A centre for culture

PUBLISHED: 12:57 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013

The Thaxted Almshouses

The Thaxted Almshouses

Thaxted has a unique atmosphere unlike any other Essex town. Amy Ward visits this county capital of culture surrounded by charming countryside...

SET within beautiful countryside, Thaxted is a picturesque town characterised by its remarkable architecture and thriving community. But Thaxted's popularity stretches beyond its residents to the numerous visitors that regularly come to the town to enjoy its various shops, restaurants and pubs - as well as the pleasant surroundings.

Many of the town's buildings have a medieval feel to them and have kept their character over the years. Such buildings include The Guildhall, Thaxted Windmill, the parish church and the Thaxted Almshouses which all reflect the town's historic past.

Thaxted parish church is one of the most striking churches in the county, and is often referred to as the Cathedral of Essex because of its beauty and impressive size. Standing tall on the hilly landscape, it overlooks the town and its splendid spire can be seen for miles. This is why the parish church is the perfect setting for the annual Thaxted Festival.

The festival takes place over four consecutive summer weekends, which tends to be the last two weekends in June and the first two weekends in July. It has been running in this pattern since 1987 and is organised entirely by volunteers who give up their time to contribute to the smooth running of the event. The concerts that are held over the weekends are a selection of diverse musical talents, each creating an enjoyable evening for the audience.

Community effort
The Thaxted Festival Foundation has also been set up and is now a registered charity aiming to support various good causes within the town. The close working of the various aspects of the town's community is a key benefit of the festival. 'The festival is a good way to work with different people within the community, providing entertainment for all ages,' explains Jim Boutwood, chairman of Thaxted Society.

Children from the local primary school are encourage to participate with selected performers being chosen to work with pupils on different music projects. This year Thaxted Primary School put on a performance in conjunction with the festival called the Magic Piper which is based on the Piped Piper of Hamelin. 'It is great how the school works together with the festival - the production this year was absolutely wonderful,' adds Jim.

Over the years Thaxted has built up a strong community, with many clubs and societies having been set up for the different groups of people within the town. One of the most active is Thaxted Morris. Founded in 1911, Thaxted Morris is the oldest revival Morris dancing group in England.

During the 1920s meetings were organised between some the revival clubs and Thaxted were hosts in 1927. There has been a meeting in Thaxted every year since, with the exception of the war years, and in 2008 the club celebrated its 75th annual meeting. Large crowds come to see the spectacle of the Thaxted Morris Ring each year, making it just one more reason why the town is one of the county's most vibrant cultural centres.

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