Walk A: East Bergholt to Dedham via Flatford
These are three key locations for Constable's formative years: his father, Golding Constable, owned mills in each of these places. Constable's family home was situated in East Bergholt, and John trod the path to Dedham every day to school.
East Bergholt to Dedham via Flatford
We start in the centre of the town in which Constable’s father, Golding Constable, built a new house in 1774, moving his family from their home in a mill house in Flatford, a mile south on the river Stour [literally, a ‘flat ford’ settlement, where cattle could cross].
The walk traces the sites of the mills in the family business, first a windmill on East Bergholt common, in which John worked, watching the sky and learning to understand cloud patterns. We’ll read and discuss Constable’s text on this location written around 1833-35 for a later edition of ‘English Landscape’.
We then move onward to sites of watermills at Flatford and Dedham. London was the destination for the flour and corn produced here, transported in the Constable firm’s barges via the estuary at Mistley on the east coast.
From Flatford, we’ll trace the course of the Stour for just under two miles to Dedham, where Constable went to school. In Constable’s time the towpath between these locations switched from bank to bank, as it crossed into territory of multiple adjacent landowners. Horses had to be trained to leap onto special platforms on the barges and stay steady while they were carried across the river.
We’ll end the route by looking closely at one of Constable’s depictions of Dedham Mill, which developed over multiple stages.
Hence the breath of life informing each organic frame; Hence the green earth, and wild resounding waves; Hence light and shade alternate, warmth and cold, and bright and dewy clouds, and vernal show'rs, and all the fair variety of things.
The Pleasures Of Imagination, Mark Akenside, 1744