Walk F: Dedham, Flatford, East Bergholt Circular
A circular route exploring three key locations for Constable's formative years.
Dedham, Flatford, East Bergholt Circular
We will meet at the Mill Lane Car Park in Dedham, and start our walk by contemplating the mezzotint process at the site of Constable’s depiction of Dedham Mill, which developed over multiple stages. You can view the high resolution examples in Cambridge Digital Library.
We then trace the course of the Stour downstream to the location of another water mill at the site of Flatford. London was the destination for the flour and corn produced at these mills, transported in the Constable firm’s barges via the estuary at Mistley on the east coast.
Constable would have been familiar with this route since childhood, as he walked to school in Dedham. 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.
After exploring the ‘River Stour’ scene at Flatford, we will make our way up to the west side of East Bergholt, passing the ‘Summer Evening’ scene, which looks back up the valley to Dedham.
The Constable family home was situated near here, but it was demolished in the 1840s. However, many other buildings along the street are as they would have been in Constable’s day, including of course St Mary the Virgin church.
We’ll pass close to the Old Rectory, where Maria Bicknell, the woman Constable loved lived with her grandfather, Rev Dr Rhudde. Rhudde had strong objections to Constable as a match, and threatened disinheritance if they continued their relationship. Constable was struggling to make money as an artist, and couldn’t support a wife and family on his income.
We will then make our way back down into the valley and along the northern bank of the Stour towards Dedham, finishing back at the Mill Lane Car Park.
Nature! enchanting Nature! in whose form And lineaments divine I trace a hand That errs not, and find raptures still renew'd, Is free to all men - universal prize.
The Task, Book III ─ The Garden, William Cowper, 1785