Recorder's Report 2015 - 2016


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Littlebury Recorder’s Report January 2015 - June 2016

The beginning of 2015 was taken up with rebuilding and redesigning the parish website with web master Richard Scott and was finally launched in the late spring. The old site was fully functional but having been in existence for several years had begun to look rather old fashioned. As noted before the existence of a website with a search engine means that past events can be easily recalled – as can parish council minutes. The new website is titled, a somewhat sharper address than the rather longer: used previously. Additionally Littlebury now has a Facebook page ‘Littlebubble’ where people can post photographs and comments and Facebook pages have been set up by many of its community groups.

The Church, Friends of Holy Trinity Church, the Bell Ringers, Littlebury Ladies and the Village Hall committee provide enjoyable entertainments as fundraisers. Plant and book sales, quiz nights, safari suppers and fetes draw people cheerfully out of their homes. Café Church, a monthly occasion serving coffee and croissants of good quality has proved very popular and the Ivy Pull, a twice-yearly afternoon of hard work in the churchyard in variable weather followed by a good tea, is always well attended. A visit from the inimitable University of London Chamber Choir was very well received, as was a concert by Cara Winter.

Thanks to the generosity of people lending me their photographs and ephemera to scan I have accumulated many digital files of old postcards and photographs in the ten years of being Recorder. I am grateful to those who record current events and generously pass on their pictures. There is now a large pictorial record for each year of the 21st century. It was an ambition to hold an exhibition but the cost of printing these images and then storing the results afterwards suggested that they could be otherwise very well exhibited in the form of a movie with music. As a result during the course of the summer I put the photographs together in iMovie as a walk around the parish, through time, with current events shown in the context of period photographs of the various locations.

Saffron Screen projected the resulting two films, both 46 minutes long in the village hall garden in September on a mercifully balmy evening chosen for, with hope, warmth and the calculated time of sunset. The village hall committee hosted the event serving a barbecue supper to start and delicious Saffron Ice-Cream in the interval, the occasion raising funds for the village hall. The Friends of Holy Trinity Church held a reprise in a packed church in late autumn, also raising funds. The final showing for the time being, hosted by the Saffron Walden Town Library Society, will be at the Friends Meeting house on 5th October 2016.

Christmas came and went with a plethora of Christmas church services and carol singing in the Queens Head where Simon and Claire the publicans engage in community events, holding some at the pub or joining in elsewhere. The Candlemas Supper Party at Granta House is always well attended. Many people bring a dish, enjoy good company, a variety of fare and probably a glass of wine or two, thanks to Mark and Camilla Lethbridge who host the occasion - and the indefatigable PCC.

Colin Sell, the pianist of “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue” came to Littlebury in aid of the Friends to hold us captivated for an evening. “Laughter in the One and Nines” a personal presentation of old British funnies from the ’50s and ’60s was a fascinating reminder of the sharp and often ribald humour from these decades.

In April Littlebury lost two bus routes to be replaced by ‘Demand Responsive Transport’.

Using their own two feet over 40 people set out on May 1st, a magnificent day on which to ‘Beat the Bounds’ of Littlebury, joining and leaving at different points along the eleven mile route. After walking by the river, through Bordeaux Farm land to Great Chesterford and up the Icknield way walkers heard Dr David Melford’s interesting talk at Strethall church about the surprisingly successful adventures of a farm labourer. The church flowers had been beautifully refreshed for the occasion. At ‘Ryders’ we ate our picnics in his idyllic garden and could happily have whiled away the rest of the day there.

We continued to Elmdon Lee, along Procession Way and down to Cornwallis Wood. From here Tom White, Resident Agent at Audley End Estate, guided us up to Ringhill where Mia Jackson, Curator of Audley End opened the Temple of Victory and talked to us about its history. After crossing Audley End park we exited by the Mill Yard gate, continued by the river, along Duck Street and home. Approximately 15 people completed the boundary walk. Many commented on the pleasure they felt to be able to walk through parts of the estate normally closed to the public.

Our now redundant telephone box has been transformed into a repository for a defibrillator, Dave Heales repainting it beautifully. The parish council organised training for residents to use the defibrillator and it is hoped never to be necessary.

Littlebury has two ‘triangles’, areas that were created about twenty years ago to beautify otherwise rather tedious tarmacadamed areas in Littlebury village. They are situated at the two bends in the road. Low redbrick walls were raised to receive soil and plants and encompass the old pump in the triangle outside Kents Farm. At St John’s Square a similar arrangement surrounds the village sign and the sign to Saffron Walden. During this time Pam and David Day maintained the triangle in the west and Janice Rust, followed by Pauline Gale in the east. The village is grateful to them. The parish council decided that the western triangle should be re-organised and for a period the idea of having a model of Winstanley’s lighthouse was mooted, but after a forthright discussion in the Queen’s Head it was decided simply to refresh the soil, put in new plants and put time, money and energy into maintenance around the village rather than on new projects. It says much for the forbearance of the Days that they continued with the work on the triangle and still continue to do so.

In the spring the renewal was undertaken and David could be seen daily digging out roots. He had timely assistance from the Littlebury Laddies with the change of soil and at the same time the village sign, which had been repainted (for the third time) by Brian Sanders and repaired by newcomer Michael Cox was remounted at St John’s Square, with assistance from Dave Heales and Bill Garland. The next fly in the ointment was the state of the railings in Walden Road, a couple of which had fallen over creating a safety hazard. The parish council had made representations to Highways but with the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations approaching things needed to move faster.

A suggestion on social media that Littlebury women would undertake the task gathered momentum with many offers of help, the village hall committee offering to open the hall to serve teas for the enthusiastic workers. Miraculously the Essex Rangers came to the rescue and made a fantastic job of our railings, even sympathetically restoring protective bollards voluntarily and to a high standard. To see such beautiful work carried out was a joy and the street was in perfect condition to be closed for Littlebury to celebrate the Queen’s special day. Organized by the Millennium Society tables were laid indoors against the constant June rain but at 2pm the skies cleared and with everyone bringing a tea time ‘plate’ there were enough scones, cakes, pakhoras and coronation chicken sandwiches for two villages in the Walden Road. Members of the Littlebury Laddies set up marquees, the pub a bar, students from the County High played jazz. Jo Hancock organized street games and a mellow time was enjoyed.

Amongst other pleasures offered in June were the summer fete, a ‘Little Glaston Bury’ Festival and a walk around Kings Mill, an intriguing visit to see the inner workings of the mill offered by its new owners, together with a talk about it and milling generally. It was a pleasure later that evening to speak about Winstanley’s mount before a moonlit visit to it. During the period that this report covers this recorder also spoke to Littlebury Ladies about the landscape history of Littlebury.

Further afield and in Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown’s tercentenary year I was privileged to speak to the Saffron Walden History Society on his work at Audley End and the ramifications of it, one of which was the razing of Brookwalden, a nearby village of many houses and small livings. Earlier in the year the society published my article on William Tomkins’ paintings of Audley End made twenty years after Brown’s visits there. This topic and Brown’s time at Audley End have formed the subjects of talks given to local history societies, and both are still to be repeated. Littlebury’s history, with its close connections to Audley End and the famous people who worked there such as Brown and Winstanley, continue to fascinate us while research and correspondence opens up new avenues of interest. Just recently a great grandson of Rev. Joseph Wix, was in touch through his local history recorder in the north, sending a photograph of this popular Victorian Littlebury vicar, and a complete family tree, while a descendant of the level crossing keeper sent wartime photographs of her by the crossing, neatly turned out in cardigan and pearls.

Lizzie Sanders
Littlebury Local History Recorder