Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Stony Lane, Thaxted, Essex

click photo to enlarge
During my recent travels I went to Thaxted in Essex. Before my visit I knew little about the place apart from what I'd read about the church and its windmill. I also had a vague memory that there was a connection with the composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934).

Towards the end of an October afternoon I wandered through its streets, had a look at the main buildings, and came upon the well-named Stony Lane. The narrow cobbled surface of the road leading up the hill to the church and the picturesque mixture of ancient buildings attracted my attention. A look at The Buildings of England: Essex revealed that the half-timbered buildings on the left date from the early 1400s, and have many original features.

Further digging enlarged my knowledge of the Holst connection. Apparently the main theme of Jupiter from his suite, The Planets, which he adapted to fit Sir Cecil Spring-Rice's poem for the hymn "I vow to thee my country", is called Thaxted after the place Holst lived from 1914 until the 1920s. An article written for the Foxearth and District Local History Society, I Ring for the General Dance: Gustav Holst and Thaxted, gives an interesting account of Holst's time in the Essex market town. Moreover it includes fanciful alternatives for the source of inspiration for each of the movements of "The Planets". The author suggests that Jupiter, perhaps for its association with the hymn name, represents market day in Thaxted. The market was packing up as I left so I can't vouch for whether or not it exudes a Jovian jollity, but the description that the author gives of the music representing a walk from the market place, up Stony Lane, through the church and around the town, is quite alluring.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 11mm (22mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.0 EV
Image Stabilisation: On