ESSEX VILLAGE SIGNS by Ken Savage
COGGESHALL - Coggeshall A large village now, but a town in the Middle Ages, situated about seven miles east of Braintree. It was granted a charter to hold a market by Henry III in 1256, this being held on Market Hill in the town centre. The two-sided woodcarved sign stands on the opposite side of the road from the 15th-century church of St.Peter. It was carved by G.R.Nield and was erected in 2000 to commemorate the millennium. One side shows a monk from Coggeshall Abbey, which was founded in 1140 by King Stephen and Queen Matilda, originally for the Savigny Order. This order was merged with the Cistercians seven years later and the abbey continued to flourish until the Dissolution in 1539, after which it fell into decay until being partly restored in the 1860’s. The monks kept sheep, as the sign shows, and these formed the basis for the wool trade which made the area extremely prosperous in the Middle Ages. Chief amongst the wool merchants were the Paycocke family. They moved to Coggeshall in the 15th-century and built a house in the town which is still standing, now owned by the National Trust. The Paycockes were originally sheep farmers but later became clothiers and were responsible for developing the cloth trade in the town. The other side of the sign shows Thomas Paycocke tending his loom.
DEDHAM - Dedham is a picturesque village in Constable country just south of the county boundary with Suffolk. The painter attended Dedham Grammar School and walked daily from his home in East Bergholt across Dedham Vale, later the subject of many of his paintings. His sister married the miller and lived in the watermill at Dedham, which still stands. In the 14th-century Dedham, like many other towns in the region, became prosperous on the wool trade and the church of St.Mary, which was built in 1492, reflects the affluence of the time. The church is depicted on the two-sided sign which is positioned near to the watermill, at the entrance to the village car park. The painted carving shows a montage of village buildings and activities; in addition to the church can be seen the Congregational church and the market cross, with a latterday Constable at work. On the other side are some of the timber-framed houses which make the village such an attractive place to visit, with a cricket match in progress. The sign was erected in 2000 to commemorate the millennium.
FINGRINGHOE - Fingringhoe is a small village about four miles south of Colchester, near to marshland bordering the river Colne. Its location and the fact that its population is centred around three greens is recognised on the village sign, which is a painted carving in the shape of a tree, representing the greens, surrounded by water representing the Colne river. Within the outline of the tree is a montage of village features. In the foreground are the reed-fringed marshes and on the right some of the sheep which graze them. Behind the sheep is the bridge over the Roman River, which runs north of the village, flowing from west to east to join the Colne just south of Rowhedge. Depicted behind the bridge are the village school and a warehouse on the old quayside, which was once busy with sailing barges transporting sand, ballast and other merchandise. This maritime activity resulted in a drift of the population, away from the historical centre of the village around Church Green, to an area half a mile to the east where most of the houses are now located. At Church Green is St.Andrew’s church, built around 1100 and which incorporates carvings of local people on the roof timbers, which were done when the roof was replaced in the Middle Ages. The church is shown centrally on the sign and to its left is the nearby Whalebone Inn, which once had the jawbone of a whale on its wall. Whether the inn was named after the whalebone or it was acquired as an oversized pub-sign is not clear! The sign stands to the west of Church Green, opposite Forge Cottage, and was erected in 2000 to commemorate the millennium.