“I associate my careless boyhood with all that lies on the banks of the Stour,” wrote John Constable, who was born in East Bergholt, nine miles northeast of Colchester in 1776. The house in which he was born has long since disappeared, so it has been left to FLATFORD MILL, a mile or so to the south, to take up the painter’s cause. The mill was owned by his father and was where Constable painted his most celebrated canvas, The Hay Wain (now in London’s National Gallery), which created a sensation when it was exhibited in Paris in 1824. To the chagrin of many of his contemporaries, Constable turned away from the landscape painting conventions of the day, rendering his scenery with a realistic directness that harked back to the Dutch landscape painters of the seventeenth century.
The mill itself – not the one he painted, but a Victorian replacement – is not open to the public and neither is neighbouring Willy Lott’s Cottage, which does actually feature in The Hay Wain, but the National Trust has colonized several local buildings, principally Bridge Cottage.