Marking the Millennium
Members of the Wivenhoe Town Council agreed
they wanted to mark the Millennium Year with more than just a party or
two. We decided we wanted
to encourage residents and visitors to think about what made Wivenhoe
the place it is today; the people who worked and lived here over many
centuries and created the heritage we value today. We hope you will
enjoy this Heritage Trail, created for us largely by the efforts of
Doreen Brimm to whom we are especially grateful. We hope too you will
see more than just buildings and pretty streets but imagine what life
was like here for people in the past.
The river may be a tranquil thing now, but the
Quay could have been a bustle of activity; fishing boats bringing their
catch ashore, cargoes being loaded onto other vessels. A general clank
and banging from the upstream and downstream shipbuilding yards; people
going about their business, sometimes stopping to exchange a few words
of conversation, and in the evening stories being swapped in
Wivenhoe’s original 21 pubs!
My colleagues on the Town Council, Cllrs David
Craze, Mary Hignell and Jan Richardson and I all hope you enjoy this
Cllr Peter Hill, Chairman, Wivenhoe Town Council
Millennium Working Party.
The Wivenhoe Heritage Trail is a brief guided tour of the historic waterside
area of Wivenhoe. The route
is on fairly level ground, with about 100m over a gravel path.
The walk takes about an hour or so, allowing time to stand and
stare. Wivenhoe is accessible
by train and bus, and there is a car park just off the High Street.
Please make your way to the War Memorial inside the churchyard at
the bottom of the High Street, and we’ll begin the tour.
The name comes from a Saxon farmer named Wiffa, who settled here
sometime after the Romans left Britain in 410AD.
A Hoe is a ridge, so this is Wiffa’s hoe.
Wivenhoe is mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086.
are in the churchyard of St Mary-the-Virgin parish church.
A church has been on this site since Saxon times and there was a
Norman church building here in the 12th century.
St Mary’s was largely restored and enlarged after a serious fire
in 1850. The tower dates from
1500, and the unusual Georgian cupola was added in 1734.
Some modernisation took place in the nineteen eighties to install a
kitchen and toilets, so now the church can be used for social occasions as
well as services. Every year on the first Saturday in June we have a very
popular event known as ‘Art on the Railings’, when local artists hang
their pictures for sale all round the churchyard railings.
The churchyard is always packed on the afternoon of Remembrance
Sunday for an outdoors Civic Service of Remembrance.
to the churchyard is Falcon House. The
Falcon was possibly the oldest inn in Wivenhoe until it was converted to
private homes in the 1970’s. On
the opposite side of the road was another public house called the Bunch of
Grapes, and you can still see the pub sign in the pargetting on the eaves.
The house is around 400 years old.
The red brick building on the corner with the gothic arches was
once the Red Lion.
on the path to the side of the tower and you will see near the base a
small amount of flushwork. Flushwork
is an expensive method of building because the stone has to be brought in
and cut to fit each flint. As
the de Vere family, the Earls of Oxford, owned Wivenhoe at that time, the
money to build the tower probably came from them.
The red bricks are Roman and either came from a building already
here or brought from Colchester. The
Romans had a city where Colchester stands now for nearly four hundred
years, and is reasonable to assume that they were here to protect the
river. A fine lime tree was blown down on this south side of the
church in the Great Storm of 1987 and a replacement has been planted.
The plaque on the wall on your right is recording the donation of
this paved area by the then owners of Garrison House in 1923.
is Garrison House, built in the early 17th century.
Here is one of the finest examples of the decorative plasterwork,
called pargetting, in the country. It
is now a private house, but may have been built as a meeting hall
originally. It is called
Garrison House because it is said to have been occupied by Parliamentarian
officers during the English Civil War siege of Colchester, which lasted
for nearly three months in the summer of 1648.
During restoration work in the 1980’s wall paintings were found
on an upper floor, which are of the same period as the house.
roads were meant for a horse and carriage but today we have two-way motor
traffic, and there is a blind corner, so please always beware of cars.
Please go right to the square known as Anchor Hill.
over a hundred years ago the Cage, an overnight lockup for drunkards and
petty criminals was located at the rear of number 1 High Street.
They say a Mrs Street used to smuggle food and drink to the
prisoners. A whipping post
and the stocks were also in this square.
