A to Z of Essex

PUBLISHED: 10:13 11 April 2008 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

Audley End

Audley End

Do you know your abc of our county? Charlotte Embling has highlighted three aspects of Essex under each letter of the alphabet. The list continues in the June issue of Essex Life. Enjoy!


Audley End
One mile west of Saffron Walden is Audley End House. Originally the site of the Benedictine monastery Walden Abbey, the land was presented to Sir Thomas Audley by Henry VIII in 1538. Although the house that stands today is only about a third of the size of the Jacobean mansion built by Thomas Howard, Audley's grandson, there are still more than 30 rooms to enjoy, as well as the organic kitchen garden and 'Capability' Brown landscaped parkland.
More on Audley End

Aescwine was the first king of the independent Saxon Kingdom of Essex. The kingdom was established in 527AD and Aescwine ruled for 60 years until 587AD. The Kingdom of Essex covered modern day Essex, Hertfordshire and Middlesex and while Colchester was a major town at the time, Aescwine's capital was London.

Essex is of course home to Stansted Airport, the third busiest airport in the UK with 23.5 million passengers a year. For those who like planes but would rather avoid the airport there is the Southend Airshow and the Clacton Airshow with displays by the likes of the Red Arrows.


Billy Bragg
The Bard of Barking, Billy Bragg was born in 1957 in Dagenham. He had a brief spell in the army before embarking on a music career that has lasted for more than 20 years. His music blends elements of folk and punk with lyrics that are mainly political or pertaining to matters of the heart.

The British Vitamin Products Company was founded in the 19th century in Chelmsford and is now one of the leading soft drinks businesses in Great Britain and Northern Ireland with its head office still based in Chelmsford. It was in 1938 that the Britvic juices we see today began to be produced as a way of ensuring that some of Britvic's poorest customers had an affordable way of getting Vitamin C into their diet.

Situated on the banks of the River Crouch in the Maldon District is Burnham-on-Crouch. There is evidence of human activity in the area as far back as the Bronze Age and the village is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086. It has been important as a ferry port and a fishing port, particularly for its oysters. Now it is perhaps most famous for the annual Burnham Week sailing regatta.


Colchester Castle was built around 1076 and mainly used as a prison. Its keep is the largest ever built in Britain due to it being built upon the ruins of the vast Roman Temple of Claudius. All that remains of Hedingham and Hadleigh Castles, are, respectively, a 110ft high Norman keep and the ruins of two towers. Hadleigh has been owned by Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves and Catharine Parr after they were each presented it by Henry VIII.

At more than 300 miles long, Essex has the longest coastline of any English county running from the River Thames in the south to the River Stour in the north. Characterised by marshes and river inlets, the coast is important ecologically, particularly for birds and its beauty and host of attractions ensure it is a popular holiday destination. The history and dynamism of the coast ensures it is integral to the identity of Essex.

With its proximity to London, Essex is an attractive prospect for those who work in the capital but would prefer not to live there. Almost a third of Essex workers commute out of the county to work with almost two thirds of these travelling to London.


Daniel Defoe

Born around 1660, Daniel Defoe is probably most famous for his novel Robinson Crusoe. He was a prolific writer and journalist, considered by some to be the first true English novelist, as well as a spy and a merchant. In the late 17th century Defoe was operating a tile and brick factory in Tilbury and in the early 18th century published a book detailing his journey around the southern counties of England, including Essex.

The village of Dedham is in Dedham Vale to the north of the county near the border with Suffolk. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the area has been an inspiration to artists such as John Constable and Sir Alfred Munnings, to whom there is a museum dedicated in the village.

Dunmow Flitch Trials
Perhaps the ultimate test and recognition of a happy marriage, in a tradition thought to date back to 1104, the trials will award a flitch of bacon to any couples who have been married for at least a year and a day and who can convince a jury that they have, 'not wisht themselves unmarried again'. Held in Great Dunmow, the trials currently occur every four years in a leap year, so July 2008 is the next opportunity to attempt to win the bacon.


Epping Forest

Epping Forest is ancient woodland of almost 6,000 acres that was once part of the Forest of Essex. It was used as a royal hunting ground in Tudor and Elizabethan times and Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge still stands there. Today it is owned by the Corporation of London offering a large variety of recreational facilities and activities throughout the year.

