The museum tells the fascinating story of the Page family. They set up the Smithy in 1811 and ran it until 1983, when Charles Page died at 91. It is also a celebration of the history of Much Hadham and Little Hadham villages. It is heartwarming to see how local history is kept alive in these little pockets and are run with enormous enthusiasm, enabling future generations to enjoy and connect with their past.
It is awe-inspiring that we can observe art painted hundreds of years ago. The frescos have been a wonderful window to look back in time. A student has made some fabulous costumes from studying the paintings which has helped the past come alive for many who have visited the museum.
I can't believe that I had often passed this gem over the years but that I hadn't heard of it until Phoebe's walk led me there !
Old photo of Much Hadham Forge.
photo courtesy of PhobeTaplin (phoebetaplin.com)
I am saving 'La Pièce-de-résistance' until last and it does really deserve a drum roll and full fanfare!
The hidden gem in the Forge museum was the very well preserved and absolutely fabulous Elizabethan fresco. It is apparently unusual to see such amazing wall paintings in such a humble house but the Elizabethan owner was very political and seemingly an astute social climber. He commissioned them to be painted on the walls of his office and they appear to depict the Queen and her court. The building is directly opposite Hadham Hall, where Queen Elizabeth I stayed on her progress. It is assumed they were commissioned in the hope she would see or hear about them and be honored of their existence.
It is thought that on her death they were quickly covered by wallpaper which gradually built up to many layers over the years. Wallpaper was its saviour as it allowed the paintings to be preserved. They were fortunately discovered after the Page family decided to do a spot of fortuitous decorating.
This is a little taster- it is not possible to photograph the paintings as they are copy-righted but I was advised I could photograph the postcard. It is well worth a visit to see the paintings up close and personal!
I have been spoilt for my choice of F words this week. Fireworks being an obvious one with the celebration of Guy Fawkes night and it was a great back-up plan. However, I was fortunate to visit a hidden gem in the village of Much Hadham that fed seamlessly into my F word blog.
It is embarrassing to confess that despite living in the area for almost 18 years and having worked for a time in Much Hadham that the Forge Museum has previously snuck under my radar.
Luckily I have made friends with an amazing person who has enriched my life and local knowledge. When Phoebe moved to the area from Moscow she carried on doing what she does best alongside her journalism: researching and leading walks. Many a Friday I can be found wandering along one of Phoebe’s local, circular walks. I am also proud to have completed the long distance Harcamlow way, which was not only a physical challenge but also a great one for learning snippets of history and geography. I indulge in the opportunity to enhance my general knowledge; you never know when random facts may be needed for a school quiz.
I can sum up Phoebe's Friday walks in a multitude of F words: Fun, Fitness, Facts but most importantly 'Friendship'.
Last Friday was a short, circular walk around Much Hadham. I am going to gloss over the distressing escaped dog mediated sheep massacre that we unfortunately stumbled upon. It was a reminder of why farmers and ramblers with dogs often have a difficult relationship. I also won't dwell on the flooded road either that I alone decided to leap across, getting one soaking foot but others managed to blag a piggy-back across from those with wellie-boots. The autumn colours were stunning and definitely worth a mention.
Fact of the week: It took 8 years for a Florentine Fresco specailist to loving uncover the wall paintings in The Forge