A short history of Ridgewell
Ridgewell is a small, picturesque village located in a rural area in North West Essex, near the Suffolk border, 15 miles north of Braintree and 6 miles south of Haverhill. The population is around 500, living in 250 or so houses and the village is surrounded by rich arable farm land.
A large, tree-shaded green, surrounded by many listed buildings, is at the centre of the village. The green is bisected by the Colchester to Cambridge road that dates back to Roman times. A large proportion of the village is in a conservation area and in recent years the village has changed very little.
To the east of the green is St Laurence Church that has Norman origins. The nave was rebuilt during the 14th Century with much of the rest of the building renovated during the 15th Century. St Laurence Church has been used by the people of the parish for worship for at least 700 years. Adjacent to the church is the C of E Primary School which was founded in 1871.
The Congregational Church in Meetings Lane, to the north of the village, is the third to be built on the site. Records refer to gatherings in Meetings Lane as early as 1662. The current building was opened in October 1999.
At one time Ridgewell was a place of some importance with its own Trade Guild and was a fully self-supporting parish with many shops including a butcher, dairy, baker, cobbler, tailor, blacksmith and a coal merchant. Clare and Pembroke Colleges in Cambridge originally owned much of the land. Today Ridgewell suffers with the usual malaise of village life and has lost its post office. It has two public houses: The King's Head (15th or 16th Century) and The White Horse Inn (18th Century).
The main business in the parish is agriculture, which was once the largest employer. However, over the years many small farms have combined and, with modern farming techniques, this is no longer the case. Employment opportunities through other small businesses are very limited and today most people work outside the village.
Ridgewell played a major role in the Second World War initially being a base for British Stirlings and, from 1943, home to the American Air Force 381st Bomber Group. This has attracted a number of visitors to the village, particularly American families who had a relative serving here during the war.
The Village Hall, which was erected by public subscription to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation in 1953 and which was extended and upgraded to mark the Millennium, serves as a focal point for many clubs and activities.