FRONT GARDEN   |   EARTH   |   THE OLD RECTORY

THE LABYRINTH

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Room 1.
Great Dunmow, England, United Kingdom | 1852

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This modest presbytery is pleasantly situated at the rural heart of Essex in the quiet, unspoiled market town of Great Dunmow. Built in the mid-1800s, the romantic Gothic Revival-style labyrinth paths and picturesque gardens were added in 1772. Occupied since 1793 by Reverend Nathaniel Anthony Grey, the rectory survives the church at Newton Hall, which fell into ruins in the mid-eighteenth century.


After the death of the head gardener in 1839, the rectory gardens were untended for many years. When Tobias Crowe took over his father’s work in 1848, overgrowth and neglect threatened the once-thriving formal garden. His interest in reviving the styles of the Middle Ages mirrors that of the English Pre-Raphaelite movement, harking back to a former golden age before the progression of industrialisation.


Due to being built upon an ancient pagan worship site, the rectory has always been rumoured to be haunted, and its fall into disrepair only encouraged such tales. Smugglers, known as ‘owlers,’ (a name originating from their nocturnal activities), have said to be seen slipping behind the overgrown hedges. Even now the garden is being restored to its former glories, it is still a place children dare not enter.

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© Photography: GilesG Photography/Gavin Conlan   

Great Dunmow, Essex, England

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