23 June 2006

Praising Essex Part 1

When I was born Romford was still part of the county of Essex. It became part of Greater London a few years later. However I can still call myself an Essex boy with pride, if pride be the right word to associate with what is a rather pejorative term in the eyes of many - An ill educated wide boy in ostentatious clothing undertaking a range of semi legal activities - the hell with the snobs I say.

A fair few inhabitants do live up to the stereotype and parts of the County are not exactly scenic, the “Thames Corridor” from Thurrock to Southend on Sea (aka Saarfend on Sludge) being a case in point, but I think Essex is much maligned .

Those who run Essex down will not get to see some of the county’s gems and that is their loss. If you are interested in history then Essex has a lot to offer. Of particular interest to me are three of the most unusual churches in England:

St Peter’s Chapel, Bradwell on Sea

Snuggling under the shadow of a decommissioned nuclear power station St Peter’s is the oldest church in England having been built by St Cedd on the ruins of the Roman fort of Othona in 654CE. It fell into disuse as a place of worship in the 14th century and was used as a barn until its reconsecration as a chapel in 1920. It may not be a particularly grand building but there is no other completely Saxon building left in England

St Andrews, Greensted

Greensted church is a strange mix of architectural styles with a 17th century tower, and a Tudor chancel. However, the most striking feature is the wooden nave. The church is an example of a Saxon palisade church and it is the oldest wooden church in the world, and the oldest wooden building still standing in Europe.

St Michael and all the Angels, Copford

The raising of Jairus

From the outside the church does not look particularly special but inside its walls portray some of the few frescoes to survive the iconoclasm of the English Reformation.

Painted over with a lime wash in the 1540s the frescoes were uncovered again in the 1870s. Sadly the Rector at the time had many of the frescoes over-painted to give them a Pre Raphaelite style and his use of the wrong type of plaster has effectively destroyed much of the original artwork. That said there are some original works including one depicting New Testament story of Jesus the daughter of Jairus. While they are of course rather faded they are impressive.

Other people may prefer the awesome splendour of the mediaeval cathedral but these churches are well worth visiting whether you are religious or (like me) an atheist.


Skuds said...

I was born and dragged up in the middle of that corridor - in Basildon.

I woul like to defend it by pointing out all the scenic and historic attractions like... um... can I get back to you on that?

You are right though. There is more to Essex than the stereotypes which seem to be more about the South-West corner of the county.

Villages like Thaxted with its Guildhall, church and windmill, the roman castle at Colchester, and the marrshes round the Tollesbury/Goldhanger area. Tiptree and its famous jam!

Anyone who thinks that Essex begins and ends at Lakeside is missing out.

Didn't stop me from moving out as soon as possible though :)

jams o donnell said...

Very true Skuds. The Lakeside Shopping (and soon to be gambling?) centre may be the very worst of Essex distilled, and placed in one handy location but there is so much more to it.

I got out of Romford for 10 years but ended up moving back again.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I know nothing of Essex save for the Monica Lewinsky incident a few years ago where she was gifted with a "I'm An Essex Girl" T-shirt as a joke on her book tour through England.

Let me revise that. After reading this entry, I now know something about Essex.

jams o donnell said...

The term Essex girl is meant to indicate a young woman of low intelligence and lower moral standards.

I saw her at a book signing at a shop near where I work. I was curious to see the woman at the centre of that furore.

Jimmy St James said...

I doubt that this can continue beyond Praising Essex Part 2, and I imagine that Part 2 might be quite brief. Jams will no doubt prove me wrong though.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

That's what I mean about my knowledge of Essex not extending beyond the T-shirt. I'm very well aware of the unspoken skeezy ho-bag insinuation that accompanied such a gift.

I never thought much of Bill Clinton, but you have to hand it to him, he was an equal opportunity seducer. He gave a glimmer of hope to all fat and/or unattractive females that one day they might too be able to get it on with the President of the United States of America.

Ah, to have a "PIECE" of the American dream.

jams o donnell said...

Jimmy, that sounds like the glove has gone donw!I don't think praising Essex part 29 is on the cards though!

Elsasticwaistbandlady. LOL I never thought his antics warrantd impeachment though, but perhaps as an Aussie said at the time "I'm glad we got Britain's convicts rather than its puritans"