Because England were playing Panama* on Sunday, Great Dunmow went football crazy, and all my watering holes were full of scrotey part-time drinkers getting wasted and yelling at the television. However, all was not lost.
First up, it was a gorgeous day. The world looks a better place when it’s sunny. Then I went somewhere I had never been to before. I’ve lived hereabouts for about 12 years, but had never been to the Maltings.
As you may surmise, this is a place where they used to make malt, for the sadly defunct Dunmow Brewing Company. What has been done is lovingly make it into a local history museum, and it’s fascinating. I love local history museums, and this is a good ‘un.
Firstly the building itself is lovely. Loads of aged red bricks, pantiled roof, still the flues to allow smoke from the firebox, and hot air from the drying floor to escape. Inside you get slightly uneven tiled floors, and dangerously low original woodwork. They made people small in the 1600s and 1700s, though there was a refurbishment in the 1800s. The uneven tiles are a bit gritty. There’s a meeting room upstairs from the exhibition area, and when it’s in use, as it was on Sunday, you walk around in a steady dust storm that comes through the floorboards above your head.
Not surprisingly the first exhibits are concerned with lots of aspects of brewing. All manner of brewing equipment memorabilia, pub signs, and a rather splendid collection of model brewers’ drays. I also, to my delight here, learned the origin of the term, ‘cock a hoop.’
Next up, I discovered that Great Dunmow was historically quite well known for clockmakers. At least two operated here, James Alling and John Fordham, and there’s a collection of their handy work. I’m always fascinated by old clocks**, and many of these were restored in the local jewellers. Something else I didn’t know we had in the town.
As ever, you find things that make you go, ‘Who keeps this stuff?’ Seriously, who kept the lard wrappers, and the bacon wrappers, and the sausage boxes? Somebody did, and that means I now know there was a bacon factory here. Dunmow has a long history with bacon, but I didn’t know there was actually a factory.
There is a wonderful recreation of a bootmaker/cobbler shop. Full of labelled cardboard boxes that make you wonder what was in them. A welt stitcher. What seems to be a leather scarifier.
Unless I am mistaken, and I could be with the information overload, this shop was by the War Memorial, what is now the estimable Paradise Cafe, greasy spoon to the gentry.
Best bit, if there was a best bit, is a slide show (and endearingly they are slides, and some of them are in back to front. No PowerPoint here) of postcards of the town and surroundings. The High Street is still recognisable despite the add-on frontages. The Intercounty estate agents was a Barclays Bank, and before that home to Stokes Butchers, who moved down the road.
Old timers round here will often refer to ‘where the petrol station was.’ Now I know.
*The term ‘stuffing’ is closer, I’m led to believe.
**There’s an intriguing horologist’s shop in Thaxted, just up the road.