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The Manor House

The Manor House (opposite the green) was traditionally referred to as the Knights Templars Guest House. The Tithe Barn, demolished about 1928 stood where 'Bridge House' now stands adjacent further down the hill towards the bridge.

 

The buildings were formed from a late 15th century timber-framed and plastered house with cross wings at the east and west ends. The cross wings originally had jettied upper storeys but the east wing has been built out on the ground storey. No 55 is a later addition and the shop front was added probably in the 18th century.

 

James Abbott made shoes here and opened a number of shops later to be absorbed by K shoes, he also ran a dairy and employed men and held cows and pasture. This side of the business was handed down to his niece who continued to sell milk (probably from the barn next door where 'Bridge House' now stands). The last cobbler to have the shop was Charlie Ralling who took the shop after the last war until he died in 1971, and many Witham residents remember the shop which was like stepping back in time when you entered.

 

Wall decorations were found in number 55, one of which was dated 1606, though the significance of the date is not known. The designs of the wall paintings were similar to contemporary Italian textiles and may have been to represent rich wall hangings.

 

On the outside wall between numbers, 51 and 53 is what appears to have been a shrine. The brickwork appears to be the end of a wide inglenook fireplace, and the chimney stack can be seen emerging from the roof directly above. It is suggested that this was once housed a wayside shrine. Today it is completely bricked up, with just a small arched decoration along the top edge. A plaque below tells us that it was repaired by Edward Mazurek in 1966. There are reports that children used to sit their dolls in the alcove, which therefore must have been much deeper than it is now.

 

A photograph below, taken about the turn of the century shows the recess much the same as it is now, except that it was plastered over.  You can see from this picture that the building was then divided into five properties, although it is now just two, numbers 51 and 53-55.

In the street, just a little down the hill towards the bridge, when workmen were digging the road up to lay some piping they came across something that appeared to be 'like the walls of a Church'. This may have related to a tunnel which is rumoured to have existed linking the Manor House to the Church.

 

Sources: Cyril Taylor; Janet Gyford; Tom Henderson.

 

Text and Photographs: John Palombi and Cyril Taylor unless otherwise accredited. Illustrations: John Finch and Julie & John Denney. Translations: Google.com. Original Concept: Joy Vaughan, Witham Town Centre Strategy Group. Narration: John Rhodes
 

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