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Foxearth and District Local History Society – Meeting 10th Oct 2017 – Report

The artistic connections between two painters and the Suffolk/Essex landscape.

This was a subject fully explored by Dr. Judy Ivy – Liston resident, member of the Society and university lecturer – in her talk to the Foxearth and District Local History Society on 10th October 2017. A large audience of about 25 members and guests were treated to a comprehensively illustrated exposition of the individual approaches that Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable had to the countryside of the Stour valley; the obvious affection they both had for the area shines through in their work.

Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury in 1727, the son of a weaver. Having impressed his father with his talent for painting heads and laandscapes he was allowed to go to London in 1740 to study art privately. One of his earliest and best-known  works is his portrait of Mr and Mrs Robert  Andrews – newly-married landed gentry – of about 1750. This is an unusual composition in that the sitters are outside, there is no sign of the house which would ordinarily have been included as a status symbol and half of the picture is concerned with the farm land as evidenced by the seed drills and the stooped corn.  Later portraits were more conventional but Gainsborough’s favoured subjects were landscapes and it is possible that the combination in the Andrews picture was to show off his preference to wealthy clients. Some landscapes suggest a dreamy side to Gainsborough’s character and there are even fantasy compositions. Thomas Gainsborough elevated the genre of British landscape painting and was a founding member of the Royal Academy.

John Constable was born in East Bergholt in 1776- one of six children. His father owned Flatford Mill and when he left school young John worked in the corn trade. He loved to take sketching trips in the Suffolk and Essex countryside and, although his family did not want him to become a painter,  in 1799 he persuaded his father to allow him to study at the Royal Academy where he was inspired by the works of Gainsborough – who had died in 1788.  Although Constable painted many fine portraits, he found this work dull; it provided a living but his real interest was in scenes of ordinary daily life involving villages, churches, farms, cottages, mills, rivers and such like.. This was somewhat unfashionable in an age that looked for a more romantic style. One painting, commissioned as a wedding gift, is a landscape featuring Dedham church in the background and farm workers in the front dealing with a large pile of manure! Constable was a persistent sketcher and many of his most well-known paintings like Flatford Mill, The Hay Wain, Willie Lott’s Cottage have an associated number of drawings from various angles. In fact Willie Lott’s cottage was derelict in the 1920s but was rebuilt with Constable’s paintings and sketches providing valuable guidance. John Constable was elected a member of the Royal Academy in 1829. He died in 1837.

Judy demonstrated a deep level of research into this important piece of local history and warm thanks were expressed to her by Secretary Clare Mathieson. Both artists lived and worked at times in other parts of the country but the affinity which each had for the countryside in which they were raised endures in their beautiful legacies.

Next meeting: Tuesday 14th November 2017 7.30pm when Corinne Cox will talk about Foxearth and The Great War.

Ken Nice

Foxearth & District Local History Society Meeting 12th September 2017 – Report

The feelings and actions of a young weaver from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, who served at Waterloo were dramatically portrayed by local historian, Anne Grimshaw, to members of the District Society on Tuesday 12th September. In costume of the period – which was subtly altered to reflect  different people – Anne appeared as mother Dolly, sister Sally and wife Phoebe to John Grimshaw (born 1789) ; no relation as far as Anne has been able to discover.

In 1806, very much against his parent’s wishes, John left his job as a hand loom weaver  and enlisted in the Coldstream Guards. His first letter home was from London which he described as “bigger than Blackburn”! Next he was in Spain “hotter than Lancashire” and then in Portugal which was said to have “flies everywhere” and “people sleeping in huts with their animals” In 1815, after Waterloo, he wrote again from London  about the “big fight” and mentioned that he had been injured. More about this came to light when he came limping home at Christmas 1818 giving a graphic account of how a surgeon had removed a musket ball – which had been flattened when it hit his hip. He was also injured in the right arm. Whilst recuperating he was given a carbine to shoot the rats that were around the hospital. On his arrival home he enquired whether another local lad, Thomas Pollard, whom he had met in 1811 in Portugal had been in touch. Dolly replied that he had – and he had married John’s sister Sally! John saw action in several other battles and after his army service he suffered from bad dreams and episodes of sleep screaming indicating that “battle fatigue ” is not a modern condition. He was discharged from the army in 1818 as unfit having received a number of medals and awarded a pension of 9d a day.

