Village voice

PUBLISHED: 12:03 18 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:21 20 February 2013

Aerial Shot of the village

Aerial Shot of the village

Each month Essex Life invites the editor of a parish magazine to <br/><br/>tell us what makes their community so special

Coggeshalls vibrant community

Village life in Coggeshall gives Derek Wilkins, editor of its parish magazine The Link, plenty to remain on top of, from music concerts to a very busy mother and toddler group

SURROUNDED by farmland and bypassed by the A120 since 1982, Coggeshall is surely one of the countys most picturesque places to live. With a population of around 5,000, the village has been built on a long and distinguished history. From first being mentioned in the Domesday Book and the growth of a Cistercian Abbey in the village, Coggeshall became an important centre for the UKs wool trade during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The village sign opposite the parish church a medieval Coggeshall weaver on one side and a monk tending
sheep on the other reflects this history.

As further tribute to this heritage, Coggeshall is home to a wealth of medieval timber-framed houses that still attract day trippers who are well catered for by its hotel, pubs, tea shops and restaurants. Perhaps the two most striking properties in Coggeshalls collection belong to the National Trust Paycockes, a late medieval merchants house, and the 13th-century Grange Barn.

But in spite of its historic nature, Coggeshall is very much a living community, with schools, large estates of 1970s and 80s housing
and a host of small businesses and light industry.

Is Coggeshall happiest as a small town or large village? Nobody can quite agree, but one thing there is no debate about is its strong community spirit. Take the community bus, for example. Staffed entirely by volunteers, this service takes commuters to and from Kelvedon Station while serving the older members of the village in the daytime with transport to various clubs and to the market on a Thursday.

The large medieval parish church of St Peter ad Vincula (St Peter in Chains), at the top of Church Street, has recently been short listed for the national Village Church in Village Life award and its churchyard was voted best-kept in Essex last year.

As well as hosting its own monthly lunchtime concert series, the church is popular with local choirs and orchestras as a venue for evening concerts. During the week it is home to a mother and toddler group, knit and natter and yoga classes, plus an amateur theatrical group which puts on an annual pantomime in the building. Each August Bank Holiday weekend a magnificent flower festival is held, attracting 2,500 visitors. A recent addition to the inside of the church is the new organ case, carved by Andrew Beckwith, a former resident of Coggeshall and grandson of master woodcarver Ernest Beckwith. Andrews is also responsible for much of the carving inside the church and for the restoration of Paycockes.

Coggeshall is big enough to have its own fire station, library, primary
and secondary schools and even a swimming pool for community use,
yet small enough to have a village feel, with its own market day that is the signal for the nearby Christ Church to open for coffee and childrens crafts. A lunch club for the elderly is held every Monday and an over 60s club meets each Wednesday, while the churchs pastoral care team coordinates visiting and help for those in need.

Depending on your interests, there is also a heritage society, a horticultural society and an art club in Coggeshall and since 2006 the three churches in Coggeshall have employed a full-time youth worker who runs weekly clubs for different age groups plus a youth cafe. The Scout and Guide groups are strong in the community and there are plans for
a brand new HQ for them soon, to be built in the grounds
of Honywood School.

It seems Coggeshalls historic roots are allowing this vibrant community to enjoy a flourishing future.

Derek Wilkins Editor
The Link magazine

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