Constable Country (Dedham, Essex)
Dedham is small village on the River Stour, closely associated with John Constable, landscape painter. The Vale of Dedham is known as Constable Country, although it does not have any exact geographic limits. Constable's father owned Dedham Water Mill, which has now been replaced by a Victorian red brick building. A painting by Constable of his father's mill is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Dedham is one and a half miles along the River Stour, from Flatford Mill and Willy Lott's Cottage, which is a prominent feature of Constable's famous painting, "The Hay Wain". Flatford Mill, also owned by his father, is the subject of several paintings by John Constable.
The sixteenth century Church of St. Mary at Dedham, or more particularly its tower, is often seen in the distance in Constable's paintings. Sometimes it is painted oversized and used as a focal point. The church is outstanding for the richness of its roof carvings, which contain the trademark of Thomas Webbe, the wool merchant, whose money provided for the building of the church.
John Constable attended the Grammar School in Dedham in the 1780s, after his initial education in Lavenham. The grammar school is now two private houses.
Constable is not the only artist associated with Dedham. Sir Alfred Munnings, (1878-1959) known for his paintings of horses, lived at Castle House in Dedham from 1920. He lost the sight of one eye early in his career, but became President of the Royal Academy in 1944.
Sherman's Hall is the ancestral home of the Sherman family and ancestors of William Sherman, the American Civil War General on the Northern side and the designer of the World War II Sherman Tank. The Sherman family were wool merchants in the 15th century. In 1634, Samuel Sherman settled in Contentment, near Boston, Massachusetts. Contentment was later renamed Dedham.
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