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The American Way is Essex I

by Daniel M Byway

n 1636, a small town in Massachu- setts – which had until then been

known by the locals as ‘Content- ment’ – was offi cially named Ded- ham, as many of the town’s citizens had emigrated from the village of Dedham in Essex, England. This is but one of numerous connections that make the County of Essex, England, an ancestral homeland for many Americans, and a fascinating place to explore. A wooden carving sits in Ded-

ham’s Church which notes that in 1967, the people of Dedham, Mass donated £1000 to the restoration of the church. William Tecumseh Sher- man, a major fi gure in the Union Army during the American Civil War, also has ancestral links with the Essex village. His ancestral home, Sherman’s House - a beautiful Georgian fronted townhouse, is now a private National Trust property but occasionally opened to the public on heritage days. This made Dedham a perfect place to begin a personal voyage of discovery around the County. In many ways Dedham is a

quintessential English village. We began our exploration by looking around the Munnings Art Museum, a thoughtful tribute to the late, great English artist Alfred Munnings, RA (1878 - 1959). The Museum is located in Munnings' own Dedham home, and is a special experience. A master of equine art, his work took him to the front lines of World War One in France, where he depicted

36 The American

soldiers and horses of the Canadian Army, including the famous Charge of Flowerdew’s Squadron, an impor- tant turning point in the war. Mun- nings became both President of the Royal Academy and a friend of Winston Churchill. His home is now a living experience of his artistic skill, with events, a cafe and plenty of other activities during the year, and a brilliant selection of experts on hand to fi ll you in on this great artist, one of the Newlyn School, famed for his horse paintings. A history of food is ultimately

a history of human kind, and the Essex Rose, a 16th Century Building sat on the Royal Way in the heart of Dedham and run by the Tiptree company, is a great example of this. The Essex Rose serves a lovely selection of traditional tea room fare, and Tiptree’s knowledge of Jams – which extends back to 1885 – means that the proof is literally in the pudding! I bought a jar of Tiptree’s “Little Scarlet” Jam, the Jam of choice for a certain James Bond in the original Ian Fleming books (Yep, I’m a big fan). Tiptree hosts a range of individual tea rooms located around Essex, which serve as perfect stop-off points for busy travelers exploring the County. The village of Tiptree itself has a tea room and visitor center which in recent years was visited by Her Majesty the Queen herself! What’s ideal about Essex is that amongst signposted stop off points are plenty of hidden plaques, dedi-

cations, stories and tales to discover off the beaten track. Many families emigrated from this area of Essex to the New World, so a simple trip to see a local church can reveal all sorts of Transatlantic links. I suspect most of the village and town names in Essex feature heavily in the early American settlements. For those of you who might have Essex ancestry, the Essex Society for Family His- tory ( has a great resource and can assist in locating ancestors and other fascinating facts.

A short walk from Dedham

through the charming countryside takes you to nearby Flatford, made famous by the artist, John Consta- ble. Many of his works are of the countryside around Flatford, includ- ing The Hay-Wain (1820). This was based on the local house of Willy Lott which still stands today, and the surrounding buildings, includ- ing Flatford Mill, are now protected by the National Trust. It’s thrilling to know that you are standing on the same land where the great artist once stood, and courtesy of the internet, compare the local sur- roundings to those famous scenes in Constable’s work. Braintree has ancestral links to the likes of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, whilst in Purleigh, Lawrence Washington (Great-Great Grandfather of George Washing- ton) was once Minister. Lawrence was later buried in Maldon, where the local Church includes a com-

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