A public house called The Albion was behind the Anchor Hotel, and
these are Victorian brick terraced houses.
There are several attractive and well preserved timber framed
buildings around Anchor Hill. The
shops on the corner of the churchyard are dated 1566.
The old apothecary shop, on the corner with a dovecote, still has
the original chemist’s shelves and drawers inside.
a little way up the High Street and turn left at the recently restored
restaurant, The Bakehouse, into West Street.
Here you can see more 16th century timber framed
Street is where the seawater baths were sited in the second half of the 18th
century. People came from
miles around, by coach or packet boat, to use them.
The river Colne is very silted up so they had three baths: one
freshly filled and still muddy, one allowing the mud to settle, and one in
use. Unfortunately all the
slurry and muck from the abattoir just up the hill in Blyth Lane ran into
the river here and turned the water red, so not surprisingly, by about
1800 they lost their popularity. The
next street is Quay Street, with a Victorian neo-classical style chapel on
the corner. Thomas Sandford
was an oyster merchant and ship owner.
This chapel was used as a reading and writing room by troops
billeted in the town during the First World War.
It was converted into apartments about forty years ago when a
larger chapel was built at the top of the High Street.
Keep walking until you come to Old Ferry Lane, by the roundabout.
railway came to Wivenhoe in 1863 and across the road are the railway
station and the Station Hotel public house.
Those trees you can see the other side of the tracks are in the
Wivenhoe Woods, once part of the grounds of the Manor House, which burnt
down nearly a hundred years ago. The
woods are at the side of the King George V playing field and have several
nature trails to follow. By
the river is a cycle path to Colchester.
It is part of the National Number One cycle route from Hull to
Greenwich. A few minutes
along the path, past the new housing development, is Ferry Marsh, a nature
reserve with mown grass paths leading through reed beds to the waterside,
giving pleasant views across the river to Rowhedge.
In the station car park is a disused goods shed, and there are
plans to convert it for use as a community heritage and arts centre.
walk down Old Ferry Road and then bear left to come onto the new riverside
walk. From this attractive
walkway we get a good view down river towards Brightlingsea church.
Across the Colne are the warehouses still remaining from the old
Rowhedge Port. If the tide is
in you can see the Roman River as it winds its way up to the Whalebone
Inn. Walk along until you
reach the large water feature between the houses.
estate is built on the site of a former major shipbuilding and port area.
This is the wharf where in the old days the fishing boats would
unload their catch to be taken to London on the railway.
In the 19th century Wivenhoe was a famous yachting
centre. Edward, Prince of
Wales had two boats built here and crewed by local men.
King George Vth also had yachts crewed by Wivenhoe men, Captain
Albert Turner captained the Royal yacht Britannia.
Lord Kitchener’s sternwheel gunboat, used on the Nile in 1896,
was built here. Also launches
for both Stanley and Livingstone, those famous explorers.
In 1904 an experimental three-man submarine was designed and built
in this yard and was tested in the deep dock here.
Several minesweepers, various small craft and part of the Mulberry
Harbour, used in the Normandy Landings, were built in Wivenhoe shipyards
during World War 11. This
water feature was the dry dock constructed for Forrests and Son shipyard
about a hundred years ago. In
the late 1930’s a sailing ship called the Cap Pilar completed a
circumnavigation in two years with an amateur crew.
She was eventually laid up in dry dock, burnt, and her keel buried
in the dock when it was filled in 1962.
After the closure of the shipyard it became a port, importing
mainly timber and coal. In
October, 2002, the Mayor of Wivenhoe unveiled a plaque which commemorates
the history of the shipyard, and you will be able to read it if you walk
to the end of the dock site.
the end of the riverside walkway there are good views down towards the
Colne Barrier. Walking onto
the quay you can see the rear of a row of white painted houses.
This was once warehousing and offices for the shipyard, and later
for Wivenhoe Port. On the
quay is the Tiptree Company warehouse, they are famous for their jams, of
course. It was formerly a
cannery for local sprats and pilchards and vegetables, and was also once
used by the yachting industry.
row of charming cottages on the quayside was built around 1725, with the
Regency style bow windows added much later.
This area of Wivenhoe was very badly damaged in the earthquake
which struck at 9.18 am on the 22nd April, 1884. It was the worst earthquake ever recorded in this country and
caused extensive damage in Wivenhoe, Colchester and the surrounding area.
