* Tolleshunt D'Arcy and other enigmas *
1. Margery Allingham
Margery Allingham’s grave
Margery and her husband Philip Youngman Carter
The plaque that hangs on the wall outside D’Arcy House and the house as drawn by Philip Youngham Carter
Tolleshunt D'Arcy has the ring of something from a work of fiction. It might have come from the pen of one of the Bronte sisters or perhaps Jane Austen. It does have a literary association but not in the way you might think. Tolleshunt D'Arcy is yet another tiny village set in the Essex countryside some few miles from the much larger Maldon. It is a pretty place filled with the typical character you would expect.
I have to say that until I came here I didn’t realise that a quite famous author not only spent her life here but composed her world famous books from this sweet village. The author in question is Margery Allingham and her legendary creation is the detective Albert Campion.
Margery Louise Allingham was born, as one might guess she was rather than manufactured, in Ealing, London in nineteen hundred and four, she was the first born child of Herbert John Allingham and his wife, Emily Jane both of whom were cousins and both of whom were writers. It was already a strong tradition in the Allingham family who had been involved in creative writing for several generations. Her father was the editor of the Christian Globe but also ran the London Journal. He eventually gave up journalism to become a full-time writer of pulp fiction. It was about the time of Margery’s birth that her father turned to full-time writing and within months of her arrival the family moved to Layer Breton, a remote village south of Colchester. It was here, while living in an old Georgian rectory, that Margery started composing her tales and stories.
Margery in 1940
I cannot ably describe how exciting I find this new discovery. If you are not as fond of writers and novels as I am then this may have little appeal to you but to find such a famous author who lived and created not so very far from where I live is a slice of magic to me. Margery Allingham wrote a stream of successful books from her first, Blackkerchief Dick in nineteen twenty-three, until her untimely death at the moderately young age of sixty-two in nineteen sixty-six. Her final novel was The Mind Readers and was published the year before her death. As of yet, I have not read a single book of Margery’s but that is something I intend to shortly put right.
It is only a short step from the neighbouring village of Tollesbury; a name so similar that the villages must be related, and they are, by the murky cloak of times past. Tolleshunt D’Arcy has something to do with the way the local tribe used to hunt and kill. Their fierce rivals were another local tribe, the Arcy’s. Eventually the Tolles beat of the Arcy tribe and eventually both gave up their combative rivalry choosing rather the path of peace but the old cry of Die Arcy, over time, changed into D’Arcy, or so local myth has it.
Tollesbury would also have been associated with the Tolle clan and hence the name.
Tollesbury has a church, Saint Mary’s and during medieval times, it was the property of Saint Mary’s at Barking which lies further west and closer to London. The nunnery at Barking was responsible for the appointment of the local parish vicar at Tollesbury. Originally, like all churches in those times, Saint Mary’s at Tollesbury would have been catholic but then Henry VIII, a man who could never resist a well-turned ankle, turned his back, and, therefore, his kingdoms, upon the Pope, the Vatican and Rome. England became Protestant and churches like Saint Mary’s were either burned to the ground or converted to the Lutheran faith. As Saint Mary’s is still standing I think it obvious what happened here. In fifteen thirty-nine the manor was given to Thomas, Lord Cromwell just prior to him being made the Earl of Essex.
Like most old villages and towns there is nearly always a Square or a Green. Tollesbury is no different. At one time there were no less than six public houses facing the square which has now just one. There is still a wealth of cottages that line either side of the Square and still visible is the old ‘Lock-up’. A Lock-Up is a wooden structure that would have held the local drunks and seeing as the town once had six pubs I would guess the Lock-up was constantly full. Tollesbury Lock-Up is by the church wall and is just as it would have been five to six hundred years ago.
Another noteworthy feature is the “Crab and Winkle Line”. An old ‘light’ railway line that consisted of small carriages, that is small in number and not physical size, which was used for carrying both passengers and goods. The trains would have been slow affairs and were not allowed to go over twenty-five miles an hour in the countryside and only ten miles an hour through the villages. The line ran through a small fist full of villages that included Tollesbury, Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Tolleshunt Knights, Tiptree, Inworth, Feering and Kelvedon. The line operated from nineteen hundred and four, being extended at some period to include passing through Tollesbury Pier, up until May nineteen fifty-one.
Although never designed to accommodate office workers, that is precisely what it ended up doing as it gave license for people wishing to travel to London the opportunity to get to there from Liverpool Street. It was also had a patron in John Wilkin, the grandson of famed jam maker Arthur Wilkin and their world renown Wilkins Jams from Tiptree.
I think Americans refer to jam as jelly and jelly as Jell-O. Whatever, if you haven’t tried Wilkins Jams then you should as they are delicious.
3. The Hundred Moot
Throughout England, there are often found references to what is known as a “Hundred’. It is an expression that has remained with us for many hundreds of years if not longer and possibly owes its origins to having either a hundred soldiers at your call or perhaps having a hundred members of a family gathered in close proximity. Not far from where I live is the Rochford Hundred and here too, close to Tollesbury is the Thurstable Hundred. A meeting of the Hundred is called the Hundred Moot which may sound familiar to readers of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Ent Moot. In plain English, it means a meeting of the Hundred.
These Hundreds would each have their own court which in turn had its own powers, This archaic form of rural government was abolished in eighteen sixty-seven by the County Court Act of Parliament.
But the name remains and the history that goes with it is as old and twisted as ancient tree roots.
4. Days of the Week
As you may or may not know, Saturday is the Sabbath and not Sunday but when the Roman’s turned to Christianity they found it hard to give up all their beliefs and, therefore, kept Sunday as their day of rest. The name Sunday, as the name implies, is in recognition of their worship of the Sun. Sun Day celebrates Ra, Helios, Apollo, Ogmios, Mithras and the sun goddess, Phoebe.
As Sunday is the first day of the week it only makes sense that the second day of the week should be Monday or Moon Day. The word comes from Latin Lunae Dies or day of the moon.
Tuesday was Dies Martis which is the day of Mars and is associated with Aries. Originally it would have been Tiw’s day which comes from Tyr or Tir the son of Odin.
The fourth day of the week Wednesday is derived from two possible sources. The Roman Dies Mercurii and the Scandinavian Woden or Odin who was the King of Norse Gods.
My favourite day of the week naturally enough is the one I was born on, Thors Day. Thors was the god of thunder and lightning and is the counterpart to the Greek and Roman gods Jupiter and Jove.
Friday is named after Odin’s wife, Frigga who is said to be the mother of all as her name means loving or beloved.
And finally, Saturday, the seventh day of the week whose corresponding god is Saturn; the Romans called the day Dies Saturni.
all words and art are copyright © of C.J. Duffy.