Two years ago we went for a lovely walk around Coggeshall. On the walk we passed by The Abbey, a beautiful medieval house. When I found out that it was possible to visit in a group or as part of Invitation to View, I was determined to go, and finally after a two year wait my wish came true. And it was certainly worth the wait. (Scroll down for lots of photos!)
I visited the Abbey with my fellow Colchester Tourist Guides. On our arrival – having travelled along the unmade Abbey Lane to the house we were met by Roger Hadlee who along with his wife Jill is the very enthusiastic, and, as he would say, custodian of the house. Before our tour of the house and gardens we were treated to tea and cakes whilst sitting in the garden in the summer sunshine.
The Abbey has quite a complicated history, it was founded in 1140 by King Stephen and Queen Matilda for the Sauvignac Order who had split from the Benedictine Monks, and then they later became members of the Cistercian Order. At one point the Abbey was owned by Sir Thomas Seymour, brother of Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour, and then later it was owned by the Paycocke family – who were important cloth merchants in Coggeshall.
One of the most amazing things architecturally about the Abbey is the beautiful medieval brickwork. It’s thought that the bricks were made locally in Coggeshall, at a time when there would have been very little brick making happening in the rest of the country.
We visited the chapel, and walked through the vaulted gallery which the Abbot used so that he didn’t have to get wet as he walked from his rooms in the main Abbey to the Chapter House.
In the main part of the house we taken to see a hall with an intricately carved oak screen which Roger and his carpenter Jim had restored, and a bedroom dominated by a very impressive oak four poster bed, perfect for keeping warm on cold winter nights in a house not designed for modern central heating.
Back outside for the final part of our tour, Roger took us for a walk around the grounds. We discovered ‘Jim’s workshop’ where work was underway to restore doors, a hay wagon and furniture, all in a building that is thought to have been built as a cart-lodge about 600 years ago. We crossed the bridge over the River Blackwater to catch a view of Coggeshall Mill. We finally bade farewell to Roger and Jill in the heart of their home – the kitchen, leaving the ever enthusiastic Roger developing more ideas and plans for renovating the house, all with the help of Jim. Roger said that he’d told his Doctor that he had to keep him alive for a good few more years as he had so much to do to the house!
In telling the story of the Abbey, Roger mentioned that at one time it had been owned by the Paycocke family of Coggeshall, and that Grange Barn had been a part of the Abbey. So we were able to piece together a bit more of the story of the Abbey by visiting the Barn and then Paycockes House. They are both now owned by the National Trust, and we were given a short talk at each place and then a chance to wander around the buildings on our own. And of course, our day was rounded off with tea and cake in the tearoom at Paycockes.
A lovely day out, if you get a chance to visit the Abbey, do take it – you’ll get a very warm welcome and have the chance to explore a most amazing house