"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on October 18, 2017 by Sioux under General


The weekend arrived and we set off on our trip to Saffron Walden, with a stop-off in Thaxted for lunch. Described as “a jewel in the crown of Essex”, Thaxted is a quaint little country town with a recorded history dating back to before the Domesday Book, with the earliest record of a church dating back to 981. (The Domesday Books is a written record of the “Great Survey” of most of England and parts of Wales and was completed in 1086 by order of William the Conqueror. It is kept in the National Archives in London). It is recorded in the book as a well-established and prosperous community by the end of the Saxon period.

However it is as a medieval town that Thaxted is

renowned. A market was officially granted to the

town in 1205, but it most likely had a functioning

market well before that.  

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Recorder’s House, a three-storey 15th century building with a pair of jettied windows on the second storey. The house was originally a hunting lodge for Edward IV, and the timber supporting the windows is carved with Edward’s coat of arms. It is now the home of ‘Gifted’ – a small gift shop. 

This old piano, now a flower stand, 

was just outside the restaurant 

where we had lunch.

The Guildhall, more likely a

“Moot” or meeting hall, was

built around 1450. Thought

to have housed a Cutlers

Guild, as cutlers were the

most prosperous merchants

in Thaxted, there is no evidence that such a guild existed, though it seems likely that wealthy cutlery merchants contributed to its building. Like many medieval halls, the ground floor is open, but under cover, so that a regular butter market could be held here with some shelter from the elements. As with a lot of medieval buildings, the Guildhall is painted white on the outside, using a limewash. Made from lime and water, back then it was an easy way of painting a building, either an off-white or coloured, which were made by adding natural pigments such as metal oxides from the soil. Limewash is now recommended for the preservation of historic timber buildings as it is more ‘breathable’ than modern paints; is inexpensive and also solvent-free. 

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Stoney Lane, leading from the Guildhall up to the church, is part of an ancient highway leading to Saffron Walden and contains a number of timber-framed houses. The second house in Stoney Lane is called “Dick Turpin’s Cottage”. Despite hopeful thoughts, there is no actual evidence that he ever lived in the house and only very slight evidence that he ever lived in the town at all.  

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St John the Baptist Church towers up behind the Guildhall and its spire can be seen from many miles away. If the wind is in a certain direction, the bells have been heard from almost 11km’s away!


The stone spire, said to be the only mediaeval stone spire in Essex, originally rose to a height of 55.7m, but is now only 55.1m (the loss of 600mm occurred due to an error when it was rebuilt in 1822).

There is still a lot of ancient stained glass in the church, the oldest a picture of a knight which is dated about 1341. The current church building was begun in 1340, though not completed until 1510; and has numerous ledger stones lining the floors, some dating back hundreds of years. St John’s is noted as one of the finest town churches in the east of England. 

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This brass is thought to be of Robert Wydow, vicar of Thaxted from 1481-1489. He became one of the first Bachelors of Music at Oxford University and was also famed as a poet. During his time at St John’s, the church became renowned for its music. Sadly none of the music written by this famous Tudor musician has survived.  Memorial brass, also known as ‘brasses’, is the term used to describe a memorial made by creating an incised carving on a sheet of brass. Brasses can be minutely small or larger than life sized and are most often to be found in churches. 

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Opposite the Chantry, forming a picturesque pair of buildings is a second almshouse, built around 1714 on the site of an earlier medieval chantry. This house accommodated up to 16 elderly people.  

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John Webb’s Windmill, which also strikes its presence on the landscape, is a short but windy walk from the church, between the almshouses and The Chantry. Built in 1804 by a local farmer and businessman it looks across a slope of land at the edge of town. Webb owned the Swan pub, as well as the local brick and tile works. The mill operated until 1907, and later served as a youth centre. 

On the path leading from the church to the windmill is a thatched Chantry cottage, built to house the local priest in the 14th century. It later was split into 4 separate dwellings and served as an almshouse. 

After a quick exploration of the town centre, we had lunch and took to the road again.


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3 responses to “Travel time – new spaces, friendly faces #3 – road tripping!”

  1. Cheryl Wilkinson says:

    Awesome Info and pics! Thank you!
    Can you imagine if we had that beautiful stained glass here – who would clean those every day?

  2. Caroline says:

    Stunning pics Gunny…especially love the black and white church entrance ?

  3. Paul says:

    Did someone run out of paint? With no building been the same color, from left to right??

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