title="Eastwick & Gilston Parish Council in Hertfordshire">
Wed, 23rd April 2014

History of Eastwick by John Clarke

History of Eastwick by John Clarke

The story of Eastwick goes back a very long way indeed. Early man first appeared on the scene over 2000 years ago. These were the Celts, a small dark-haired race akin to the modern-day Welsh. They first settled in what is now our village on a hilltop site that was perfect for their needs.

This site was situated about a quarter of a mile up what was later to become Eastwick Hall Lane. The hill gave all-round vision to allow the inhabitants to see the approach of any intruders. It fell away on one side to the brook below, possibly once called Goat Brook. Thus they could have excellent protection against any attackers who would be forced to climb the hill. The brook gave a constant supply of running water essential to the well-being of the villagers and their livestock. Across the brook was the old lane, which communicated with other early settlements.

A circular fence of wooden logs, sharpened to points at the top, was erected around the hill-top; this was penetrated by a gateway which was strongly built and could be closed at times of peril. The side of the hilltop away from the steep slope was an area that was much more vulnerable, and here a deep ditch was dug for added protection.

Inside the stockade were built the houses, timber-framed habitations, round with thatched roofs. These were erected in a circle, in the centre of which was constructed a larger oblong communal hall, which the residents could use as a meeting-house and council chamber.

Life was short and often dangerous. Only the hardiest survived. The people lived by agriculture, kept livestock and hunted in the surrounding woods which abounded in game, and which also contained that most skilful of all predators, the wolf. . .

The villagers lived at one with their environment: they had a great knowledge and understanding of their surroundings. As time went by the population increased, and it was necessary to build an overspill village. This was erected on the rising ground on the opposite side of the lane. Conditions had improved over the years, and here it was not necessary to build so many defensive structures to surround the village.

All the people worshipped the elements, particularly the sun. It would not be helpful to delve too deeply into our ancestors’ religious activities, but I have no doubt that virgins met their end during golden sunsets on that fateful hilltop. However, terrible as these practices were, fate was to play an even more cruel trick on the hill-dwellers. From around the year 50 AD the successful military invasion by the Romans began. They were a brilliant race but basically a cruel one. They speedily brought firm discipline to the area.

The Roman military governor distrusted hilltop villages as he feared they could be used for military insurrection or disobedience. All were to be destroyed, and our ‘hill’ was included in the list. The carrot-and-stick approach was brought into use: the villagers would either abandon the hill voluntarily, or else it and all the occupants would be eliminated by the Roman army. Faced with such a bleak choice it was not surprising that the people chose the former course.

Imagine the scene on that sad day as a line of disconsolate villagers left their houses for the last time, houses that had been occupied for centuries by their ancestors. The long file of men, women and children, and their livestock, wandered aimlessly down the lane, glancing back in fear as the Roman legionaries torched the village and reduced it to cinders. The dispossessed gravitated towards the point where what is now the main road intersects with what is now Eastwick Hall Lane. There, by force of circumstances they had to build a new village. There was so much to do and little time to do it in: shelter for the people was needed and feed for the animals. New fields had to be ploughed and sown. The new site met with the approval of the Roman governor as flat land was indefensible and presented no military threat.

The Roman occupation lasted a long time but they finally departed, leaving the villagers vulnerable to attack by various Germanic peoples who regularly invaded from across the North Sea. On the scene came the Saxons, tall people with fair hair. These people came with malice in their hearts. The wretched villagers were ejected from their homes for the second time; but in this instance there was to be no local resettlement. They were forced to migrate a very long distance to the West before they could find succour.

And thus our first residents disappear into history. Today you will find their descendants in Wales.

The Saxons occupied the village. They were good farmers and life continued as before – but it was always a precarious existence with bad harvest, poor weather, pestilence, and the danger of violent attacks. Life for most people was an immense and unhappy burden. But the situation was to be aggravated by yet another invasion, in 1066, when the Normans came, and it was the turn of the Saxons to knuckle under.

