"Busy street full of our history"
Braintree and Witham Times - July 9 1987

Busy street full of our history

BUSY Bradford Street. Motorists speed through the street to Braintree's modern town centre. But behind the closed doors lie centuries of history dating back to the 12th century. Bradford Street has always been a busy thoroughfare with a colourful history.
In the 14th century pilgrims including John Bunyan trod the streets on their way from London to Bury St Edmunds. Wealthy wool merchants lived in Bradford Street during the prosperous 16th and 17th centuries, including clothier John Ruggles who owned Bradford House.
And earlier this century, picturesque Bradford Street was Braintree's sleezy red light district.
Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Bradford Street, the historic architecture could last well into the next century.
Residents formed the group in 1975 in a bid to preserve the street's character and Braintree's heritage.
Chairman of the Friends, lain Lee, said: "During the 1950s, there was a lot of neglect. Some of the houses were split up into flats and many became derelict".
The objective of the Association is to "protect the fabric of Bradford Street and to improve the quality of life in it for the benefit of its present and future inhabitants." Action includes trying to have traffic re-routed to reduce the damage caused by vibrations. Most of the houses date back to the 13th century and are classed as listed buildings. Keeping them preserved is not a cheap nor an easy business.

Carved beam
Wentworth House was just a shell when Christa Sale and her husband, Peter, bought it in 1976. She said: "For the first 18 months we had to live in a caravan because the house was riddled with death watch beetle, dry rot and word worm."
Eleven years on, the interior has been beautifully restored. But the work does not stop there. Mrs Sale recently found the house's 16th century porch, believed to have been designed by Indigo Jones, in 20 pieces in a Dunmow shop. Mrs Sale said: "It is a life­time's work. All our money goes into it and we still have a lot of work to do." Living in Bradford Street is something of a mystery trail as the residents continually unearth new pieces of history within their walls. Maggie Kingston moved into her 12th century home 17 years ago. Since then she has discovered immaculately preserved wall paintings dating back to the 1500s and a carved beam dating back to Henry VII's time over the fireplace. Mrs Kingston said: "It's a bit like painting the Fourth Bridge. You do something to the house and then you discover something else." Dr Alike Evans has completely relaid the floor of Dragon House using the original bricks. He said: "We have tried to keep it as original as possible considering we have to live here." While Braintree moves into the hi-tech age with a multi-million pound shopping centre, its' past is in safe hands.
    Detailed design from the porch at Wentworth house which is believed to have been designed by Indigo Jones in the 16th Century.