Local Legends: Thomas and Constance Taylor
We’ve come across some fascinating stories while researching our new school workshop, Local Legends, telling the stories of some important local people…
Part of the building that Epping Forest District Museum now occupies on Sun Street, Waltham Abbey was a house in Tudor times, built during the reign of King Henry VIII. Over the years many things have been found in the old house which give us clues about the people who have lived and worked here.
The fabric of the building itself holds traces of the previous occupants. On the ground floor is a fireplace with a wooden lintel above. The letters ‘TCxT’ have been hammered into the lintel in iron nails.
TCT probably refers to Thomas and Constance Taylor, who records suggest were tenants in the house from 1675. At this time the house had just come into the ownership of James Dobson of Covent Garden, who was a leading member of the Company of Drapers in London.
The Taylor family appear to have lived at the house on Sun Street for over twenty years, until 1697. Baptism records from the Abbey Church, Waltham Abbey tell us that Thomas and Constance Taylor had six children christened there between 1671 and 1680; some of the children would have been born while the family lived at the house.
The family lived through uncertain times; there was a power struggle between Parliament and the monarchy, and there were many claims for the throne. Charles II, James II and William and Mary of Orange all ruled as monarchs over the two decades that the Taylor family lived in the house.
There is a small “x” driven into the lintel alongside the initials “TCT”. This may be a small cross. In the past, people believed in witches, and thought they could get into a house through the chimney, as well as through doors and windows. It was common to try and scare away witches using iron crosses., so these iron nails may have been driven into the lintel by the Taylor family in an attempt to keep witches – and bad luck – away.
Constance Taylor died in 1686, but the iron nails are still there above the fireplace today for visitors to the museum to see. Superstitions change over the years, but it seems that none of the subsequent tenants or owners of the building have wanted to take the nails out. Perhaps no one has liked to remove them, just in case they are helping to keep bad luck at bay?