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Touring Essex

"The deepest Essex few explore where thatch is sunk in flowers and out of the elm and sycamore rise flinty 15th century towers".
John Betjeman

Dedham Vale by Flatford Essex by Barbara Ballard Essex advertises itself as an area of lush landscape, marshland, rivers, and history. It can also be very busy with traffic, as its boundary merges with that of Greater London. It’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, but it’s the attractions that are the focus, not the county line.

Dedham village byBarbara Ballard The Dedham, East Bergholt, and Flatford area (shared with the county of Suffolk) is the most famous Constable “site”. The villages date from Saxon times. This area of outstanding natural beauty is the scene of the painting of Flatford Mill (closed to visitors).

Hatfield Forest, east of Bishop’s Stortford is an ancient woodland and former medieval hunting forest. For the visitor there are walks and nature trails. Witham’s village green, St Nicholas church, and Tudor houses are only part of the town’s attractions. There’s a three-mile walk along the river Brain that runs through the town.

Little Easton Church Tomb by Barbara Ballard Easton Lodge Petro Pavillion by Barbara Ballard Little Easton also attracts the visitor with the Norman church in the village—look for the wall paintings, brasses, and monuments. The Easton Lodge Gardens date from Tudor times and were part of a 10,000 acre estate with a deer park and hunting lodge. The gardens, grounds, and buildings have undergone many changes over the centuries. Perhaps the most fascinating owner was Daisy, Countess of Warwick, collector of monkey, 27 dogs, bird aviaries, 200 red and fallow deer, 900 St Kilda sheep, and Shetland ponies.

Cressing Temple Barley Barn interior by Barbara Ballard Whetmead Nature Reserve is just east of Witham and has riverside walks and wildlife to spot. Nearby are the Cressing Temple barns, 13th century timber-framed buildings. In the wheat barn is a history exhibition. Also on offer are a Tudor walled garden, an Elizabethan granary, a wheelwright's shop, and a forge bakehouse. The whole site makes for an interesting day out. Another barn of note, Prior’s Hall, is found at Widdington, north of Bishop's Stortford. It’s one of the finest surviving medieval barns in south-east England. It has a crown-post roof and aisled interior made from 400 oak trees.

Angel Inn Coggeshall by Barbara Ballard Coggeshall St by Barbara Ballard Another survivor, one of the oldest framed barns in Europe, dating from the 12th century, can be found at Coggeshall, a town of timber-framed houses and traditional inns. The large church of St Peter ad Vincula was built with wool money. In the town is an abbey gatehouse chapel, the remains of Coggeshall Castle, and a town museum.

Paycocke's by Barbara Ballard Mark's Hall Garden by Barbara Ballard 300 metres from the town centre on the road to Braintree is Paycocke’s. This merchant house dates from 1500 and contains rich panelling and woodcarving. Examples of Coggeshall lace are on display along with medieval tiles and bricks and other examples of the town’s history. Just outside of Coggeshall is the Marks Hall Estate and Arboretum, featuring 500 acres of woodland with walks, a 17th century walled garden, and two lakes.

For the visitor, the city of Chelmsford offers a 15th century cathedral and Hylands House and Park, a grade II listed neo-classical villa set in a 509-acre park. Northwest of Chelmsford are two villages, Chignall St James and Chignall Smealey that are home to traditional pargetting cottages. Pleshey village has thatched cottages, while Great Waltham displays a Tudor guildhall on the edge of its churchyard. Boreham village, northeast of Chelmsford invites you to linger with its 15th century inn and its church with Saxon and Norman work. Aythorpe Roding’s windmill is a large 18th century post mill on 4 floors, restored to working order.

Colchester Castle by Barbara Ballard Colchester clock museum by Barbara Ballard
Colchester has much to offer. The castle museum tells the story of Roman times as well as Saxon and medieval days. It has the largest Norman keep in Europe. Tymperley’s Clock museum in Colchester displays its 18th and 19th century clocks in a 15th century timber framed house. St Botolph's Priory near the town station was the first Augustinian priory in England.

Nearby Horham Hall was home to Elizabeth I for a time. There’s a collection of Tudor and 18th century portraits, oak furniture, tapestries, and even a ghost. Bourne Mill, one mile south of the centre of Colchester, was built as a fishing lodge in 1591. It has stepped Dutch gables, a millpond and working machinery. Just west of Colchester is Copford Green, where St Michael and All Angels, a 12th century apsidal church, retains its magnificent coloured medieval wall paintings.