As “Sally” Anne described some of John’s expeience of Belgium where there was said to be a lot of fever and ague. John returned to work as a hand loom weaver and in 1828 married Phoebe Tomlinson, also a weaver, and these two became involved in the active unrest that workers started to show as they saw the introduction of machinery into weaving and steam looms as threatening their livelihood. “Phoebe” recounted her arrest, her appearance at the Assizes for rioting and her sentence of 12 months hard labour. John died in 1851 of asthma aged 61. His army record showed him to be older indicating that he may have been untruthful about his age when enlisting!

This “one woman show” demonstrated the deep level of research Anne had undertaken to compile this intriguing account in which, she said,  a few assumptions had been made on the basis of the evidence of the times. A carefully designed and interesting evening. Anne related how Thomas Pollard was quite a hero having received a campaign medal with 9 bars. The whereabouts of this decoration was unknown for some years but persistent enquiries by Anne had finally unearthed it and it now was held proudly in the regimental archives. Anne was warmly thanked on behalf on 17 members by Secretary Clare Mathieson.

Information was presented about the Society’s annual dinner on 12th December at the George, Cavendish and members should book their place with Clare as soon as possible. The next meeting will be on 10th October at 7.30pm in Foxearth Village Hall when Judy Ivy will talk about the artistic connections between John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough in the context of the Suffolk/Essex landscape.

Ken Nice

Foxearth & Liston Parish Council Meeting – 9th September 2017 – Report

Chairman’s update: The Chairman reported that Essex County Highways had notified the current criteria for the designation of a “Quiet Lane” in relation to the application for Liston Lane to be so appointed.. All Liston residents will receive a copy of the criteria and notices will be published of a required special meeting to discuss this topic alone . The Liston Residents Association have already broached the subject at their AGM and expressed overwhelming support for the idea which would reduce the speed limit considerably.

Being keen to see how other councils worked  the Chairman had attended a meeting of Long Melford Parish Council – which had included a planning meeting. It now seemed likely that the proposed Bull Lane development would go ahead in spite of numerous local objections. There was also some shock at the announcement that outline planning permission had been sought for 300 homes on land in the north of the village towards the bypass.

Essex County Council and Braintree District Council: In the apologised absence of Cllr David Finch and Cllr Iona Parker there were no reports on the activities of these authorities

Defibrillator update:  Cllr Mark Posen reported that a grant of £720 had been made towards this project from the discretionary scheme operated by individual district councillors. In relation to a larger grant application Cllr Posen had been informed that the paperwork had been lost and that a fresh application would need to be made.

Public Participation Session:  A local resident asked what was being done about the Foxearth  War Memorial and  who was responsible for it. The Chairman explained tht it was the responsibility of the Parish Council and that Cllr Mrs Corinne Cox was seeking quotations for the correction of the serious deviation from the vertical which it presently shows. Comment was made on the splendour of the recent fly pasts by the Red Arrows commemorating the 100th anniversary of the death of Commanding Officer Bernard Ward of Foxearth and appreciation mentioned for the local initiative that brought this about.

Planning: No objections were expressed to an application to allow the occupation of two ancillary residences in Liston on short term tenancies for a maximum of six months. No objections were  offered to the proposed installation of Velux windows in a resdence in Foxearth. It was noted that an  application for the continuation of structural works, cleaning and redecoration at a Foxearth residence had been approved but the replacement of a carport at another Foxearth house had been refused.

Renovation of village sign:  It was noted that the Foxearth Village sign was in need of cleaning – mainly because of the adjacent tree. Also mention was made of some advertising notices along the roadsides and it was questioned whether these had been placed with the permission of the land owners; the Clerk would pursue this with the perpetrators.

Next meeting:  25th November 2017 at 9.45am in Foxearth Village Hall

Ken Nice