The amazing thing was, however, that despite these terrible times, the village had not only survived but had grown in stature so that it was by and large a thriving community. It may have had a small church, possibly made of wood, as Christianity had long been the established religion; and the village certainly had a name, ESTWYKE. This translates as EAST WICK, ‘wick’ being a dairy farm – thus a dairy farm in the east. The nature of our village was clearly defined.

In 1086 the Normans compiled the Domesday Book (a nationwide record of land ownership). It lists all the counties, villages and towns then in existence; and for us it is an amazing document as it tells us in detail what Eastwick was like over 900 years ago. The village was about 400 acres in area, and the land was owned by the Norman warlord Geoffrey de Bec who had been given it as the spoils of war.

The residents are counted as a dozen men, two of whom are listed as smallholders (minor landowners), and five as ‘slaves’. The latter were serfs, with no rights whatsoever.  A priest is included, hence possibly a church. There was also a mill – in reality a watermill on the nearby river, essential for grinding corn. There was also a large amount of meadowland for ploughing or livestock; woodland; and 20 pigs, which ran loose in the woods, and were dangerous to humans. There were four ploughs, essential for agricultural use. With careful analysis it can be assumed that the population of Eastwick was around 50 – quite large for a Norman village.

Geoffrey de Bec was a substantial landowner, so he had no desire to live in Eastwick with the dangerous pigs; instead he built a manor house near the site of the abandoned hilltop village. This he rented out to tenants and it was known as Eastwick Hall.

In the year 1194 we have the first mention of the de Tany family living at Eastwick Hall. This family was to play an important part in village affairs. Initially the de Tanys had come as Norman conquerors and had stood aloof from their Saxon subjects; but the allure of the blue-eyed, fair-haired Saxon maidens had speedily melted the hearts of the stern Normans, and a national unity was coming into existence. People now called themselves neither Saxon nor Norman, but English.

The de Tany line at Eastwick lasted over 130 years. The one member of the family who interests us so much is Richard, the so-called Crusader. He was born around 1220, and in his early youth he behaved himself under the stern eye of his father, a noted officer of the state. Richard would probably have remained a poor son, had he not had the great fortune to marry a fabulously wealthy young lady, Margaret Fitzrichard, heiress to her father’s immense wealth. This, not unexpectedly, had a big impact on him and, although Margaret endeavoured to restrain him, his wealth attracted the wrong crowd.

On the death of his father around 1255, there was no holding Richard. He was appointed by King Henry III as Sheriff of Hertford in 1260/61; but after that his career slid rapidly downhill. He had a grown-up son, also Richard, but their relationship was very sour. Probably the wayward nature of Richard junior reminded his father of his own very great shortcomings.

Three years later, in 1264, Richard senior allied his cause with that of the great reformer of the State, Simon de Montfort, and in so doing betrayed the very King who only four years previously had regarded him as a loyal friend. Richard fought for De Montfort and the Barons at the Battle of Lewes in 1264 (his son fought on the other side, for King Henry), where a great victory was obtained. But within the year the Barons had been defeated, and Richard was deprived of his Eastwick land, as well as his other estates, and was publicly disgraced.

A magnanimous King Henry agreed to allow Richard to have Eastwick back if he would make a public apology and swear allegiance to the Crown. Richard comes out of this in such a human fashion! When the time came to visit the King he took to his bed and declared he was too sick to attend. How many times have we all done that? Time after time the order came, but Richard remained ‘ill’, presumably consumed with guilt and remorse. The impasse was finally resolved when a respected knight of great standing effected a reconciliation. Richard got down on his knee and kissed the royal hand.

He got his Eastwick lands back but was never trusted again. He took to a life of petty crime and possibly drink. His contemporaries called him the Great Rebel. It is doubtful, moreover, whether he was ever again reconciled to his son, which must have grieved Margaret greatly.