Thaxted Medieval Hall by Barbara Ballard Thaxted Windmill by Barbara Ballard The village of Thaxted is a must for lovers of medieval buildings. A wander around the streets leads to interesting discoveries. Be sure to visit its timber-framed guildhall, 1804 windmill, and 14th century St John the Baptist church. Near Thaxted is Chickney St Mary's Church, an atmospheric and remote church with a 14th century tower, shingled pyramidal roof, Saxon nave and chancel, and an unspoiled interior. Greensted has the oldest wooden church in England, dating to AD 645. The town of Chipping has many traditional buildings. Near Thaxted is Blake Hall with gardens and woodland walks.

Great Tey lies on a minor road six miles west of Colchester in north-east Essex. The rural village is on the edge of Constable country. Here are many historic buildings, some from the 15th and 16th centuries, 12th century St Barnabas church, Saxon and Norman medieval remains, Roman villas, and stone age tools. The area once served as a hunting estate for King Harold.

Marks Tey has buildings dating back to the16th and 17th centuries and St Andrews, a church with a wooden steeple. The village of Little Tey is home to St James the Less church with 12th-13th century wall paintings of national importance.

Ingatestone Hall by Barbara Ballard Ingatestone Hall was built in the 16th century by Sir William Petre, the secretary of state to four Tudor monarchs. It still retains the atmosphere of that time. A tour of the house shows off a priest’s hole, tapestries, portraits and much more.

Finchingfield alms houses by Barbara Ballard Finchingfield church screen by Barbara Ballard Finchingfield is a charming village complete with a pond, old almshouses, a church dating from 1180 and a great tea-room. Braintree is a large town with a museum detailing the history of the area’s former wool and silk weaving industry. The town’s adjoining village, Bocking, still has its medieval cloth merchants’ houses, a windmill, and a historic church.

Castle Hedingham keep interior by Barbara Ballard The village of Castle Hedingham was founded in the 12th century, and timber-framed houses and a church decorate the village’s Falcon Square. The castle keep still watches over the village. At Tilbury is a fort under the care of English Heritage. It’s the finest and best-preserved example of 17th century military engineering in England. Exhibitions are on the site.

Overlooking the Essex marshes is 13th century Hadleigh Castle, snuggled up to Southend-on-Sea. On show are a curtain wall and two towers. Southend-on-Sea boasts it has the longest (1.33 miles) pleasure pier in the world. Its museum tells the story. Southchurch Hall is a half-timbered manor house with period room settings. Clacton-on-Sea claims the country's largest pier along with its sandy beaches.

Saffren Walden by Barbara Ballard 15th century St Mary the Virgin is one of the largest and most beautiful churches in Essex. It’s found in Saffren Walden along with the Old Sun Inn, famous for its molded plasterwork. The town museum displays ceramics and tribal weapons from around the world.

Audley End House by Barbara Ballard Nearby is Audley End House built in the 1600s by the first Earl of Suffolk, treasurer to James I. Constructed on the scale of a royal palace, it’s one of the most significant Jacobean houses in England. Inside is an historic picture collection and furniture, a hall with a Jacobean screen and ceiling, and a great apartment by Adam. The parkland was landscaped by Capability Brown. There are extensive gardens (of note is the parterre), a 170 foot long vinehouse with 8000 plants, and specimen trees and shrubs.

Beth Chatto Garden by Barbara Ballard The Beth Chatto gardens have a water garden with five ponds, a woodland with bulbs, a gravel garden, and many plants in bloom. It’s part of a nursery that sells its plants.

Tiptree Jam varieties by Barbara Ballard Tiptree Jam museum old cherry stoner by Barbara Ballard For a complete change of pace visit the Tiptree Jam Company. It’s home to a delicious array of varities in its shop, a restaurant and most interesting of all a small museum displaying the history of the company along with interesting old jam making equipment. There’s a DVD of the jam making process. Or take a fun ride on the Colne Valley Railroad.