No lives were lost during the earthquake, but it took several
months to repair the structural damage.
Further along, Anchor House was previously a fine 18th
century hotel called the Anchor Inn.
Now you are back at Anchor Hill.
Please walk straight on along the quay.
Sailing Club was founded in that shed on the Hard in 1925.
Then it moved to the top floor of the three-storey building on the
corner. The local branch of
the Royal British Legion hold their meetings and social events on the
ground floor. It was once
used for sail making.
very popular ferry service is run from here on summer weekends, and there
is enough water to run it for about two hours either side of the high
tide. Passengers can go to
The Anchor at Rowhedge, or across to Fingringhoe, or take a round trip. The ferry is managed by a charitable trust and staffed by
volunteers. This shelter was
built in 2002, replacing a brick structure, and is no doubt a handy
waiting place for ferry customers.
Nottage Institute contains a maritime museum.
Founded in 1896 by Captain Nottage to teach seamanship to merchant
sailors and fishermen, it now runs RYA courses, wooden boat building
classes and evening lectures for people who sail for a hobby. They have a display inside showing the interesting maritime
history of Wivenhoe. Entrance
to the museum is free, it is open most summer weekends and Bank holidays.
The Rose and Crown public house was the scene of many auctions of
salvage goods and ships, a profitable business in the past.
Now we have events here like the very popular Jazz on the Quay
Sunday, and an annual crabbing competition for children.
The quay is always a hub of activity in sunny weather.
the blue plaque on the mid 19th century Quay House on the
corner. It is dedicated to
John Martin Harvey, the son of a brilliant Wivenhoe shipyard owner.
John didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps, but
wanted to go on the stage. One
of his father’s clients was W.S. Gilbert, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame,
and he helped John Martin Harvey further his acting career.
The actress Joan Hickson unveiled the plaque; she lived next door
in Rose Lane for many years. We
all remember her best as Miss Marple.
From here in Rose Lane you have another view of Garrison House, the
grounds originally went down to the river.
the quay is Harding’s Yard, now mews type houses with artistic gardens.
Before being converted recently this was the Colne Marine and Yacht
Company yard, and over twenty large yachts were launched from here, the
longest being a fifty-one footer. The launching crane was removed from the quay in 1999.
At high tide the water covers this bit of road, so a detour has to
be taken through the car park next to Harding’s Yard and down a narrow
alley to the Folly.
House was the home of the ferryman, and a small hut stood on the hard.
Colchester Borough Council closed the original ferry service across
from here to Fingringhoe in 1952. This
row of pretty cottages is Victorian; all the properties along the quayside
have private moorings on the river. [The
detour comes out here]. The
Folly, on the corner, was the old bakehouse and had a shop front.
Before the Colne Barrier was constructed this path was frequently
flooded at high tide. The
houses along the Folly still have their metal floodgates in place, but
they won’t be needed because we have the barrier.
The gardens along the front all flourish now they aren’t flooded
with salt water.
we come to the site of what was Wivenhoe’s downstream shipyard.
This is currently being developed by Taylor Woodrow, and the
area has been fenced off while building takes place.
When work is complete the fishermen’s dock and the jetty will
become part of an attractive public walkway linking the quay to the
viewpoint beside the barrier. Meanwhile, please walk on the path through
the site to the road near the barrier.
and boats were built on this site from the 1840’s until 1986.
James Cook and Company Limited was the last company here, they came
after the second world war. They built all kinds of specialised craft, including the
largest sailing ship to be built in the UK for seventy-five years.
The 140 ton square rig schooner The Lord Nelson is a sail training
ship specially adapted for disabled sailors – wheelchairs get hoisted up
to the top of the mast. The Lord Nelson was commissioned by the Jubilee Trust, whose
patron, HRH Duke of York,
came to see the work in progress. The
Lord Nelson paid a return visit to Wivenhoe in 1998, and huge crowds
turned out to welcome her.
are in front of the Colne River Barrier, a unique design, it is a great
feat of engineering and cost about thirteen million pounds. We hear a lot about global warming, and sooner or later the
wind, tides, rainfall and moon will be right to produce another great
North Sea surge tide, as we had in 1953.
When it happens, this barrier will protect Colchester and Wivenhoe
and other small towns along the river.