Although Eastwick people call Sir Richard de Tany the Crusader he never fought in the Crusades. Far from it: our hero’s best achievement was to go on criminal sprees, on one occasion stealing a widow’s pullets: from sheriff to chicken-stealer in six short years. His last few years were spent in moody isolation at Eastwick Hall, reflecting, no doubt, on his past moment of glory when, mailed from head to foot and flying his black-eagle banner, he had ridden his great warhorse into battle at Lewes. How are the mighty fallen!

Sir Richard de Tany died in November 1270 and was probably buried in Eastwick Church under the superb marble figure of a knight, which he himself had commissioned and which is in fine order today and may still be seen in the church.

Richard junior, the dissolute son, squandered any remaining monies the family had, and lived a life of deceit, so that before he died in 1296 the family fortunes were exhausted. The male line of the family was extinct by 1317.

However, the de Tanys had left their mark on Eastwick. In 1253 they had obtained a licence to operate the weekly market at Eastwick: this was held on a Tuesday. In addition, the village now had the right to hold an annual fair around the feast of the church’s patron, St Botolph (17 June). The fair lasted from 16 to 18 June, and these rights were jealously guarded and maintained for the next 600 years. The de Tanys also rebuilt the church in a large and opulent fashion. It had transepts and a tiled floor at the east end, where Richard senior’s grand tomb was situated. The surviving chancel pillars of Purbeck marble give you a hint of the quality of work in the old church. In their day they must have cost a fortune, and were presumably paid for before the elder Richard had spent all Margaret’s money!

Of great interest is another document, dated 1317, which describes the de Tany house in detail. Eastwick Hall had a courtyard which was entered through a gatehouse. There was a great hall, a kitchen, a bakehouse and a dairy. Outside there was a garden, a barn, a cottage, stables and a cowshed. The manor controlled fishing rights on the river and owned Eastwick Mill.

In 1348 Eastwick was devastated by the Black Death, a plague of unbelievable severity which swept away over a third of the entire population of the village. Recovery from this catastrophe was very slow.

The next main actor on the stage appears in 1447. In that year a retired soldier arrived in nearby Hunsdon. Sir William Oldhall was a knight who had served honourably in the Hundred Years’ War with France. He had made a fortune from the ransoms of French prisoners, and with this money he built himself a fine mansion in Hunsdon. Presumably his intention was to enjoy his retirement, but unfortunately it didn’t work out like that. It is surprising how many times during our story that we have come across dissolute knights: well, here is another one. Sir William was a naughty boy: if only he could have slain a few dragons or rescued damsels in distress! He was a good soldier but insisted on meddling in politics. This was to cost him dear and he was subsequently in and out of favour, suffering many financial penalties along the way.

In 1447 he enjoyed one of his better times, and decided to celebrate by enlarging his estate. To further this end he purchased Eastwick village and incorporated it into his Hunsdon lands – an arrangement that was to endure for two centuries. It was an important date for Eastwick, because it was the last time that the village would enjoy independence: after this it was always to be part of someone else’s lands, sadly never again its own master.

The doughty old Sir William Oldhall had come close to losing his head on many occasions, but remarkably, he died a natural death in 1466.

The combined village had many owners until in 1525 it came into the hands of the King, who by then was a man we all know well: Henry VIII, he of the six wives and the large stomach. In reality he was a man of innate savagery, red to the elbows in the blood of his countless innocent victims. But Henry fell in love with Hunsdon at first sight. He replaced Sir William Oldhall’s mansion with a superb redbrick palace, and delighted in his many visits. All the great names of Tudor history came to Hunsdon: there were great parties and lavish hospitality. The palace teemed with people, and was vibrant with music, laughter and ceremony. But despite all this, Henry loved most something different – the surrounding parkland – and he would be in the saddle nearly every day in pursuit of the deer.

In 1532 Henry brought Anne Boleyn to the palace, and to mark their forthcoming marriage (she was his second wife) he gave her Eastwick village as a wedding present. It was all administered for her, so that all Anne had to do was spend the revenues, which she promptly did.

