Christmas over – time to start venturing out in my new home town to find some groups to join. In early January I discovered the Kitsch Knit and Stitch group ( found it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Kitsch-Knit-and-Stitch-group-Maldon-180780608608550/ ) that meets once a fortnight on Wednesday evenings at Oak House coffee shop and bar in Maldon (www.oakhouse.co.uk). It’s a bit daunting going to a new group on your own for the first time, but this seemed a good way to start meeting people and making new friends. We’d already found the coffee shop which is definitely worth a visit, so I was fairly confident I could find my way without getting lost! By the end of the evening I had got talking to someone with lots of common interests and being outnumbered by sewers and knitters, I had somehow been “volunteered” to crochet a wig and been booked on the Christmas meal which was scheduled for the second get together in January. (Not sure why it hadn’t happened in December …. but that was a bonus for me!)
Just along the high street from Oak House is The Moot Hall (www.moothall.co.uk) which has existed since the 15th century and is believed to be the oldest, decorated, secular brick building in the UK. Owned by the town since 1576, it’s been the town hall, a prison, a courthouse, charter house, armoury, council chamber and public meeting space. Currently it’s used for various events such as exhibitions and performances and is also available for weddings. The internal brick work is amazing and from the roof there are views all over Maldon and as far as Southend on Sea on a clear day. This is where the wig comes in! From March to October there are guided tours of the Moot Hall and visitors are able to try on judges gowns and, until recently, a judge’s wig . My new friend at the knit and stitch group is one of the tour guides and was looking for someone to replace the crocheted wig which visitors could try on. At some point it had disappeared – someone had obviously taken a fancy to it!
Visitors come from far and wide to view the Moot Hall. An Australian visitor told a guide how one of his ancestors had been deported to Australia from Maldon at the age of 18, for stealing a small amount of bread from the market. The step in the courtroom is a poignant reminder of how young children were treated very harshly and put on trial for what now seem fairly minor misdemeanours. The original prison door which stands in the committee room, as well as the brick walls surrounding the external courtyard where prisoners exercised, are covered with initials and names carved into their surfaces. We were amazed at the neat and sometimes ornate formation of the letters, when you would expect most people imprisoned there to be poorly educated. It would be interesting to find out a bit more about the people who spent time imprisoned there. If you are in the area, the Moot Hall is well worth exploring – it is full of history.
A few weeks on and I have completed the replacement wig having found a pattern on the internet to base it on. (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/barristers-wig). The original wig is kept at the Moot Hall, but is too fragile (and a bit too greasy!!) for visitors to try on. My version is made from British wool supplied by www.naturalyarn.co.uk based just down the road in Witham. The DK yarn comes from white faced woodland sheep on the Wimpole estate in Cambridgeshire, owned by the National Trust. It proved to be a good choice – I am pleased with the result. The wig is on its way to the Moot Hall ready for this year’s guided tours.