Great Easton, Essex
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (September 2013)|
Great Easton is a small village in Essex, England, which dates from the 12th century. The village has a population of just a few hundred people, one pub, "The Swan", and one church, and one Rolls-Royce dealership. The village of Little Easton lies one mile (1.6 km) to the south.
The village used to be known as 'Easton ad montem' or 'atte munte' to distinguish it from Little Easton. The suffix denotes the mound, or mound in the village, close to the church in the grounds of Easton Hall. It is believed to be the earthwork remains of a motte and bailey castle. From which the village has grown around from the Medieval period, up to the current state of a few miles of mostly 15th Century houses that make up most of the village today. The mound is 130 feet in diameter at the base, 43 feet at the summit and is 21 feet high. It is surrounded by a dry ditch 45 feet wide and 5 feet deep. The mound may have been pre- Roman, Saxon or perhaps a Norman defensive motte. It was defiantly in place in Norman times, as this the period in which the name 'Eystone ad montem' appears.
In 1830 a murder befell the village and in the south porch of St John & St Giles church is an inscription (VII, pos. c. 1900) to a man found murdered in 1830 at Handless Spring. On the South wall of the churchyard there is an inscription which reads:
- Near this spot lies a murdered man
- Whos remains were found in Handless Spring.
- Unfold the murderous deed if you can
- And the Wretch or Wretches to justice bring.
It is believed the only spring in the village is behind The Bell, and is the most likely site for the still unknown man's remains that were found, and that his haunted soul still roams the village. In fact there are many ghost tales and stories that circulate around this 12th-century village and the surrounding villages, such as the following:
The Headless Monk
There is a prevalent rumour that the ghost of a headless monk walks the bank along the river between Duton Hill and Great Easton in the hours of darkness. The archaeological dig on the site of the Abbey in 1942 turned up the stone tombs of two monks, thought to have been killed during the sacking of the Abbey in 1215. When their remains were examined before being reverently re-interred, it was found that one of the skeletons lacked a head.
The church is Norman in design and was originally built on the site of an earlier Saxon church. Its construction contains Roman bricks, along with many of the houses in the village. It has had many changes and at one time in history was cruciform, but the north and south transepts have disappeared, and only thickened walls indicate the position of the crossing tower. By 1460 the tower had disappeared, and the three bells that were in use were housed in a timber cupola on the west end of the nave. However was demolished in 1899 as part of major refurbishing work on the church, and a large timber tower constructed, far taller than the current brick tower. It was struck by lightning however and its ancient timber was installed into many of the old Tudor houses, including the 'King Post' of the tower installed into Essex House, with a plaque stating 'KING POST of Old Wooden Tower, GREAT EASTON CHURCH, erected 1777, Demolished 1928.'Making the post at least 235 years old, however still only half as old as most of the houses surrounding the church. In 1899 there were major changes made, and in 1928 a low brick tower replaced the timber tower which had been there.
The tower was renovated in 1928, and Bert Pickford gave this account of his own unique perspective of the work:
When the new tower was being built, the bricks were hauled up using a large basket on a pulley. At the end of a day's work, the basket was left on the ground with the rope still taken up through the top pulley, whist the rope's tail end was coiled up near the basket. One evening, a bunch of us boys aged between 7 and 14 were inspecting the work, or looking for mischief. I can't remember which, but expect it was the latter!
We became very interested in the basket and rope and in no time at all the rope was uncoiled and, with a little help from us all, the basket got 'lift off' and was soon on its way to the top of the tower. This discovery was great, but to increase the entertainment and interest value, it was soon decided, without too much debating, that I, being the smallest and youngest, should view the village from above!
The basket came down and I jumped in, without a care in the world, and slowly was hoisted to the top. At last I was at the top and the hauling team were nearly at the gate to the village green, shouting things such as, "What can you see?" and "What's it like?"
All adventures must end, and so did ours. Eventually I was lowered to the ground, and remember the landing being a bit hard. Thinking back, it could have been a lot worse! I don't know how much spare "boy power" there was on that rope, but I am grateful that they all held on.
The church is a grade II* listed building 
- "Name: CHURCH OF ST JOHN AND ST JILES List entry Number: 1112198". English Heritage. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
The Five Parishes - a brief history of Broxted, Tilty, Great Easton and Little Easton By Clare Squibb
Media related to Great Easton, Essex at Wikimedia Commons