Saturday, 14 January 2012

Little Monkhams

About 15 minutes walk away from where I live, there is an old house called Little Monkhams. When I was little, I used to walk past it every day to get to school, as I do now to get to my current school. It was a gorgeous old white house, apparently dating back to the 16th or 17th century, and the scene of many a local ghost story. Once I could swear I saw an old rocking horse in the window, but the next day it was gone...

However, a lot has changed since I was at primary school.

I was unable to find any pictures of how it used to look, but this is how it looks now:

About 4 years ago, a developper whose name shall not be mentioned applied to turn Little Monkhams into a block of flats.

I'll let that sink in. A BLOCK OF FLATS.

Obviously such a suggestion provoked a strong outcry among its neighbours; directly opposite is a small part of Epping Forest, and a block of flats would just not be right, quite apart from the fact that the house itself was such a gorgeous piece of history. The council refused his request.

He then replied he would "rub their faces in it properly", essentially because he planned to build some flats that were completely out of keeping with the aesthetic of the area.

A few months later, the house caught fire at 2.00am after a week of heavy rain, and could not be put out until a substantial amount was destroyed. The cause of the fire was said to be a fault with the wiring. This is in a house that was not connected to the mains. The developper's application was to be reviewed the very next day.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions, shall I?

What makes me sad is that I could find no pictures of this house as it used to be. All of that history, the lives of people who had lived there - gone. This is my poor attempt to do justice to this once-beautiful building.


The old house groaned, creaking out of years of slumber. Bricks heaved, rooms expanded, a rigid structure made soft by oncoming warmth. It remembered.

There were people once. Rooms full of soft, swishing fabric, sadness, laughter. Fireplaces roared in winter, competing along with the sound of voices. Warmth - but not only physical warmth - the warmth of home, of comfort, that soft, yellow feeling.

And later, when flashes of burning white smashed into its neighbours, in the whine of aircraft and the deep, low booms that caved in the windows, when all around was a panic of anxiety and fear, it stood tall. Proud and calm on its hill, it welcomed them in, enveloping them with strong, safe, reassuring brick. Come and shelter. There are deep cellars, and comfort.

Even in the years that followed, the cold years when no laughter rang through the ancient passages and time and squatters peeled the wallpaper, there was still pride. It said: look at me, and remember. I was once great.

But now - a reawakening - a call; and it called back, welcoming the presence of another person, a fresh, new spark.

But a wrong spark. A spark of true heat, fire burning out the insides. Beams split, creaks ran through the timber of the roof. A sliding, roaring, tumble of a crash as the tiles escaped from the burning roof and smashed, as one, on the wet ground.

But it was tired, and glad to go. No-one was there; no-one cared. Only the lingering glory of past days was left, embodied in the steadfast, reaching chimneys, reaching up to the grey skies above with a silent plea.


  1. My grandfather was born there. I think I have some pics.

  2. Great piece about a special place - something I wrote about it before the fire:

  3. Id like to rebuild it. raise the money and restore it.

  4. This was the home of Tom and Mary Thomas, parents of the writer M V Hughes. How tragic to discover this.


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