Sanctuary and salvation
PUBLISHED: 10:53 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:11 20 February 2013
Once considered to be a village containing wickedness of Biblical proportions,Elaine Sivyer finds that Abridge has been converted to a modern day paradise
ABRIDGE is a charming village that encapsulates rural tranquillity, stunning architecture and a real sense of community - a mere stones throw from all the amenities you could wish for.
Located on the River Roding, Abridge takes its name from a small brick bridge on the road to Theydon Bois that has been an important crossing point for many centuries. In keeping with its surroundings, the quaint bridge is a picturesque little route into the village.
However, it was not always so easy to hop over to Abridge. In 1855 the inhabitants of the village complained to the authorities about the dangerous state of the roads and footbridges in the area. During flooding they were impossible to use and travelers were inconvenienced by a circuit of six miles.
Today crossing the bridge affords a good view of Roding Hall, a magnificent building dating from 1900 that was formerly the White Hart pub. To its right, Market Place is a focal point of the village where an attractive cluster of buildings lends the area much character. The oldest of these is the hall house, known as the Coach House, which dates from the 14th century and is a Grade II listed building. Also notable is the striking group of medieval buildings that form the Roding Restaurant - now a somewhat less ancient Chinese restaurant.
Other listed buildings include the Blue Boar Inn, dating back to the early 19th century, but enduring today as a prominent fixture of the village and local meeting point. This was previously the tap house of the former mid-19th century Anchor Brewery - later acquired by Whitbread & Co. Much of the brewery can still be seen today, including the malthouse and structures to the rear of the Blue Boar, with the rest having been redeveloped as housing.
Another popular watering hole is the Maltster's Arms, which along with the two adjoining cottages, hails from the 18th century. The house slightly further to the east retains a small bowed shop window, while the Post Office, with its symmetrical weather-boarded front, is also late 18th century.
Abridge is in the extreme northwest of the parish of Lambourne, but since early times has contained the majority of the parish population. Interestingly, the remoteness of the village from the manor houses and the church has helped determine the history of the area.
Abridge is a mile from the parish church, and until 1833 there was no other place of worship in the parish. It is therefore remarkable that there has never been a direct road from the church to Abridge. The inhabitants rather had an ancient right of way by footpath.
The distance of Abridge from the parish church gave rise to a reputation for some spiritual and moral waywardness. Indeed, the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine declared in 1833 that the village was commonly known as, 'Little Sodom'. However, it also boldly claimed that the arrival of a Wesleyan chapel and Methodist preaching that same year had, 'entirely changed its moral character'.
Abridge's location has always been important to its identity, and the village lies on the important coaching route between London and Chipping Ongar. Today commuters continue to enjoy the village's convenient location, 14 miles northwest of central London. The nearest tube station is Theydon Bois, which takes passengers straight into the heart of the metropolis.
Abridge has managed to preserve its intensely rural feel and rolling fields stretch as far as the eye can see. The area has long been associated with farming, which remains significant. A still peacefulness characterises the landscape, making it easy to forget how close Abridge lies to the urban sprawl.
Kim Mellor made the move from London to Abridge 15 years ago. 'I came here to start a family, as I felt it would be wonderful for the children to have all this open space,' says Kim. 'It was incredible to move from quite a cramped lifestyle to being able to look out across the countryside like this. I still appreciate the luxury.
'It's really a whole other world out here,' says Kim. 'Sometimes the silence at night really hits you. The village is a peaceful place, very safe, with a real sense of community. People know each other and have seen each other's children grow up. I can't imagine ever going back.'
Abridge is well loved by its residents and it is easy to see why. With such a strong rural identity and sense of history, alongside access to the bright lights of the City, it truly offers the best of both worlds.