It is hard for us to understand why Anne, to begin with, had such a hold over Henry. She certainly captivated him, possibly because she was so vivacious; she even went so far as to deny him and to tease him, which he had never encountered before. Tragically, within three short years the sparks of passion were extinguished, and Henry had his wife executed, on false accusations. A tiny redheaded child of this union, Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth I), was in due course to be left at Hunsdon, along with, at a later time, her elder sister Mary and younger brother Edward.

The King came no more to Hunsdon and the palace became a gloomy place, hated by his children who all lived there out of sight and out of mind. When Elizabeth became Queen she speedily rid herself of the palace and the united village by giving the estate to her cousin, Lord Carey. The Careys were high officers of state, and wealthy, but they liked Eastwick and in their various wills left money for the poor of the village.

In closing this chapter on Eastwick’s greatest moment, it is pertinent to ask whether Anne Boleyn ever visited the village. We don’t know for certain, but it is very possible that she did. She and the King were both good riders, and it is not hard to envisage their arrival in Eastwick on horseback to take refreshment at the village tavern, before riding on amidst laughter, coarsely humoured banter and small talk. Of such events is history made. If Henry and Anne ever did visit, it is as close as the residents of Eastwick ever got to their royal landlord who, after all, lived in a different world from that of his tenants.

The last Lord Carey of Hunsdon connected with Eastwick was an ardent Royalist, and he could foresee the forthcoming Civil War with the Roundheads. To raise funds to equip himself and his retainers for war he sold Eastwick in 1637 to Sir John Gore of Gilston. Thus a unity with Gilston was forged which remains to this day. The landlord was now living at Gilston Park instead of Hunsdon House. The purchase price for the whole village of Eastwick was, I believe, £300: that was some bargain.

The Eastwick people, who were very anti-monarchist, resented their masters, and many of them gravitated towards Nonconformity in their religion – a dangerous course to take in the seventeenth century. But they were aided in this, it has to be said, by the activities of some hellfire preachers who held religious office locally. This mood was to prevail well into the next century and, even when it eventually died out, it had so affected the people that they retained a considerable independence of mind for a long time to come. The people of Eastwick needed to be handled carefully as they were no one’s poodles. A village inn had opened, the Rose and Crown: it stood where the almshouses in Eastwick now stand. The beer no doubt added to the general air of rebellion that prevailed.

What finally restored tranquillity to Eastwick was as unexpected as it was effective in solving the problem. When the Plumer family arrived at Gilston Park around the eighteenth century, they adored their estates and strove very hard to administer them correctly and efficiently. People of experience were appointed to key posts in the village and almost imperceptibly the villagers began to prosper. It would be unwise to say that everyone aspired to wealth as, regretfully, more than a fair share still lived in penury; but overall a lot of wealth was generated and circulated in Eastwick in Georgian times, and much of it was ploughed back into the village.

Examine the fine series of Georgian tombstones in St Botolph’s churchyard, and here is ample evidence of a society that prospered and took its wealth to the grave. The wealthy merchant William Frampton was attracted to Eastwick and found it greatly to his liking. He had made his fortune in trade with India. He built the splendid Georgian house now called Culverts, next to the pub. On his death William Frampton was buried in the churchyard and commemorated by a fine table tomb.

An almshouse for the poor was established on a site near Eastwick Lodge Farm. This was called the Black Swan which is suggestive of its original use as a public house.

The eighteenth century ended on a good note, but Victorian social changes jolted Eastwick back into the real world; and by the time of the arrival in 1850 of the great reformer John Hodgson, Eastwick had lost its shine. Hodgson’s solution was the same as he prescribed for Gilston: to pull it all down and start again. The difference in Eastwick was that work was slower and not completed until the end of the nineteenth century, long after the demise of the Hodgsons.