The National Rivers Authority began operating the barrier in 1993. It measures 130 metres across with a navigational opening 30
metres wide. The gates can be
closed electronically in seven minutes by using hydraulic rams.
Next to the Environment Agency (previously called NRA) offices is a
the path is the Wivenhoe Sailing Club.
To allow dinghy sailing to continue after the barrier was
constructed, the club moved from the British Legion building to this
purpose built premises. It is
a thriving club, with dinghy and cruiser racing events and a lively cadet
are views down river towards Alresford Creek, just around the bend.
The pleasant riverside walk incorporates part of the old
Brightlingsea to Wivenhoe railway track.
The track was laid in 1866 to benefit the local fishing industry by
allowing oysters and sprats to be taken by rail to the London fish market.
A swing bridge was used to cross the creek, but that was dismantled
in 1964, along with the line to Brightlingsea.
We now return on the tarmac road, named after Dr Walter Radcliffe. He was the designer of the Wivenhoe One Design, a wooden
sailing dinghy, known as a WOD. Of
the nineteen boats built in the 1930’s, sixteen are still in this area.
Some can be seen on their moorings opposite the sailing club during
the summer months.
right at the 10MPH sign and you will come to Anglesea Road.
Built in the middle of the nineteenth century by Lord Alfred Paget,
son of the Marquess of Anglesey. The
elegant terraced houses were known as the Captains’ Row.
Please beware of two-way traffic again as we make our way along
Brook Street, passing Spring Cottage, April Cottage and Alice’s Cottage,
to arrive at Black Buoy Hill.
village shops and more pubs used to be in this area. The house on the right hand corner of Alma Street was the
Live and Let Live public house before it became the Alma Stores, and is
now a private house. On the
opposite corner was the former butchers shop and this house is around 200
years old. The house next
door, with a shop front and the iron balcony railings, was the home of the
Nottage Institute before it moved to the quay after World War 11.
The Black Buoy has been a public house for over 300 years.
Walk down the hill to another period building, Price’s House.
Price was a master mariner and ship builder.
Notice the unusual boat shaped roof of Black Buoy Hill Cottage,
local people used to call this Flat Iron cottage!
Bethany Street used to flood at high tide, and it has been known
for customers to row to the Black Buoy.
the pub is Nonsuch House, once part of a Tudor hall house.
It is named after the ship, Nonsuch, which was built in Wivenhoe by
Robert Page. The ship was
sailed to Canada in 1668 by the founders of the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Corner House, with Doric columns, is late Georgian.
Smuggling was rife in Wivenhoe in times past, and tunnels are
reputed to be still underneath this hill.
Smuggling was such big business that the largest and fastest
revenue cutter, The Repulse, with a crew of fifty and thirty guns, was
based on the Colne.
up the narrow street called Alma Street.
These Victorian houses were built for fishermen, and they stored
their masts in the long passageways.
Facing you at the top of Alma Street is a former chapel built by a
local shipyard owner named James Husk in 1864.
He was a member of the New Jerusalem Church, founded by the
followers of Emanuel Swedenborg, an 18th century Swedish mystic
and philosopher. They called
it the Swedenborg Chapel.
to the left along East Street, and you will arrive back at the churchyard
and have completed the Heritage Trail.
are many other old properties in the town and interesting areas to
explore. At the ‘top end’
of the town, at Wivenhoe Cross, is the old ropery works site. Wivenhoe Cross was really a separate village from Wivenhoe
quay end, until the Avenue was constructed in the 1930’s. The Ropery Works was a thriving business for over a hundred
years in the days of sailing ships. The
century Ropery House and Ropery Cottage are reminders of these works.
The Horse and Groom is on the site of an older public house called
the King’s Arms. A
blacksmith’s forge was next door. Across
the road was another pub called The Beehive, it is now a black weather-
boarded house. Just past
Heath Road is a private house called Toad Hall; this was built around 1635
and was the local workhouse in the 18th century. This is where the poor and old people of Wivenhoe lived,
provided for by the parish. The
workhouse master lived next door in number 17, but the house has been
greatly altered since those days.
Most of the farmland around Wivenhoe Cross belonged to the estate
of Wivenhoe House, now the Wivenhoe House Hotel.
The University of Essex was built in the 264 acre grounds of the
estate in 1962.
hope you have enjoyed your tour of Wivenhoe, and will visit the town
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