On the morning of April 22, 1884, an earthquake estimated to have had a magnitude of around 4.7 to 5.2 shook Essex. Known as the Colchester Earthquake as the greatest damage was caused to Colchester and the surrounding area, it was the most destructive earthquake ever recorded in Britain and was felt as far away as northern France and Belgium. It damaged more than 1,200 buildings in Essex, but it is not thought anyone was killed.

Entrepreneurial spirit
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive in Essex and the county has more start up businesses than any other. Perhaps the most famous of Essex entrepreneurs is Sir Alan Sugar who founded AMSTRAD in 1968. The company is now owned by BSkyB but the head office remains in Brentwood. Simon Woodroffe, Essex-born founder of the Yo Sushi company started the business in 1997 using his life savings and borrowing heavily from friends and the bank. In 2003 he sold his controlling stake in the company for £10 million.



Lying eight miles to the north of Great Dunmow is the village of Finchingfield. There are records of a settlement there since the time of William I when it was known as Phincingfelda. It has been described as 'the most photographed village in England' which is not a surprise as the village is most certainly picturesque with its village green surrounded by cottages.

Essex plays host to a variety of festivals throughout the year. The Essex Book Festival occurs throughout March and is currently in its ninth year. The Essex Festival of the Countryside runs events in rural Essex from May to September - from village fetes to open air concerts, there's something for everyone. For the popular music-lover the grounds of Hylands House are the venue for the V Festival that takes place each August.

Ford's involvement with Essex began in 1931 with the opening of a factory on a site just outside Dagenham. The firm employed many from the local area, and as demand for cars grew, the factory expanded. It was Dagenham where the famous Cortina was manufactured, one of Ford's most popular cars, and although car production ceased there in 2002, the Dagenham plant is now a global centre of excellence for Ford diesel engine design and manufacture.



There are a multitude of wonderful and varied gardens to enjoy in Essex. In particular Essex has some fabulous examples of modern creations such as the Beth Chatto Gardens in Colchester, RHS Hyde Hall in Chelmsford and the Gibberd Garden in Harlow. There are of course also the traditional on the estates of houses such as Audley End and Hylands, so there is plenty on offer for those who want some inspiration or just a relaxing day out in a beautiful setting.

Graham Gooch
Graham Alan Gooch was born in 1953 in Leytonstone. He started playing for Essex CCC in 1973 and remained there until his retirement from first class cricket in 1997. He was a prolific batsman and is Essex CCC's highest ever run scorer with 30,701 runs. His involvement with Essex cricket did not end with his retirement and he is currently a batting coach and sponsor of the Essex Academy.

The church of St Andrew at Greensted-juxta-Ongar is the oldest existing wooden church in the world, and possibly the oldest wooden building in the world, believed to date from around the middle of the 10th century. Only the nave remains of the original late Saxon or early Norman structure with additions and modifications made to the rest of the building throughout its history.


Hylands House

Hylands House near Chelmsford is a neo-classical style Grade II listed building situated within 574 acres of parkland. Originally a Queen Anne-style redbrick mansion, it was built in 1730 for Sir John Comyns. The house has had ten owners and during World War II was the headquarters of the SAS. Purchased by Chelmsford Borough Council in 1966, extensive restoration of the building commenced in 1986 and was finally completed in 2005.

Harwich is a port town that was probably founded in the late 12th century by the Earl of Norfolk. It has a long history of maritime significance having been used by English monarchs as an important base for coastal defence, especially during the 16th and 17th century wars with France, Spain and Holland. Today it is no longer a naval base, but Harwich International Port lies one mile to the north of the town.

Since Saxon times the county of Essex has been divided into hundreds. Saxon warriors were awarded areas of land called 'marks' which were then grouped into hundreds for administrative and legal purposes. The number of hundreds has varied over time but the 1841 census listed the hundreds in Essex as: Barnstable, Becontree, Chafford, Chelmsford, Clavering, Dengie, Dunmow, Freshwell, Harlow, Harwich, Hinckford, Lexden, Ongar, Rochford, Romford, Tendring, Thurstable, Uttlesford, Waltham, Winstree and Witham.

Easy as ABC
To see what we picked in the second part of the A-Z click here
To see what we included in the final installment click here

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