Discovering Essex – News & Events




February 21 — Rainham Hall and Eastbury Manor House

Think we really lucked out with our visit to our two nearest National Trust properties.  As well as being an interesting Queen Anne style house, Rainham Hall had a very interesting exhibition about a previous resident, the 20th century fashion photographer Anthony Denney, who lived there in the sixties.

Our excellent guides, Alan and Gerry, brought our visit to life on a sunny but cold winter’s morning.

We then drove a few miles west to the Elizabethan, Eastbury Manor House, the NT’s first ever London acquisition (1918) that was saved from developers by SPAB (qv).  We enjoyed a superb tour from our guide, David, who tantalisingly revealed the house’s hidden features and history (including the fact that it was never a Manor House!!).

Our thanks to Julian, who organised his maiden trip with us.  I feel we could have spent much longer at both venues and we should consider a return, especially to Rainham when it hosts it’s next (Victorian) exhibition.

January — we’ve had two successful planning meetings and now have a plan for the year (I hesitate to say ‘final’!)…..  I’ll load it when I can work out how!!




Twenty three of us have just enjoyed our Christmas at Cucina.  I think we all had fun.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all group members.  Please come to our 2020 planning meeting on January 14.

October — Marks Hall Garden

These beautiful gardens near Coggeshall are not well-known in the south of the county and our small group was fortunate to visit on a sunny October day.  The walled garden was still a blaze of late-summer colour and autumnal tints were starting to appear on the trees.  The group enjoyed chattin to the gardeners (while Richard chased his butterflies and bees).  We shall return.


September — Maldon

Thanks to Gwyn for organising this trip to the ancient town of Maldon.

August — Shoebury Garrison

Anne arranged a visit to Shoebury Garrison with a tour by local historian, Judith Williams.  A modern development has effected sympathetic conversion of many of the original military buildings into modern homes. The major British military armaments site of late-19/early-20th centuries, its history goes back through the Vikings to an Iron Age fort (sadly not as well preserved as its more modern counterparts).  By chance, our group met a visiting fifties ‘squaddie’ who’d been on guard on the night the CO forgot his pass!  We look forward to returning when the Vistor Centre is opened…



July — The Russian Orthodox monastery in Tolleshunt Knights

Unusually, we visited the Patriarchal Stavropegic Monastery of St. John the Baptist after lunch.  Sadly, it seemed that our visit, (definitely) arranged by Marion, was somewhat unexpected but a delightful (if surprised) nun rose admirably to the task of showing us around.  The monastery was founded in the 1950s in an ordinary house, though several more-functional buildings have since been added.  External decoration consisted of some magnificent mosaic figures, while the interiors were painted with stylistic religious scenes.  Out host patiently answered all our enquiries, continuing to radiate calm.  Sadly we had to return to the turmoil of the real world.


June — The Stave Church, Chipping Ongar

Thanks Jill for arranging this trip.

May — Castle Hedingham

Rain was a constant theme on the day we journeyed to the lovely north Essex village of Castle Hedingham, dominated by its (name reversed) Norman tower.  Lorna had somehow wangled a tour of the local church in which our knowledgeable host revealed its many surprising secrets (of which I cannot say more).  A great luch (in a pub with its own theatre!) — then on to the castle.  Sadly we all got drenched as we left!  But it really was a fun day.





April — Chelmsford Cathedral

Seems ridiculous but the group had not previously visited the county cathedral so Jill kindly arranged a visit.  A very interesting tour from one of the volunteers and a not-always-so-welcome musical accompaniment from the lunchtime organist’s energetic practice.


March — Saffron Walden

Bernard kicked off our year with a tour around the old market town of Saffron Walden and its church.  Fascinating stuff and lots more to do in 2020 (maybe?).