Essex Attractions

Abberton Reservoir Nature Reserve and Visitor Centre
Church Rd, Layer de la Haye
Tel. 0 1206 738 172

Alderford Water Mill
Sible Hedingham
Tel: 0 1787 460 069
Web: Alderford Water Mill

Audley End House and Gardens (EH)
Audley End, Saffren Walden
One mile west of Saffren Walden on B1383 (M11 exits 8, 9 northbound only and 10.) in northwest Essex.
Tel. 0 1799 522 399

Aythorpe Roding Windmill
Off the B184
Tel. 0 7887 662 177

Beth Chatto Garden
.25 mile east of Elmstead Market on the A133
Tel. 0 1206 822 007
For photos and full details see our article Beth Chatto Gardens

Blake Hall Gardens
Bobbingworth, Chipping Ongar
Tel. 0 1277 366 687
Web: Blake Hall Gardens

Bourne Mill (National Trust)
Bourne Road, one mile south of Colchester city centre
Tel. 0 1206 572 422

Braintree Museum
Town Hall Centre Gallery, Market Place Braintree
Tel. 0 1376 553 393

Chelmsford Cathedral
Cathedral Church of St Mary, St Peter, and St Cedd
New St, Chelmsford
Tel. 0 1245 294 480
Web: Chelmsford Cathedral

Chelmsford Museum
Oaklands Park, Moulsham St, Chelmsford, Essex
Tel: 0 1245 605 700
Web: Chelmsford Museum

Coggeshall Grange Barn (National Trust)
Grange Hill, off the A120 Coggeshall bypass road
Tel. 0 1376 562 226

Coggeshall Museum
Web: Coggeshall Museum

Colchester Castle and Museum
High St, Castle Park, Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 282 937
For photos and more information see our article Colchester

Colchester Castle Park
Castle Park, Colchester
For photos and more information see our article Colchester

Colchester Natural History Museum
End of High St, Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 282 941

Colne Valley Railway
Yeldham Rd, Castle Hedingham
Tel. 0 1787 461 174
Web: Colne Valley Railway

Cressing Temple Barns
Witham Road, Cressing, Braintree
On the B1018 about two miles south of Braintree and three miles north of Witham
Tel. 0 1376 584 903
For full details and photos see our article at Cressing Temple

Cudmore Grove Country Park
East Mersea
Tel. 0 1206 383 868

East Anglian Railway Museum
Chappel and Wakes Colne Station, Chappel
Eight miles from the centre of Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 242 524
Web: East Anglian Railway Museum

Easton Lodge Gardens (HHA)
Park Road, Little Easton, by Great Dunmow
Off the B184
Tel. 0 1371 876 979
For photos and more information see our article Easton Lodge Gardens
Web: Easton Lodge Gardens

Epping Forest District Museum
39-41 Sun St, Waltham Abbey
Tel. 0 1992 716 882

Essex Police Museum
Police headquarters
Sandford Road, Springfield Essex
Tel. 0 1245 457 150
Web: Essex Police Museum

Fingringhoe Wick Nature Reserve
South Green Road, Fingringhoe, Colchester
Sign posted off B1025 Colchester to Mersea Island Road
Tel. 0 1206 729 678

Firstsite Contemporary Art Gallery
4 – 6 Short Wyre Street, Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 577 067
See our article on Firstsite:Newsite at Firstsite:Newsite Contemporary Art Gallery
Web: [url=]Firstsite

Great Notley Country Park and Discovery Centre
Great Notely, Braintree Essex

Hadleigh Castle (EH)
Tel. 0 1760 755 161

Hatfield Forest (NT)
Signposted off A120 at Takeley near Bishop's Stortford
Tel. 0 1279 870 678 or 01279 874040 (info line)

Hedingham Castle (HHA)
Castle Hedingham
Tel. 0 1787 460 261
Web: Hedingham Castle

High Woods Country Park
Off Turner Rd, Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 853 588

Hollytrees Museum
Castle Park, Colchester, off High St
Tel. 0 1206 282 940

Horham Hall and Gardens
Near Thaxted, Essex
Tel. 0 1371 830 389

Hylands House and Park
Hylands Park, London Road
Two miles from Chelmsford, A414
Tel. 0 1245 605 500 (house team office hours are Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)

Ingatestone Hall (HHA)
Tel. 0 1277 353 010
For photos and more details see our article Ingatestone Hall

Layer Marney Tower (HHA)
Signed off B1022 from Tiptree or take B1022 south from Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 330 784
Web: Layer Marney Tower

