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Rural Inns-A Clever Conceit in Words—An Old Water-mill-A
Picture though a Photograph—Braintree-A Homelike LandThe Pleasures of the Road-A Day's Drive across CountryGreat and Little Leigh-A Village 'Store'-A Unique Wooden Effigy-An Old Tudor Gateway-Old Mansions and Modern Farmsteads.
Shortly after leaving High Garret we came upon a picturesque public by the wayside, ycleped ‘Ye Hare and Hounds,' possibly of more importance in the old coaching days than now. The little hostel looked very neat and clean, though how it obtained sufficient custom to exist, much less prosper, was a puzzle to us. Sometimes, however, the tenants of these rural inns combine a little farming with their other business, and so manage to prosper in a quiet way.
I have from time to time, as we journeyed along, remarked upon any peculiar names, curious inn signs, or quaint epitaphs that struck us.
I have, however, forgotten to make mention of an inn sign, which from its clever double meaning I think worth a place here. There is a certain wayside hostelry, or rather perhaps I should say a cross between a hostelry and a public, that bears the title of the * Dewdrop Inn.' We did not at first perceive the play upon words, till it was explained to us : Dewdrop Inn-Do drop in : not a bad conceit for a house of entertainment that lives by its patrons dropping in!
On now we drove through a green stretch of restful country, with nothing on the way to arrest our particular attention till we arrived at the bottom of a long descent, where we pulled up by the side of an old water-mill. The ancient mill, added to and altered from time to time, with all its picturesque irregularity; the green weedy stream, with the bridge across it ; the clear pool below the mill, that doubled the building in its stilly water, together with the trees around, made a charming picture-so charming as to induce us to unpack the camera and take it. The picture was an instantaneous one, and, after exposing a plate, we duly returned it to our changing-box. Upon developing this plate some weeks afterwards at home, we made the unexpected discovery that we had included in our picture more than we were aware of at the time ; some ducks were on the water, having just been chased off the land by a dog ; but also, what both pleased and surprised us much more, we had secured a carrier's cart coming along, and an anxious mother just in the very act of snatching up her little one, who had evidently been playing on the road, out of harm's way. Such natural incidents, that now and then (though I must confess by very rare happy chance) reward the photographer, convert a mere mechanical photograph into a real picture.
Arriving at Braintree (a rambling country town, with irregular winding streets that boast of some interesting old houses) we drove up to the White
AN OLD COACHING INN.
Hart inn. An ancient coaching house this, possessing an ample courtyard, doubtless the scene of much life and bustle in times past, and not wholly deserted even to-day. How pleasant it is, this driving into your inn, and descending beneath the shelter of its arched entrance, in quiet, all at your leisure and out of the bustle and noise of the street !
We found excellent quarters at the White Hart, and had there an old-fashioned meal in an oldfashioned room, than which nothing could have pleased us better. The landlord, who had observed our arrival and who came out to greet the coming guest, was a pattern of civility. Seeing that we took an interest in his ancient hostelry, he kindly showed us all over it. The railways, he told us, had not managed altogether to ruin his posting trade, for he did 'a deal of posting'even now; sometimes his yard was nearly full of conveyances, and at a pinch’he had managed to put up a hundred horses. It is strange how generally the inns of the eastern counties seem to have retained much of their old posting business, that as a rule elsewhere in England has vanished as completely as the mail coach. It would be interesting to learn the why and wherefore of this survival.
Though no single one possesses specially noteworthy features, here and there in Braintree may be found old gabled and timbered houses that lend an interest to the place. One that we sketched had three gables facing the roadway, the middle being the highest of the three. On the front of this ancient building were the remains of rich ornamental plasterwork. How pleasantly picturesque is the old fashion of making the gable ends and dormers of houses to face the street, thus delightfully breaking the wearisome monotony of level sky-lines that prevails in most modern cities! How markedly these charming old houses contrast with the newer ones by their side that have still their history to make! Not only do they vary from each other, but seldom in any single house are even two of the windows of the same size and shape. Nowadays architects seem to concern themselves more about great public edifices than the less showy though quite as necessary designing of homes for the people. These are left to Buggins the builder, who runs up rows of houses all of one pattern, uniformly uninteresting, having none of the variety of detail that is so noticeable and pleasingly effective in the old houses. But I must not be too hard on Buggins; there is a demand for cheap showy houses, and he simply supplies the required article; it is rather the fault of the times than of the man. Let us be just : possibly Buggins would prefer to build beautiful houses to ugly ones, if only he felt sure that they would pay him as well. And all this raising of ugly buildings to let or sell is the result of the demand of a busy and impatient world, that will not trouble or does not care to build homes for itself.
In the course of our wanderings about Braintree, we found our way to the church. The doors of this were carefully locked; however, we managed to get a glimpse at the interior through a keyhole, and, as it appeared restored and uninteresting, we concluded
that it was not worth while to go a-hunting for the clerk. What a pity it is that our country churches cannot be left always open, like those on the Continent! Truly many are, but the great majority are kept religiously closed throughout the week, and only opened for service on Sundays. Generally we have found, curiously enough, that the better cared for the church, the more likely were the doors to be open. As a telling example, the doors of the sadly neglected church at Sall were all locked, whilst those of the really beautiful and unique church of Little Braxted were open.
Our road out of Braintree took us through a pleasant homelike country, a country of green fields bordered by tangled hedgerows, with clumps of wood here and there, and now and again the peep distant church tower. Snug red-roofed farmsteads, set in the midst of bird-haunted barns, and surrounded by pleasant paddocks and orchards, met our gaze from time to time as we drove along—a picture every one.
Somehow to me the English landscape
seems quite complete without at least a glimpse of one of these picturesque farmsteads; they are so typical of old-time England, and are not to be found in any other country, search we the whole world over.
What an enjoyable thing it is, this driving across country, with all its changing incidents and the inexhaustible interest that the ever-varying landscape affords! It is the very ideal of pleasure travel. How delightful it is to get away from the hackneyed paths of the ordinary tourist (who goes where his guide