The closest thing we have to a family tradition apart from Christmas and, erm, Eurovision, is the Hatfield Broadoak May Bank Holiday fete. For my husband, the attraction is the 10k run twice round the village. For our daughter, it is the cake stall and burger bar. For me, it’s the historic setting, the flower festival and the tea tent. And we girls also enjoy the mobile animal petting station, despite both being over 18. That duck in my profile picture (the one with the beak, if you’re not sure) is Bailey, the duck we met last year, and Bailey is a girl. Fluffy things aside, the village is gorgeous.
The church is large and open. It retains some lovely box pews…
…and four splendid gospel symbols, Matthew’s man, Mark’s lion, Luke’s bull and John’s eagle, greet you from pew ends as you enter.
I adore wooden carvings. My family members sidle away in shame when I find one in a church, because I have to run my hands over the wood, whether it’s leaves or a fine leg. An enthusiastic steward gave me a history of the church. Apparently it used to be twice the length, because where the east wall is now, it extended into the church of the Benedictine priory that was there before the Dissolution.
The monks would mount set of stairs outside, enter the building by the small stone door you can see high in the wall…
…walk the narrow pathway on the rood screen, and move into their worship area. (How did they get down from the rood screen? I’m still wondering.) The rest of the priory was attached to the north side of the church, and entered through this door and up some stairs:
I found this all a bit far fetched so I searched through my books at home. Eventually I found a picture of the pulpitium of Notre Dame de Paris, a stone screen cutting off the nave, and the hoy polloi from the choir and the religious hub of the cathedral. It had a gallery above which was approached by a staircase, and from which readings were done.
Apparently you could see all the way down the church from parish end to priory end before a disagreement between the villagers and the monks in 1378. One story is that the monks gave an annual Harvest meal as thanks for the (obligatory) tithes the villagers paid them, but one year it was discovered that the nice big side of beef was in fact a foal, and so the villagers attacked the priory. The monks appealed to King Richard II, hoping he would side with them, but in fact he ordered a wall to be built separating the parish church and the priory church.
Outside, Church Cottage and an almshouse join the churchyard to the high street, a wonderful sweep of eighteenth and nineteenth century houses. The inn dates from the middle ages, with a Georgian brick front, close to a junction where the road dips downhill one way and round a corner the other. The corner is marked by a long building called, confusingly in my opinion, the Priory, and dating from about 1600, although it stands quite a way from the church, and the old court house from the 14c. Down the hill you will find Town Farm, once called Hatfield Bury, a medieval manor house.
If you follow the High Street back past the church you find the old Victorian school house, as charming as Victorian schools always are (to look at, anyway), the Catholic church and, beyond a second pub and down Broad Street, more thatched cottages with rose gardens than even Grantchester can boast. And this is the much reviled county of Essex!