House Detectives Trail

The main road through Earls Colne has shops and houses in a variety of styles but, at first glance, few of them appear to be very ancient. However as the BBC documentary series House and Home' explained to its viewers In Earls Colne things are seldom what they seem" Behind later facades of brick or plaster, many buildings conceal medieval timber frames.

This is a guide to a walk around the village which will enable you to see some of Earls Colne's History, we hope this suggested trail will help you spot the clues which tell us a building's true age.

How to use this page:

Allow your mouse to go over each of the numbers on the map and you will get a short piece of text explaining what each number represents, click on the number to see the greater detail.

The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail
The House Detectives Trail The Quaker Meeting House
Still in regular use. the Meeting House was built in 1674 on land donated by a local farmer, John Garrard The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail
The Village Green
The Lion
This large, complex building has been an inn since at least the 17th century. Shop, For once, there are tell-tale beams visible at first floor level. but little else to suggest that a timber frame which dates from about 1440 is hidden behind the modern shop fittings. A rear wing was added as a Weaver's workshop about a hundred years later. 
Again, the present building contains two medieval houses, their beams clearly visible if you can afford the time to wander round between the shelves. The central section dates from the late 13th century. The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail
The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The Castle Pub, Until the last century, this pub was a private house and its eastern end dates from 1375. Above the fire-place in this section is a 17th century wall painting thought to be associated with one of the leading Quaker families. The House Detectives Trail Cobblestones, This cottage is, in fact, the surviving cross-wing of a courtyard inn known as The Blue Boar. The House Detectives Trail Colne Priory, A Benedictine priory was founded at Earls Colne in 1100 by Aubrey de Vere, grandfather of the First Earl of Oxford. Although nothing is now visible above ground, the foundations show that the Priory church was twice the length of the parish church. The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail
Former Atlas Works The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The Post Office,Behind the Victorian shop-fronts is a medieval farm house called Gilberts which had its own orchard on the western side. Numbers 98 to 104 High Street, Probably the most deceptive building on our tour, this attractive Regency terrace was converted from a high-quality Elizabethan mansion known as The Great House, built by John Church in 1585. Numbers 112 to 114 High Street, This is the only building in the High Street which still looks much the same as it did when it was built in 1520. Numbers 122 to 124 High Street, On the beam below the left-hand gable is the date 1674 and the initials E.P Although now divided into two cottages, it was built as a farm house by Edward Potter. St. Andrews Church, There was already a church on this site well before 1100, when the vicar is first recorded by name, but the present building was much altered in the 49th
century. The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail Mulberry Close, this 16th century house 'Mulberry Close' which was the site of the Grammar School and the Headmaster's house from 1845 until 1893. The House Detectives Trail
The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail Boxtedds, This house was built in 1680 by a butcher, John Hatch The House Detectives Trail Although this building has been an inn, originally known as The George, since at least 1671, part of its t:imber frame dates from the 14th century when it was operating as a blacksmith's forge. The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail
The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail
The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail The House Detectives Trail

1. The Village Green

Starting from the village green, head east towards the High Street crossing the junction with Burrows Road which, as its name board says, leads to Hillie Bunnies. (Nothing to do with rabbits, sadly the fields at the end were once farmed by a Mr. Burrows and a Mr. Bunners!). A diversion into Burrows Road will bring you to;

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2. The Quaker Meeting House

Still in regular use. The Meeting House was built in 1674 on land donated by a local farmer, John Garrard. Back to the High Street and continuing to head east, you pass:

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3. The Lion

This large, complex building has been an inn since at least the I 7th century. The western end, dating from about 1375, has an ''open-plan" first floor probably intended as a meeting room for a local Guild. The eastern end was originally a separate house, occupied in 1433 by a priest called Thomas Segg. Next-door but-one to The Lion is:

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4. Shop

For once, there are tell-tale beams visible at first floor level. but little else to suggest that a timber frame which dates from about 1440 is hidden behind the modern shop fittings. A rear wing was added as a Weaver's workshop about a hundred years later. The brick-fronted building next door also has a late 13th century timber frame with heavily carved joists supporting the first floor Continue on towards Queens Road and you reach a rival establishment:

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5. Co-op Supermarket

Again, the present building contains two medieval houses, their beams clearly visible if you can afford the time to wander round between the shelves. The central section dates from the late 13th century and was at one time the residence of the manorial Bailiff The western end is even earlier and was built as an open-hall house with a covered gateway. When the Co-op was last refurbished in l983, a section of the ceiling was left open so that the medieval rafters are clearly visible. Continue past the end of Queens Road, heading towards the church. As you pass the restaurant (once the site of The Bell tavern where sessions of the Manor Court were held) look across the road to the row of three shops which includes:

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6. Post Office

Behind the Victorian shop-fronts is a medieval farm house called "Gilberts" which had its own orchard on the western side. Some of the roof timbers date from as early as 1300, although they may have been re-used from another building.

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7. Castle Pub

Until the last century, this pub was a private house and its eastern end dates from 1375. Above the fire-place in this section is a 17th century wall painting thought to be associated with one of the leading Quaker families, who helped to establish the Meeting House in Burrows Road. In the outside wall of the house next to the Castle, you will see an original medieval window. Notice how, at the other end, this house has 'merged" with the cross-wing of its neighbour. Now cross the road to the terrace of four cottages running west from Temperance Yard.