Lexden Earthworks and Bluebottle Grove (English Heritage)
Two miles west of Colchester

Marks Hall Gardens
Just north of Coggeshall, between B1024 and A120
Tel. 0 1376 563 796
For photos and more details see our article Mark’s Hall Estate and Gardens
Web: Marks Hall

Mersea Island Museum
High St, West Mersea
Tel. 0 1206 385 191
Web: Mersea Island Museum

Mountnessing windmill
Roman Rd, Mountnessing

Mountfitchet Castle and Norman Village of 1066
Stansted, Mountfitchet
Tel. 0 1279 813 237
Web: Mountfitchet Castle and Norman Village

Paycocke's Merchant House (NT)
Coggeshall, signposted off A120 on south side of West St
Tel. 0 1376 561 305

Prior’s Hall Barn (EH)
Widdington, southeast of Newport
Tel. 0 1233 582 700

Rainham Marshes (RSPB)
New Tank Hill Rd (A1090)
Purfleet, EC3M 4AJ
Tel. 0 1708 899 840

River Lee Country Park
Both sides of River Lea between Waltham Abbey and Broxbourne, Essex and Hertfordshire
Tel. 0 1992 702 200

Saffren Walden Museum
Museum St, Saffren Waldon
Tel. 0 1799 510 333/510 334

Southend Pier
Tel. 0 1702 618 747
Web: Southend Pier

Southend-on-Sea Pier Museum
Tel. 0 1702 611 214
Web: Southend-on-Sea Pier Museum

St Botolph’s Priory (EH)
Tel. 0 1206 282 920

St Martin’s Church
West Stockwell St, Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 282 920

St Michael and All Angels Church
Off Aldecar Rd, Copford Green, Colchester
Tel. 0 1206 210 488

Stock Tower Mill
Mill lane, Stock, off Mill Road, off the B1007
Tel. 0 7887 662 177

Thorrington Tide Mill
Brighlingsea Rd in Thorrington
Tel. 0 1245 437 663

Tilbury Fort (EH)
.5 mile east of Tilbury off the A126
Tel. 0 1375 858 489

Tiptree Jam Visitor Centre, Museum and Tea-room
Wilkin & Sons Limited
Factory Hill, Tiptree, Tel. 0 1621 814 524 (visitor centre)
Web: Tiptree

Waltham Abbey Gatehouse and Bridge
Waltham Abbey, off the A112
Tel. 0 1992 702 200

Waltham Abbey Church
Highbridge St, Waltham Abbey town
Tel. 0 1992 767 897

Whetmead Nature Reserve
At end of Blackwater Lane, off Maldon Road, Witham
Tel. none

Essex Tourist Information Centres

Town Hall Centre
Market Place, Braintree
Tel. 0 1376 550 066
Fax. 0 1376 344 345

44 High St
Tel. 0 1277 200 300
Fax. 0 1277 202 375

County Hall, Market Road
Tel. 0 1245 283 400
Fax. 0 1245 430 705

23 Pier Avenue
Tel. 0 1255 423 400
Fax. 0 1255 430 906

1 Queen Street
Tel. 0 1206 282 920
Fax. 0 1206 282 924

Tourist Information Centre
Flatford Lane
Flatford, East Bergholt
Tel. 0 1206 299 460

Iconfield Park
Parkeston, Harwich
Tel. 0 1255 506 139
Fax. 0 1255 240 570

Coach Lane
Tel. 0 1621 856 503
Fax. 0 1621 875 873

Saffren Walden
1 Market Place
Saffren Walden
Tel. 0 1799 510 444
Fax. 0 1799 510 445

19 High Street
Tel. 0 1702 215 120
Fax. 0 1702 431 449

Granada Motorway Service Area
M25 Thurrock, Grays
Tel. 0 1708 863 733
Fax. 0 1708 862 440

Waltham Abbey
Unit B, 2-4 Highbridge Street, Waltham Abbey
Tel. 0 1992 652 295
Fax. 0 1992 716 234

Text and Photos © by Barbara Ballard

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Some of our Essex Articles
Ingateston Hall
Cressing Temple
Marks Hall Estate and Arboretum
Beth Chatto gardens
Easton Lodge Gardens
Little Easton Parish Church
Other England Articles

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