hidden gem. A country house here, a Norman castle there.

We went through Great Easton, on the winding back road that threads its way from Great Dunmow to Thaxted. My 4x great grandfather was a farmer there, back at the beginning of the Victorian period, and much of the landscape remains unchanged. There are brown ploughed fields, wayside greens, pastel-painted cottages and distant views of spires and shallow vales. It’s a happy place. Even going through it on a coach gives you a sense of comfortable contentment.

There’s one remarkable feature, though. This little village in the middle of rural Essex has a Rolls Royce showroom, elegantly placed right next to the main road. There’s money in them there thatched cottages!

What would my ancestor have thought? He’d be clip-clopping down the dusty lanes and grass-grown byways in his horse and cart. The fastest he’d go would be 4mph unless he went off to a railway station (the nearest was six miles away) and caught one of those new-fangled steam trains. Rolls Royce? Not even invented when he ploughed those rich brown soils.
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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