The work of reformation might have been slow but it was nonetheless dramatic, and affected every facet of village life, and practically everyone who lived there. First, the old cottages were demolished and replaced by the typical red-brick or yellow-brick Hodgson houses. The work continued long after John Hodgson had died, with his younger brother William taking over. All those particular houses bear plaques with the initials I. H. or W. H. and the date. It was William who in 1884 built the school. There had been a previous school on the site, but its existence was short. William’s building is a most attractive work which has in the past few years been sympathetically re-ordered into four dwellings.

New farms were re-sited and built. Eastwick Hall Farm (where once our hero Richard de Tany had lived) was demolished, and a new Eastwick Hall erected on the top of the hill, far out of the village and situated on the boundary of the old royal deer park of Hunsdon. Garmans (sometimes called Jermyns) Farm, which stood at the junction of Eastwick Hall Lane and the lane (now a rough track) to Gilston, was also pulled down, but it was not rebuilt. An old pond still marks the site. Green Man Farm, which stood on the opposite side of Eastwick Lane from where the almshouses now stand, was similarly demolished and rebuilt where the Lion now is; the pub itself is the old farmhouse. And finally Eastwick Lodge Farm was rebuilt.

It would surprise many people to know that until recent times a thin strip of Sawbridgeworth thrust deep through Gilston and into Eastwick as far as the old school. This led to Eastwick Lodge Farm being officially called Sawbridgeworth Lodge for much of its existence. Even more extraordinary was the situation in some houses, where one resident would be required to vote on polling day in the village hall at Gilston, while their neighbour would have to journey to High Wych polling station. These parish boundaries were of ancient origin and were jealously guarded. It took a very long time indeed before sanity prevailed and the village boundaries were finally redrawn.

Outside Eastwick, over a mile up Eastwick Hall Lane, stood Eastwick Hamlet, at one time containing quite a large number of houses, and which was reached by the quaintly named Cock Robin Lane. It was decided to abandon the hamlet as it was in serious decline and was frequently cut off during periods of deep snow. All the homes were pulled down and the inhabitants rehoused in Eastwick village. Any last trace of the hamlet was finally destroyed when the RAF built Hunsdon Airfield a century later. At the same time the RAF tragically destroyed most of Cock Robin Lane, leaving the little spur which, now cleared of its tangle of undergrowth and mud in recent years, now leads up on to the airfield itself and provides an interesting walk round.

The church was the last major building to receive attention. This magnificent building was totally pulled down with the exception of the tower and the superb chancel pillars, which were the gifts of the de Tanys. The old memorials were also removed from the old church, as was the knight’s tomb. Why such drastic action was thought necessary is unknown to us. Possibly it was considered that the condition of the fabric was so bad that repairs would have been too costly. Whatever the reason, the church was demolished and the smaller and much simpler church that we know today was built in its place around the years 1872 to 1875.

It was the last decade of the nineteenth century that saw things happen at a furious rate. First, the Rose and Crown Inn was pulled down. This in its day had been a fine old building; you went through an archway to the stables at the rear. The pub had a number of different names over the years, but had always reverted to the Rose and Crown in the end. Adjacent to it was the village pond, which was now filled up. (I wonder how many pub revellers used to fall into the water?) In the inn’s place rose the lovely almshouses. This was a fine piece of charitable work, for the Black Swan workhouse had recently been pulled down, and there was nowhere for the needy to go. The aim was simple: the occupants paid a low rent and, assuming they remained healthy, could enjoy their accommodation while at the same time they could keep their independence. It was far better than some of the arrangements offered elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

On the other side of the lane, the original Green Man Farm buildings which remained were pulled down, leaving just a few outbuildings. Across the main road on the corner, the cottage which had served as a new farmhouse for Green Man Farm, with its adjacent barns, was abandoned and rebuilt as the Lion Inn, thus offering a replacement for the Rose and Crown. The barns remained in agricultural use.

