Salcott always fascinated me. It was the first country place I ever stayed in. I was a schoolboy at the time, and I remember journeying there in a four-wheeler, and returning in a pony cart. That is a good many years ago. But let me tell you something about my recent visit, and the visit to Virley and Tolleshunt D'Arcy.
The first thing I saw is what everyone sees who knows these parts - the Devil's Moat. From the Tollesbury road it looks little more than a cluster of trees, but it is supposed to contain a bottomless well. Near by on the main Tollesbury road it is said that a heap of faggots may be seen at night, and that these part, when travellers approach. Of this I can say nothing, but I did meet a man who in association with his brother had played a ghost trick hereabouts some years ago. Dressed in surplices they had stood in the road and one had called out to passing cyclists:
"I am Noah.
He assured me that the cyclists were frightened, and they might well be on a dark night.
I shall come to thai door
But I shan't come any more"
Standing at Salcott road entrance I could see in the distance Barn Hall, about which an old-world story still lingers.
The story goes that the Hall was originally about to be built on another site, that the moat was made, and the materials got ready when the Devil interposed, and taking up a huge beam, threw it a mile, to where the Hall now stands, exclaiming:
"Where this bean fall
There shall stand Barn Hall"
Be that as it may, the legend is an interesting one.
The Salcott Street is a bit of Essex upon which not many of the marks of modernity are to be seen. The post office is here, the Sun Inn, a butcher's shop, the school, and, the church.
An oak gate to the churchyard, carved by Mr H.F. Baskett, bears the initials F.E.C. 1932, initials of the Rev. F.E. Crate, the rector of Virley-with-Salcott.
I visited the churchyard, where among the graves were those of Henry and Mary Cullum, who had lived long enough to celebrate their diamond wedding. The name Cullum, like the names Foakes and Francis, are well known here. Forty-eight names of those who served in the Great War appear in the church, and there are seven Foakes, five Francis, and four Cullums.
At this gate I chatted with Mr. T.T. Thorogood who has known Salcott for half a century. It was Mr Thorogood who told me that there was as much yachting now in Salcott as he ever remembered. He called to mind the time when the barges used to come up to Robert Murrell's granaries. In his younger days the journey to Colchester would often be made on "Shanks's Pony," which meant two-and-a-half-hours' going. As we were talking a bus with sight-seers leaving the parish for a football match proclaimed the new age.
At Virley, I met Mr. O. Wenlock. "People," he said, "live as long as they like about here," and I am not prepared to dispute that statement.
From Mr. Arthur Best I heard the story of the race that took place years ago up the large old-fashioned Virley White Hart chimney, when one John Foakes competed with a sweep in a competition which ended with a bathe in the near-by creek.
Elderberries and blackberries grow near the ruins of Virley Church, the wedding church of Baring Gould's "Mehalah," and an iron band binding the still standing archway prompts thoughts of Mr Kettle, an erstwhile blacksmith of Virley, who made it.
I hear that Virley and Salcott are becoming quite a holiday centre for visitors from a distance.
On now to Tolleshunt D'Arcy, where I am to see an 87-year-old ham owned by the Emeny family. The story as told to me by Miss Emeny of this ham enshrined in a glass case is indeed interesting. Her grandmother was given a pig as a wedding present. The pig was fatted, killed and pickled. One ham was cooked at Miss Emeny's mother's christening and the other was retained in anticipation of the birth of a son, which later took place. Miss Emeny's grandmother wanted the boy christened at chapel, but her grandfather wanted the christening to take place at the Church of England. Because of this difference of opinion, the son was not christened until he grew up, and the ham was never cooked. There was a time when this ham served as a weather barometer, but weather changes have no visible effects upon it today.
Not far from the blacksmith's shop I saw an old may bush around which they say the Tolleshunt D'Arcy folk used to dance, but I did not meet anyone who remembered this, although there were those, including Mrs Eliza Cracknell, who had known the fair to be held near the old may bush. From this spot to the Church and the Hall is an easy distance, and the way is marked by homes bearing such pleasant names as "Jessamine Cottage," and "Elmhurst." It was late afternoon when I entered the church, but as the sun shone in through the window it did not take a very lively imagination to people the church and to hear the singing of harvest hymns.
What a wealth of magnificent oak the Hall contains! By the kindness of Mr. W. Eve, who resides there, I was able to view this, the moat which girdles the Hall the old dove-cot with its hundreds of nesting boxes, and a D'Arcy spice tree said to be the original tree of this choice apple.
I passed the residence of the late Dr.J.H.Salter. Near here is a fresh house named after the Doctor, one of the many things which will help to perpetuate a name so closely associated with Tolleshunt D'Arcy and its activities for many years.
Spring Farm well - I mustn't forget to mention this, because it has rendered such excellent service to the parish. I was assured it was never dry.
To this day the coming of the first telegram to Tolleshunt D'Arcy is remembered, and its cost from Kelvedon - seven shillings and sixpence.
No.2 in a series in Essex County Standard in the 1930s.
Transcribed by Anne Taylor August 2020