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FORDS AND BRIDGES
In the late nineteenth- century Charles Jones, then Vicar of Dedham, wrote:
'The ford of Dedham lay half-way between Strat-ford and Flat-ford, and the names recall the days when the river was still unbridged. Strat-ford (the ford of the Via Strata) marks the point where the great Roman road from Colchester to Ipswich crossed the Stour; the ford itself probably lay below the present bridge, while at the bend above it was the Roman Camp Ad Anson, the half-way halt for legionaires on the march from Colchester to Ipswich. The Stour formed the old dividing line between the Iceni and Trinobants tribes of [earlier] days, and later between the Angles who took possession of East Anglia, and the East Saxons of Essex. Dedham ford was the lowest at which the river could normally be crossed because Flatford was only available at dry times and seasons, and until the construction of the Mill lock was flooded at all spring tides.'
The earliest reference to a bridge over the Stour at Stratford dates from 1441. In 1548 the churchwardens of Dedham sold some of the communion silver to fund a foot bridge near to Dedham mill. Clearly, in a community bounded by a river which, with its tributaries and seasonal expansions, shapes the landscape, the people of Dedham have always needed to have had 'one eye on the weather'.
As the news of widespread and sustained flooding in the south and west of England, and of high winds in the north and in Wales, and with considerable coastal erosion in Norfolk, we should be grateful that, so far, here in north Essex we have been spared the worst effects of this winter.
There are no bridges as such to be found in the Bible, though river fords get a mention in four Old Testament books. Yet the whole course of the salvation narrative of the scriptures is to explain that, in effect, there is a river of sin that divides heaven and earth, God and humanity; one that, despite our repeated and ingenious attempts at fording it, proved impassable until Jesus Christ, through his death on the Cross, provided the first, the only and the enduring bridge that spans the chasm.
In the course of the weeks leading up to Easter, a time of preparation that the Church calls Lent, there will be extra opportunities provided to re-examine the design, structure, cost and course of that bridge (for example, Night Prayers every Wednesday evening at 8 pm) and, on Easter Day, a joyful commemorative celebration of its opening. You are invited to join in!
Vicar & Lecturer