Black and White Sunday: Couples


Seen in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter – a poster of graffiti on the shop door.


And my daughter browsing through the doorway of the Barcelona football team shop with the shopkeeper keeping watch. Both with the same body language!

Please visit Paula to see other representations of this week’s challenge.

All Saints Church – Brightlingsea

After visiting the Beth Chatto gardens it was still too early to return to Mistley Thorn so we drove down to Brightlingsea, for no other reason than to see something of the Essex coast. However, if you look closely there is often something of interest to find. Brightlingsea has the distinction of being the only Cinque Port not within Kent or Sussex. It was not taken into the Confederation of the Cinque Ports until after 1353. As a thriving ship-owning port, in becoming a Limb of Sandwich it could contribute to that town’s ship-service quota.

The town has a history of shipbuilding and seafaring. In 1347 five ships and 51 men were sent to the siege of Calais. And ‘William of Brightlingsea’ was in Sir Francis Drake’s fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588.


On our way in to the town we noticed a rather lovely church so decided to have a look inside on the way back.


All Saints Church, which is sited on a hill about a mile inland from the town of Brightlingsea, Essex, was mainly built circa 1250. The most striking external feature is the embattled tower, built of local flint in the last years of the 15th century.  Standing 97 ft high it is visible from 17 miles out to sea. A light was placed in the tower to guide fishing vessels home.

The Church contains some Roman brickwork and a frieze of memorial ceramic wall tiles commemorating local residents whose lives were lost at sea. In 1872 severe storms along the North Sea coast caused widespread destruction and terrible loss of life. Thirty six local seamen were lost from Brightlingsea, and this disaster prompted the then vicar Rev. Arthur Pertwee, to create a frieze of individual tiles, each inscribed with the name of the deceased and the ship on which he served. Since 1872 a tile has been added every time a Brightlingsea native is lost at sea. At first the tiles were limited to mariners by occupation, but this was altered to include anyone from Brightlingsea who lost their lives at sea. There is even a tile commemorating Sidney Siebert, who was not a fisherman, but was drowned in the wreck of the Titanic in 1912.





There are now over 212 tiles, each unique, each telling a story of tragic loss.

Italianate sculpture
Italianate sculpture

In the chancel is a very large marble memorial to Nicholas Magens (d. 1764), a German-born lord of the manor, and one of the founding members of Lloyd’s insurance company in London. Magens purchased the Brightlingsea estate only a year before his death, and his impressive monument was designed by Nicolas Read and erected in 1779. It is said to be one of the finest examples of Italianate sculptures in Britain.


There is also a statue of ‘The Queen of Heaven’ which is probably the Virgin Mary together with a poem by T S Eliot – The Dry Salvage IV from his Four Quartets

Queen of Heaven - TS Eliot
Queen of Heaven – TS Eliot

Lady, whose shrine stands on the promontory,
Pray for all those who are in ships, those
Whose business has to do with fish, and
Those concerned with every lawful traffic
And those who conduct them.

Repeat a prayer also on behalf of
Women who have seen their sons or husbands
Setting forth, and not returning:
Figlia del tuo figlio
Queen of Heaven.

Also pray for those who were in ships, and
Ended their voyage on the sand, in the sea’s lips
Or in the dark throat which will not reject them
Or wherever cannot reach them the sound of the sea bell’s
Perpetual angelus.

NB: Cinque Ports
Prior to the Norman Conquest, King Edward the Confessor had contracted the five most important Channel ports of that day to provide ships and men “for the service of the monarch” and although this was frequently as a “cross-Channel ferry service”, it was not exclusively so. Under the Norman kings this became the essential means of keeping the two halves of their realm together, but after the loss of Normandy in 1205, their ships (the for-runners of the Royal Navy) suddenly became England’s first line of defence against the French. Every member of the Confederation, together with their Limbs, is situated in Kent or Sussex, apart from Brightlingsea which, as a Limb of Sandwich, uniquely lies in Essex.

The Witch Finder General and Malthouses

Our first stop on the recent trip up the east coast of Britain was in a little place called Mistley which is situated on the River Stour in Essex. You may have heard of Manningtree which is a little further up the river as it is the smallest town in England. Mistley’s use as a port can be traced back to the Roman occupation with archaeological evidence indicating that a Roman road connected its riverside to the important garrison town of Colchester (Camulodunum).


Both Manningtree and Mistley are attractive towns with Georgian and Victorian architecture. Manningtree was a centre for cloth in Tudor times with barges transporting it to London and it is believed that the reference to Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henry IV as “that roasted Manningtree Ox” relates to the practice of roasting a whole ox at the town’s medieval annual fair.


Mistley is also the village where Matthew Hopkins lived – the notorious Witch Finder General, who struck terror into the local community during the 17th Century.



In the 18th Century local landowner Richard Rigby MP attempted to develop Mistley into a fashionable spa town, symbolised by a swan. He hired the architect Robert Adam, to design and remodel the existing church. The two towers are the only remaining parts now after the centre section of the medieval church was demolished in 1870. It is the only known church modelled by Adams remaining.


