Context 169 - September 2021

14 C O N T E X T 1 6 9 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 TREVOR DISLEY Saving Dick Nunn’s bridge Blacksmith bridges may once have been common but as an unregarded class they are routinely replaced, so the one in Essex saved by a local campaign is a rare survival. Like his father and grandfather before him, Henry Nunn (1836–96), always known as Dick, was a blacksmith in the small town of Coggeshall in Essex. A formidable and engag- ing character, he delighted in argument and had ‘Let Difference of Opinion Never Alter Friendship’ written in large red letters across the outside of his whitewashed cottage. Dick was a born campaigner who abhorred injustice, fought for rights of way, demolished insanitary cottages and would not see animals mistreated. He defied the authorities in what- ever form they came – landowners, solicitors, police, the surveyor of highways and the lord of the manor. Frequently brought before court, he represented himself, and magistrates often found themselves involuntarily charmed by his character and rustic logic. In 1887, offended by a ruinous cottage near the church, Dick decided that it should come down. Its owner, the lord of the manor, dispatched a lawyer but he was cursorily dismissed: ‘some lord to own such a property!’ Afterwards Dick built a brick wall around the now empty plot and erected a commemorative iron sign: ‘In the Queen’s Jubilee Year, A Wretched Cottage was Standing Here. Pulled down by H Nunn. Long May She Reign’. Eight or nine other hovels suf- fered the same fate. The owners, Dick thought, had fair warning. At a street meeting to decide about another cottage, a woman spoke up. She thought ‘It would be a pity to pull it down as one Celebrating the bridge’s centenary in 1992