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Where Time Stands Still

Francis Crittall was known as ‘The Guv’nor by his workforce. Not only did he have a vision in business as an industrial pioneer but one to provide for those who worked for him in his window factory. Building commenced in 1926 and within six years Silver End Village had been built. There was also a department store that opened in 1928, within it there were twenty-six varying departments under one roof. Unfortunately, the original building burned down in 1951. The building that stands in its place is where the Co-op and adjacent shops now serve the community.


Francis Crittall's House, park gates and one of the designs at the far end of Silver End village

CrittallVillagejpg


Community was the centre of Crittall’s priority when planning his village. The village hall boasted a dance floor, cinema, library, snooker room and also a health clinic and is the largest village hall in the UK. He employed modernist architects to design the buildings, which still stand out as striking in design today. The houses on Francis Way and Silver Street were, for example, designed by Thomas S Tait who was an influential Scottish architect—a leading designer of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne buildings in the 20th Century. He is also credited with designing the concrete pylons on Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Major production of the original Crittall site ceased in 2006 when the factory was closed down. However window frames are still manufactured at a Crittall factory in Witham.

Little employment exists in Silver End rendering it essentially a dormitory village. Any new dwellings are subject to the Article Four Direction (Town and Country Planning Act 1990) which was served in 1983. This has removed ‘Permitted Development’ rights for replacement windows, doors etc on the dwelling houses inside the Conservation Area which prevents further inappropriate alterations.

Silver End is a village that stands still in time.


by Donna Siggers and David Last

Cut Throat Lane

Given our enjoyment of walking and in uncovering the unusual, last weekend’s walk just had to begin an investigation into the past. Coming across a road sign, Cut-A-Thwart-Lane, had the cogs in our minds working. The obvious thought was that this might mean ‘Cut Throat Lane’ and indeed there are references to this.

Donna had heard the word thwart before and it wasn’t until she had looked it up that her canoeing days bought forward a boating link to the word. Indeed, its used to describe the wooden seat that reaches from one side of a boat to another.  A thwart cut is a fencing maneuver with swords too but deeper research revealed that an old English meaning of the phrase had been used on the River Blackwater, which is just a short distance away from this lane. When crossing the line of a ship’s path—cut-a-thwart in 15th century England meant to cross from side to side. Cut-throat, similarly, meant a short cut or to cut across, and in this case the lane was an alternative to the milestone-lined London Road that was the main route into Maldon.

Maldon had been granted a Royal Charter by Henry II in 1171 and is an ancient Anglo-Saxon burgh. From the Iron Age it has been settled in by Romans, Saxons, Vikings and Normans--and a blog for another day is that it’s the famous site of the famous Battle of Maldon fought between Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons in 991AD. It was, then, a high-profile town back in the day.

Interestingly, Cut-A-Thwart Lane shows geographic evidence suggesting it was once a hola-weg. The road, in places is much lower than the banks that flank its side, an indication of years of pounding by humans and animals long before modern road surfaces existed. Suggestive that this lane formed the boundary of the estates of Beeleigh Abbey and Fitzwalter’s Park the sunken result still floods to this day. Oliver Rackham (1939-2015) cited thirty-eight mentions of such hola-wegs in Anglo-Saxon charters, and this lane is one of those. Beeleigh (the meaning of which is a clearing in the trees where bee hives are kept) still has a magnificent dwelling very close to the entrance of the lane.

Fascinatingly, during the summer of 1550 Princess Mary (Mary Tudor, later Queen Mary I) was under house arrest at nearby Woodham Walter Hall. Her agents hatched a plan to smuggle her onto an imperial war ship that was moored at Maldon’s Hythe in order that she could escape to the Netherlands—it was believed she would have been somewhat safer there due to her religious beliefs. Sophisticated plans were made that would have avoided the main road into Maldon. Some kind of ‘secret passage’ was planned. Mary developed cold feet, possibly realising that if she gave up and fled, as a true daughter of Henry VIII, she would find her abdications of her royal prerogative hard to accept. Jehan Dubois, Secretary to the Ambassador met with Mary and liaised with her trusted officer Robert Rochester, who begged the imperial secretary for more time. Firm in his message to her, Dubois conveyed that now was the time to escape and that they had to leave immediately. She attempted to stall for more time but Dubois slipped away and the rowing boats left without her as he feared their plot was close to being discovered.

Three years later Mary ruled England, but was Cut-A-Thwart Lane their possible route?

We’d like to think so!


Donna Siggers and David Last