In appearance the village had changed appreciably in a short time. Sadly the population had fallen to an all-time low and was giving cause for concern. This was not helped by the demolition of Mead End House which stood opposite where the metal bridge crosses the River Stort. This was a large building of some age and the inhabitants employed servants – their loss aggravated the village unemployment. Near Mead End House had once stood the old mill, but by this time it had long gone. Its last mention in the records had been in 1701; there had just been too many mills along the Stort for the supply of water.

The First World War had a devastating effect on tiny Eastwick: so many of its male residents were killed in action. The simple white stone memorial cross standing in the centre of the village pays mute testimony to this slaughter. Also during the war, in 1917, Eastwick saw its last Rector retire. Henceforth the Rector of Gilston would be responsible for the two villages. Eastwick Rectory, standing proudly on top of the hill to the west of the church, became Eastwick Manor. Initially occupied by members of the Bowlby family of Gilston Park, in due course it was sold for private occupation.

If the First World War had such a huge effect on Eastwick, that was nothing compared to what the Second World War was to do. Early on in the war, at around 10 p.m. on 30 October 1940, a Nazi bomber unloaded all its bombs directly over Eastwick. We shall never know whether a villager had been careless and shown a light. More probably, the bomber had lacked a target and, seeking to go home, had merely jettisoned its load at random. The effect was catastrophic. One bomb made a direct hit on a cottage, where Manor Cottages now stand. There were civilian fatalities and injuries there. The rest of the bombs fell in a row behind the village street, one demolishing the old Green Man Farm barns with horrific loss of livestock. When dawn broke the following day a scene of utter carnage and destruction was revealed. The church, the pub and the nearby houses were heavily damaged and little went unscathed. In a few short minutes a small aircraft had one what 2000 years of history had rarely done – brought Eastwick to its knees.

But like a phoenix from the ashes, Eastwick did slowly recover. The dead were buried, the houses patched up, and life had to go on.

In 1943, after a pitifully short existence, the school closed. The children were transferred to Gilston School and the building was used as an engineering works. All such establishments, when surplus, were turned over to vital war work. Agriculture was a key element of this effort, and to supplement the depleted ranks of male workers, girls from the Land Army were brought in to assist with the work. Their results were remarkably good, considering that many had never been in the countryside before, let alone worked on farms: some were afraid of the cows, but soon became proficient with the udders . . .

In the early days of the war villagers took in evacuee children from London, who stayed until the war was over. Fearing the reputation of London boys, all the villagers asked for girls, but unfortunately the supply ran out. My aunt who brought me up asked for three girls: imagine her surprise when two of the heftiest boys possible were delivered to her doorstep. They adored her, attended Gilston School, and subsequently worked on Overhall Farm. At the end of the war they refused to go home. Not all such evacuee tales had happy endings, regretfully.

During the war, in addition, German prisoners of war were set to work on the local farms. Like the evacuees, many did not wish to go home when the war ended. Some settled here, married and had families. Britons and Germans alike were exhausted by this time and sick of war, and there was little animosity here. I myself was once captured by some of these Germans. I was then five years old and had a lovely head of golden hair (yes, I did once have some!). As I played on the roadside picking flowers I was picked up by a prisoner and passed round an adoring ring of his fellows. The guard watched intently, but took no action. I obviously reminded the men of their children in a homeland then so very far away. Many were never to see their wives and children again. I took my very first language in the German language before being set gently back on the flower patch.

The end of the war found Eastwick in a very poor state, with a depleted population and its housing in a dilapidated condition. There was an official air that ‘something had to be done’. This manifested itself in a decision to build Roseley Cottages, from 1947 onwards. These were semi-detached houses plus two bungalows for the use of the elderly. Subsequent additional houses at the top of the hill nearly doubled the housing stock and brought many families to Eastwick. Their names were to be synonymous with the village for a very long time, and the community was thereby rejuvenated.

The school, by that time Smith & Shiptons engineering works, prospered, and at its peak employed quite a few people. The farms were also big employers; as yet they were unmechanised in any noticeable form. Other new houses appeared, Arthur Proctor from Eastwick Manor building Manor Cottages in 1947. And finally there was the Lion, very actively supported by its locals, a clientele that was to change radically when Harlow New Town was built and brought new faces to the door.