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8. 98 to 104 High Street

Probably the most deceptive building on our tour, this attractive "Regency" terrace was converted from a high-quality Elizabethan mansion known as "The Great House", built by John Church in 1585. The tell-tale clues are only visible from the back,where the continuous roof-line is replaced by two large gables and a staircase tower which served the whole building. Continuing in the direction of the church, we come to:

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9. 112 to 114 High Street

This is the only building in the High Street which still looks much the same as it did when it was built in 1520. Many of the others, including "The Great House", would have had a similar projecting first-floor or 'jetty" and they probably also had bressumer beams displaying the five-pointed star - the heraldic symbol of the Earls of Oxford, who were Lords of the Manor here from 1066 to 1592. Next to this house is a terrace of Victorian cottages with a timber-framed building in the centre.

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8. 122 to 124 High Street

For once, there is no problem with the age of the building. On the beam below the left-hand gable is the date 1674 and the initials E.P Although now divided into two cottages, it was built as a farm house by Edward Potter. Before we reach the war memorial, look across the road at a small cottage half hidden by two 'interlopers" on either side:

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11. Cobblestones

This cottage is, in fact, the surviving cross-wing of a courtyard inn known as "The Blue Boar". It still has its large cellar which extends beyond the present building. The rest of the inn was demolished at the beginning of the 19th century, when Colne Place was built by the Buxton family, but Cobblestones was spared because it was being used as a school- room. We now pause at the entrance to the churchyard to take a close look at:

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12. St. Andrews Church

There was already a church on this site well before 1100, when the vicar is first recorded by name, but the present building was much altered in the 49th century. Nevertheless, the impressive tower remains as it was completed by John de Vere, 15th Earl of Oxford. John had inherited his title unexpectedly, being only a cousin of the previous Earl, and gave thanks for his good fortune by having the coat-of arms of his branch of the family displayed on the east and west sides of the tower, together with the date 1534. Notice again the heraldic symbol of the five-pointed star around the battlements. You will find the same symbol on many other churches which had associations with the deVere family (including Castle Hedingham, Colne Engaine and Lavenham, where the stars run vertically down the tower). The original deVere Manor House was on a site just south of the church. Park Lane was then a private road leading to the Earl's hunting park, which covered most of the southern part of the village. If the church is open, you will find more information about its history inside.

Continue past the church porch to the lower lych gate. Cross the main road to the Avenue and follow footpaths Nos. 20 & 19 known as The Causeway. As the path takes a right-hand turn at the bottom of the slope, you will be facing a field which was once the site of:

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13. Colne Priory

A Benedictine priory was founded at Earls Colne in 1100 by Aubrey de Vere, grandfather of the First Earl of Oxford. Although nothing is now visible above ground, the foundations show that the Priory church was twice the length of the parish church, with towers at the western end and a bell-tower over the chancel. For over 20 generations, this church was the family mausoleum of the de Veres. After the Priory was dissolved in 1536, its buildings fell into ruins and most of the monuments were lost. Four which were rescued are now in a private chapel at Bures. After the dissolution, a new Manor House was built to the east of the Priory site. The present house dates from 1825. As you near the end of the Causeway, look for a small doorway in the boundary wall. Above it is a fragment from the tomb of the Eighth Earl of Oxford who died in 1371. As you leave the Causeway, look across the road:

More information about the Priory...

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14. The Carved Angel

Although now closed this building has been an inn, originally known as "The George", since at least 1671, part of its timber frame dates from the 14th century when it was operating as a blacksmith's forge. The small cottage on the other corner of Tey Road was a rival forge and has the earliest brick chimney stack in the village, dating from 1420.

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15. Mulberry Close

As you leave The Causeway, you may care to turn left and look at other examples of timber-framed houses in Lower Holt Street. Note the 16th century house 'Mulberry Close' which was the site of the Grammar School and the Headmaster's house from 1845 until 1893. In earlier times this was the site of a Hospice for the original priory and the doorway in the priory wail opposite indicates the location of a communicating pathway to the priory grounds. Continue into Upper Holt Street. Halfway along on your right, you will pass:

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16. Boxtedds

This house was built in 1680 by a butcher, John Hatch. Notice the small building to the left which was his business premises. In the last century it became a doctor's surgery. We suggest you cross the road here, so that you can have a closer look at the pump on the green at the junction with Coggeshall Road. The pump was presented to the village in 1853 "in thankful commemoration for the absence of cholera". Unfortunately, its water was not fit to drink!

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Crossing the end of Coggeshall Road, you have a choice of routes:

A) The Wildside Trail
Follow the signed footpath towards Long Meadow until it emerges into the far end of Park Lane.

B) The Shorter Trail
Head up Church Hill and turn left into Park Lane, Continue to the junction with Foundry Lane. Whichever option you took, you should now turn right into Foundry Lane, which takes its name from:

17. Atlas Works

A traveling millwright, Robert Hunt, set up business in Earls Colne in 1830 and, after his son Reuben took over the management in 1867, the firm of R. Hunt & Co became not only the major employer, but also a considerable benefactor, to the village. The site was sold in 1985. Most of the site has been redeveloped for housing but the grade 2 listed Victorian industrial buildings have been retained and renovated for uses including commercial, light industrial or live/work units and even a new doctors surgery while the water tower now houses the museum.

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The junction of Foundry Lane with the main road brings you back to the village green and the end of your tour.

A number of timber-framed houses not mentioned in these notes are described in "Wherein I Dwell", a publication by Earls Colne WEA Branch, available from the local County Library premises in the High Street.

My thanks to Earls Colne Parish Council and David Brown for the above picture and text.