We stayed at the Mistley Thorn which overlooks the quay and is a short stroll away from the riverside. The malting industry has declined in Mistley, and the majority of malthouses and stores, have become redundant over the decades, with the inevitable result that vandals and arsonists have taken their toll on the town’s industrial architecture. The quay is currently derelict and fenced off, causing much distress to locals.


The “Free The Quay” organisation have spent the last five years, or so, fighting for the reopening of what they maintain is a historical right of access since the Trent Wharfage Company decided to fence off the publicly accessible 130 metre section of the quay in 2008.


The Old Barley Stores on the riverfront have been converted into luxury apartments, meaning that Mistley still looks like a town of malthouses, even if people are now living where the grain was once stored.




Nearby is a food processing factory.   The English Diastatic Malt Extract Company  (EDME) was originally founded there in 1884. The site is now a specialist research & development facility. The whole area is filled with the distinct nostril stimulating smell of malting grains. Eating a granary loaf will never be the same again.


An evening stroll along the riverside was not very exciting. Passing the local ‘lads’ hanging outside the Towers in their souped-up cars, music blaring, cans of lager and dodgy smelling cigarettes was a tad unnerving, but we moved through them as quickly as possible and on to the riverside walk. Unfortunately the tide was out so we were faced with mud and sand banks. Brent geese, a couple of swans with their cygnets and some gulls waded in the mud. It might be a nice spot on a summer’s day with the tide in as it is tree-lined with lots of benches from where to take in the view. But on this evening it all felt a bit sinister.


Hence I changed my camera settings for a more dramatic effect.

The Mistley Thorn is a restaurant with rooms – large, homely and comfortable rooms, ours overlooked the river AND the road. With no aircon we had the windows open, but even in such a small place there is a lot of traffic noise especially early in the morning. The following night we closed the windows which do have secondary glazing, and there was no noise. However, in the unseasonable hot and humid weather we were having it was uncomfortably warm. The hotel serves excellent food and it does get very busy, we ate there both nights and can honestly say it is worth doing so. Breakfasts were equally delicious and all the staff we encountered were more than friendly. A good spot to stay if you want, as we did, to explore Constable country and the Beth Chatto Gardens and be close to Colchester and if you don’t mind the smell of malting grain…

We discovered that Mistley Thorn was the base of Matthew Hopkins, self appointed Witch Finder General, from 1642 at the start of the Civil War. Hopkins, the son of a Puritan minister, was born at Great Wenham, Suffolk in 1620. He was based in Manningtree & Mistley during the age of the brutal witch-hunts 1645-1647 during which 112 people were hanged for witchcraft, 82 coming from Essex. Hopkins and his colleague John Stearne were responsible for most of these. The witch finders were paid twenty shillings in fees and expenses for each successful prosecution, which became such a burden to the local towns. They were most successful in 1645 when 33 women were locked in cells in Colchester Castle and tried at the County Assizes in Chelmsford. All except one were found guilty. Fifteen were hanged in Chelmsford, four were hanged on the village green in Manningtree, nine were later reprieved and four died in the cells. Hopkins himself died of consumption in 1647. He is buried in an unmarked grave at St Mary’s church, Mistley Heath. The statutory offence of witchcraft punishable by death was repealed in 1736.

Witchfinders – A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy is by Malcolm Gaskill, published by John Murray 

Monthly Photo Challenge: September

One thousand, nine hundred and seventy-five miles and I am finally back home in Cornwall. Not spent enough of this month at home to do a challenge post on the Cornish blog, so here is a summary of my September elsewhere in the UK.

Colchester Castle
Colchester Castle

Starting with a wedding in Colchester, Essex and then winding slowly northwards along the eastern side of the country to Edinburgh, where I met up with the delightful restless one – fellow blogger Jo who has now retreated to her home in the Algarve for a rest. Finishing with a relaxing week in the “Country of the Big Trees” – Perthshire and a brief stopover in Shrewsbury to visit the mother-in-law.

The wedding went off fine, a lovely bright and sunny day after a couple of humid and grey ones so the ceremony and the buffet were held outdoors. A beautiful cake made up of dozens of flower-iced cupcakes, unfortunately I prefer my cake to have more cake than icing and this wasn’t the case. Looked incredible though. And neither the bride nor her father managed to trip over on the uneven flooring!

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Weather-wise it was a pretty good month. Began with hot and humid in Essex, a wet day in Norwich, sunshine and clear skies in Lincolnshire, back to hot and humid in Durham followed by a couple of days in the murky fog and damp, before becoming sunny and bright once more in Scotland. Rained pretty much all the way home, but you can’t have it all!

Glamis Castle, Scotland
Glamis Castle, Scotland

I will write about each of the places we visited in turn, once I have sorted through the hundreds of photos and caught up with stuff back home – not least the garden which appears to have gone wild during my absence.

[the header image is of the skyline in Edinburgh – for some reason the skyline caught my eye there more than anything else – all those spires and chimneys]

The Cardinal is continuing his photo project throughout 2016 – a blogging event, a monthly photo challenge. Read his blog for the new rules this year (he is running two versions) and to view his interpretation and those of other participants.