web analytics


By ATWadmin On April 17th, 2010

Essex today, and the church of St Andrew, Greensted-Juxta-Ongar is looking glorious. It has several claims to fame; it’s reputed to be the one of the oldest timber buildings in Europe and is certainly the only wooden Saxon church to survive in England. Some claim it is the oldest wooden church in the world.

It is also a shrine to the first Saxon saint, Saint Edmund, whose body reputedly rested on this site on its way to reburial at Bury St.Edmunds in 1013. Adjacent to the porch is the 12th Century grave of a Crusader.

Although a beautiful corner of the great and ancient county of Essex, the church has a connection with the Tolpuddle Martyrs of Dorset. These farm labourers were transported to Australia in 1834 for organising the first trade union. They were later re-patriated back to Britain but were refused permission to return to Dorset. They settled for a time in these here parts and one, James Brine, married the daughter of another, Elizabeth Standfield, at this church in June 1839.

I like walking this way and my thoughts invariably turn to Saxon homesteads and more than a thousand years of human gatherings. Yet today, while sitting in the churchyard during a stroll with the sun beating down from an unblemished blue sky something else came to mind: why is European airspace closed for yet another day, who will cook my Sunday roast tomorrow and where is this volcanic ash cloud?


  1. What a beautiful picture that is English to the core taken on a perfect day and for the potted history that accompanies it.

    I think many of us are looking up at the recent blue skies and asking ourselves the same question as you re the ash cloud and with everything grounded yet again today looks as if a frozen dinner might be on the menu!

  2. Good photos Pete.

    In terms of links from Saxon times to the modern world, you may want to check out "Domesday, in search of England" by historian Michael Wood.

    Among other things, I found it interesting that there were working forges in English villages just before WWII which had been going since Saxon times (presumable with some repairs..)

  3. Living in a place with little history myself, I always love posts like this. Y’all are so blest to live in such a beautiful and history filled part of the world. Thanks Pete.

  4. Andy –

    I have it! In Search of England is on the shelf there next to In Search of the Dark Ages. Michael Wood is a historian easily brings history to life.

  5. Pete – sorry should have guessed you have! Michael Wood is a good Historian and a great writer. I havent read much of his recent stuff. Instead I’ve read quite a bit of Tom Holland recently, who has a fantastic gift for writing history clearly and well. He’s an English guy but tends to concentrate on more global themes.

    One of the things I like most about England, and in particular London where I live, is the connection to the past. I feel it particularly when I’m out drinking around Covent garden or London Bridge, or areas like Farringdon where you’ve had a vibrant society for hundreds, and sometimes thousands of years. I know there are touristy and trashy elements to the areas I just described, but notheless when you’re walking along streets which have been there since Roman times you get a feel for the timeless character of a place.
    (I’m aware that could sound a bit on the pretentious side…)

  6. Not at all, Andy.
    Many places in Europe have as much or longer history than London but few large cities give you such a sense of the past. London is, however, fast been drowned in plastic and American gewgaw.

  7. thanks Noel.

    Yes a lot of it is. When I first came down to London I used to spend time visiting Oxford Street and Leicester Square. Places I wouldnt be seen dead in now. Places which could be anywhere.

    They exist because that works for a certain sort of visitor (ie it helps them to be parted from their money).

    However other places, with a bit more depth and character, also exist, and to a certain extent have been redeveloped and improved over the past ten years or so (eg the area around Smithfield meat market and Borough Market)

  8. Andy –

    Glad you said that. I haven’t read any of Tom Holland’s stuff but his "Rubicon" is on my shelf, in the queue of books to be read which never seems to shrink.

    The trick in London is to not be shy about wandering into the nooks and crannies which are all over the place. Even in the City, which has been rebuilt countless times, there are many unknown squares and courts from medieval London.

  9. Andy, when I visited London last year I was like a kid in a candy shop! I stayed near Hoxton and took the tube all over. So much I didn’t have time to see. I had read extensively about the Great Fire and Wren’s rebuilding. I also went down to the bank of the Thames mucking around at low tide looking for the next Sutton Hoo and imagining Roman gallies and norse longboats. What a trip!