My Favourite Village: James Bettley from the Friends of Essex Churches Trust picks Great Totham

PUBLISHED: 20:44 01 December 2013 | UPDATED: 20:44 01 December 2013

EXG DEC 13 FAVE VILLAGE

EXG DEC 13 FAVE VILLAGE

Archant

Which is your favourite Essex village?

In the course of rewriting the Pevsner Architectural Guide to Essex, I visited every village in Essex and there isn’t one that doesn’t have something special about it. But taking the place as a whole, Great Totham ticks most of the boxes. Discovering that a famous architect, A H Mackmurdo, lived here for 40 years until his death in 1942 increased my interest in the village. Mackmurdo is said to have chosen Great Totham because it had the lowest rainfall in England – and because of the view from Beacon Hill.

What do you like most about Great Totham?

It’s still pretty rural but only five minutes from the delights of Maldon and the River Blackwater.

Have you ever lived in the village or are you an outsider?

My wife Lucy and I moved here from London with the first of our three children in 1991. Lucy’s less of an outsider than I am – she grew up in Ingatestone.

What are your first memories of spending time in the village?

Seeing our house for the first time, with snow on the ground and snowdrops in the garden. It immediately felt like the right place to be.

Have things changed in the village much over time?

As in most Essex villages, there are quite a few more houses, mostly infill rather than spreading into the surrounding fields. Some of them are on the site of Colliers truck builders, who moved to Witham a few years ago. It felt right to have a little bit of real industry in the village, but they needed more space to expand. Otherwise not much has changed.

Who are the characters you most enjoy bumping into in the village?

The day we moved in our neighbour, Daphne Davies, was on the doorstep with a welcoming cake. She’s been helpful in hundreds of ways over the years and it’s always nice to stop and have a chat.

What do you think the future holds for Great Totham?

More housing, I suspect. At the moment not much separates Great Totham from Wickham Bishops to the west and Heybridge to the south. It can’t be long before we’re all joined together.

Does the village have a local pub?

Amazingly, we still have three: The Prince of Wales, The Bull and The Compasses. What that says about us 
I’m not sure, but it’s rare to have such 
a choice these days.

What is it that keeps the community spirit of this village alive?

St Peter’s Church, as well as the village shop and Post Office, and the garage. Without them, and the people who work so hard to keep them going, the village would be very much less of a community.

Will there be any Christmas events in Great Totham?

Father Christmas’s first official engagement in Great Totham is always at the St Nicholas Fayre in the Village Hall (this year on November 30). Otherwise there are the usual Christmas services, including Nine Lessons and Carols on Sunday, December 15, and Christingle Services and Midnight 
Mass on Christmas Eve.

How will you be spending Christmas this year?

We usually share Christmas with my wife’s sister and her family. We were away last year, so this year we’ll be 
at home.

Where do you find the best view in the village?

The view from Beacon Hill, looking 
out towards the Blackwater Estuary, is not just the best view in the village, it’s one of the best views in Essex. Beacon Hill is 270 feet above sea level, which counts for a lot in this part of the world. ‘Totham’ means ‘look-out place’.

Is there one thing you need to know about the village to be considered a ‘local’?

Visitors tend to ask why the church is so far from the rest of the village. It isn’t really: it’s bang in the centre of the parish, and Great Totham consists of a number of separate settlements in different corners of the parish (on many maps, there appear to be two Great Tothams a mile apart). Satnav is easily confused!

Is there one Essex thing that always gets you in a festive mood?

A brass band playing carols in Chelmsford High Street (or even Liverpool Street Station) always lifts the spirits. Piped Christmas music in November has the opposite effect.

0 comments

More from Out & About

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We’ve put together 15 questions that will push your knowledge of Essex to the limit - let us know how you’ve done on social media!

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From James Bond to Batman, Essex has been known to bask in a little Hollywood glitz. Here are 19 that have used our county’s incredible locations on the big screen

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Spend Halloween hunting down ghouls and ghosts in the county’s most haunted places and spaces. We pick 10 absolutely terrifying locations to visit this October.

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Chelmsford is on the rise, blossoming from its city status. One iconic landmark which has been part of the landscape for 300 years, and is also enjoying a renaissance, is Hylands House. Petra Hornsby reveals more

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Laurie Page of the Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council shares with us this beautiful six-mile walk around Bradwell’s stunning coastal delights

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

With one of the warmest and driest summers on record, this year has been a difficult one for gardeners. Susie Bulman from The Beth Chatto Gardens at Elmstead Market shares some top tips for plant survival, even in these conditions

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Our county’s remaining windmills stand the test of time as a tribute to a bygone era. Mica Bale highlights some of the best examples in Essex

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Whether you’re looking for a memorable day trip or an impromptu weekend getaway, Essex is a perfect patchwork of all the little things we love about Britain. Proudly showcasing the charm of the county, we pick 13 towns you must visit when planning a trip to Essex

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

This walk from the town of Bures on the Essex and Suffolk border leads you through the Essex countryside to the little villages of Alphamstone and Lamarsh | Words and photos: Laurie Page Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A popular Southend escape game venue has launched a new room inspired by the town’s seafaring past

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory



Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search