In 1955 the Queen signed an Order in Council, officially uniting Eastwick with Gilston.

The bypass was built in 1962: this thankfully put paid to the constant stream of heavy traffic that had been forced to navigate the right-hand bend in the centre of Eastwick. The effect was dramatic; but there was to be a debit side. A superb old building, possibly dating back to Tudor times, standing near Eastwick Lodge and used for many years as the village shop, got in the way of the new road and was demolished. The site had certainly been in use for a very long time; archaeologists discovered coins here going back centuries. Its loss was a great shame. I shopped there as a boy: I recall that Mrs Burton would give as much attention to my purchase of a quarter of liquorice allsorts as she ever did to any much larger transaction. And it would never do to go to the shop if you were in a hurry, for all customers were required to engage in a compulsory period of conversation. Ah, for the village grapevine . . .

As well as the village shop, the consumer needs of the residents were met by an army of travelling salesmen and pedlars. It was possible to obtain all the basic needs of life without ever leaving Eastwick. There were traders delivering groceries and provisions (the Co-op), ironmongery and paraffin oil (Charles Riches), general stores and fish (Will Mascall), and clothing (Samuel Young), in addition to our perennial friends the milkman and the postman. Initially, deliveries were all made by horse and cart, but these were subsequently replaced by vans and electric floats.

Nearby Burnt Mill provided services not available in the village. There was a post office/general store/newsagent run by Jack Riley, and he also had a petrol pump: a real one stop shop. Les Searle ran the bakery – the wonderful smell of newly baked bread lingers in my mind. Mrs Bonney had the sweet shop and Mr Bonney was in charge of the local taxi service and also repaired bicycles and radios. Mrs Drane organised the greengrocery shop, with a cobbler’s (shoemender) at the back. Mr Moore was the butcher, with the aid of a magnificent upright bicycle equipped with a metal basket for deliveries. Burnt Mill station provided connections to London, Cambridge and all local towns. The doctor’s surgery was at Sawbridgeworth, and in those days home visits were common.

Sunday was the day of rest. Before the days of television many villagers would go by bus to Sawbridgeworth cinema (in Sayesbury Avenue, now the Church of the Holy Redeemer serving the Roman Catholic community). Seats at the cinema cost 6d (2.5p), or 9d (4p), and afterwards you could have Mr Smith’s delicious fish and chips. Alternatively, you could go on the train to Rye House for the speedway (motor-cycle racing). All hot oil smells, cinders and dust: very exciting, and dangerous. Post-war Eastwick and Gilston enjoyed a good bus service with green single-decker buses for the 389 route from Hertford to Sawbridgeworth, run by London Transport (Country Services).

Surprisingly, looking back, in many ways we had so much. And the community spirit was good.

Today, not a lot has changed; the farms are totally mechanised, so there is little employment to be found in the village, apart from Eastwick Lodge, a thriving farm shop. The engineering works have been sensitively converted into four dwellings, and looks more as it did in the days of the village school. In recent times too, the barns of the new Green Man Farm were converted into houses.

Generally the pace of change at Eastwick has slackened; but it is the families who have changed the most. With most houses now in private hands, the turnover is substantial. I remember so many people, but very few of the old families now remain.

But you should be proud of your village. You are at the end of a chain stretching back over 2000 years. It is the people who form a village, from the dark ages when the Celts sacrificed maidens on the top of the hill, via the “brave” Sir Richard de Tany stealing the chickens, the vivacious Anne Boleyn and her tyrant husband King Henry VIII galloping through the village, the seventeenth-century revolutionaries standing up for their rights, to the survivors of the of the German bombing. These are all your predecessors: they and you make Eastwick what it is.

May I conclude by recommending that this section is read in conjunction with ‘A Walk Around Eastwick’, also to be found on this website.

 

JOHN CLARKE

                                                                                                             August 2011