Friday, March 03, 2017

September 6, 2009 - Back to the Sixties...

Roydon, a village in the Epping Forest district of Essex county and lying along the River Stort, was selected as our next stopover for a couple of reasons. First, it has a close by railroad with frequent trains to and from London, and second, it is only a few miles from where we lived for six years in the sixties - more nostalgia on the way!
Roydon is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 CE as Ruindune while Saint Peters, the village church, dates from the middle ages.
For such a small village, Roydon has boasted a cricket team, Roydon C.C., since 1839 and a soccer team, Roydon F.C., since 1901. The campsite, in Roydon Mill Leisure Park, had actually been closed prematurely for the season due to some badly behave
d hooligan campers the previous weekend. Fortunately, the management honored our booking and it served as a great base for cycles rides around our old haunts as well as a launch pad for London.
stead Abbotts, a much larger village of nearly 2000 souls, is only four or five miles from Roydon and was the closest community to where we had lived in the sixties. Recorded in the Domesday Book as Stanstede with the Abbotts tag being added in the 13th century after the property passed to the abbot of nearby Waltham Holy Cross. The Greenwich Meridian (longitude 0°) passes through the village and is marked by Meridian obelisks that were planted in 1984. The River Lee flows alongside the village on its way south to the east side of London. There are two churches and several pubs in the village. One pub, the Red Lion, was our "local" when we lived there and was a monastery when it was built in 1538.
Across the river Lee from Stanstead Abbotts is St Margarets - more precisely Stanstead St Margarets - another village, this one about 1300 people. There is a train station at St Mar
garets providing fast service to London and both of these villages have morphed into commuter communities over the last generation or so. Our home here was less than a mile from the station.
The closest large town (20,000 population)
that provided shopping, library, banking etc., was Hoddesdon, a couple of miles to the south. This town developed as a coaching stop between Cambridge and London and, during the 18th century, as many as 35 coaches a day passed through. Hoddesdon is also mentioned in the Domesday Book and received a market charter in 1253. After WWII, Hoddesdon had also slowly transformed into a dormitory town for London commuters.
A large portion of the old town center was r
azed between 1965 an 1975 to be replaced by unsightly high-rise apartments with seedy ground floor retail spaces that have suffered extreme business turnover and attracted much graffiti. A profound disaster.
In 1974 a bypass was
opened around the core of the town and much of the main street was pedestrianized. Parking remains difficult. What is left of the old town center is belatedly a conservation area with a few historic buildings scattered along the main street. The Clock Tower, a brick structure built in 1835 is built on the site of the Chapel of St Katherine which had been erected in 1336.
During the six years that we lived in the area we had never thought to explore Rye House, an historic oddity just a short distance off our beaten track. This omission was corrected during this visit and we discovered a fine pub along with one of the earliest brick structures known in England. We also learned of the infamous Rye House Plot to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother, James, Duke of York in 1682.
Later, we visited Great Amwell and Little Amwell, a mile or so north of St Margarets. Here there is a church, St John the Baptist, and a pleasant pub named George IV. For more glimpses of these English backwaters, click here.

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