After a visit to Thaxted to view the town’s guildhall and windmill, I continued on my way to Finchingfield to visit the guildhall and windmill there.
The guildhall in Finchingfeld was recently awarded a Lottery Grant which has enabled it to be beautifully restored by a group of committed local volunteers, builders and master craftsmen. Originally founded by the Guild of the Holy Trinity in 1470, the guildhall has played an integral role of the life of village. As well as a guildhall it has been almshouses, a school and parish rooms. For some years it has housed the village library as well as a small museum. In the 1950’s there was some restoration – mainly using modern materials (I think concrete may have been involved!) During the recent restoration work all of the inappropriate materials have been removed and the building has been restored using traditional building materials.
On the outside of the guildhall the wattle and daub has been repaired and a new lime based plaster has been applied. The plaster has been decorated with traditional pargetting, in a deceptively simple pattern, which took three plasterers several weeks to complete. The renovations inside are beautiful, with lots of oak being used and the wonderful timber frame of the building revealed. I particularly enjoyed visiting the small museum. Unlike lots of local museums its not full of disconnected artifacts. Instead it uses a relatively small number of objects, alongside some great IT and traditional displays to tell the story of the village and its residents. The displays are very tactile and user friendly, with clothes to try on and lots of buttons to push. As an adult I enjoyed my time in the museum – and I’m sure children would find it fun. The guildhall is open regularly throughout the year, you can like it on Facebook to keep up to date with all that’s happening there.
Just a short walk back down into the village to the famous pond, and then up Haverhill Road is Fichingfield Windmill. It’s only open one Sunday a month from April to September and also for the National Mills weekend, but its worth the short walk just to have a look at it, because it really reminds you that windmills of all types are machines – they were never designed for living in. The Finchingfield windmill is in fact a post mill, which means that the whole windmill can be turned – sometimes by just one strong person so that the sails face the wind.
Finally, I’ve often wondered why Finchingfield was always described as the prettiest village in Essex. It is pretty, but its always seemed a bit of a sweeping statement to me. I finally found out why whilst I was in the museum. The idea was put together as part of a marketing campaign by a bus company back in the 1930’s to encourage tourists to visit the beautiful countryside of Essex by public transport.