A Christmas tale.

Tom Monk was a year ahead of me at Chelmsford Tech. He and at least one sister (I think) and parents lived in Railway Cottages. In the middle to late 1950’s, Tom married Jean Grindle, the sister of of very good friend of mine, Jim Grindle. They moved to Witham, in Church Street, a little way from St. Nicolas church. Tom’s father was a change ringer (one of a team of usually eight who rang the huge bells at a church) at St. Mary’s in Langdon Hills. Tom carried on the family tradition and became a change ringer at St. Nicolas in Witham.

Witham’s most famous personage is the novelist Dorothy L Sayers. Sayers lived nearby in Newland Street and there is the traditional blue plaque attached to the house stating that it had been the residence of Dorothy L Sayers. She also attended St. Nicolas church.

Probably Sayers most celebrated novel is ‘The Nine Tailors’ which features Lord Peter Wimsey, over the snowbound Christmas season, involved in a mystery murder at a country church. The plot involves change ringing and is set amongst the festivities and the ringing of bells to celebrate Christmas.

Tom took me up to the bell loft to watch a practice change ringing at St. Nicolas which I found to be very interesting. The plot for ‘The Nine Tailors’ originated in Sayers mind while she was sitting in St. Nicolas listening to the bells being rung. For any fan of Sayers who happens to be in Witham, St. Nicolas and her nearby house are well worth visiting.

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  • I lived at No 7 Railway Cottages with my parents Ron & Doris Baker and remember well the Monks who lived next door. We left there in 1960 or 61 (I was 16) and went to the grand metropolis of Upminster. I have lived in New Zealand since 1975, a far cry from 50’s Laindon where my youth was spent and which I remember well. I also have vivid memories of Langdon Hills Primary School and the teachers.
    John Baker

    By John Baker (30/01/2023)

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