A town guide to Coggeshall
PUBLISHED: 16:49 22 August 2016 | UPDATED: 16:49 22 August 2016
Located in the heart of the Essex countryside, Coggeshall is one of the county's most picturesque destinations. Petra Hornsby explores the reasons behind the town's appeal, both today and in times gone by.
Coggeshall may not be one of the county’s largest towns, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in charm, historical interest and sporting character. In fact, there are several reasons to visit Coggeshall as even those just driving through will be tempted to stop and admire the pretty timbered houses and terraced streets in closer detail. It is a town that speaks of a time (like many Essex towns) of great prosperity during the Middle Ages, but with a history that dates back to the Saxons and yes, there’s evidence the Romans pitched up here too.
For Coggeshall it was the textile industry (specifically wool, silk and velvet) that brought wealth to the town, making it once one of the most industrialised areas in Essex, which is hard to believe now. One building that stands as proof of this financial boom is Paycocke’s House. The Paycockes were butchers who moved to Coggeshall in the 15th century and whose large flocks of sheep supplied meat to the village and wool for weaving. The house, now owned by the National Trust, was a wedding gift for their son and daughter-in-law and the interior has some fine examples of wood panelling and carvings.
Another intriguing building is Grange Barn, which was built by Cistercians in the 13th century. It is one of the oldest timber-framed buildings still standing in Europe. Although it remained in agricultural use until 1960, it too is now owned by the National Trust and houses a display of farm equipment, while the house can be hired for special events.
One way to appreciate the appeal of Coggeshall and understand some of its history is to undertake an easy, three-mile circular walk from Grange Barn round to Paycocke’s House and along the River Blackwater. Starting from the Grange Barn car park, the walk incorporates part of the Essex Way and crosses the River Blackwater via Nunn’s Bridge, which dates back to 1896. It also goes via West Street Vineyard – a great place to purchase fine wine, book a table for dinner or pause for a refreshing afternoon tea.
The route, having wound its way to the town centre, then gives walkers the option of rejoining the Essex Way eastwards to take in the sights of St Nicholas Chapel and the abbey ruins. The abbey was founded in 1140 and it became Cistercian in 1147. However, it was closed down during Henry’s VIII’s infamous Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1500s. The walk is dog friendly and takes about an hour and a half.
Those keen to learn more about the town’s rich history can also visit the Coggeshall Museum and History Centre, which is based at the Village Hall in Stoneham Street. The Coggeshall of today features some lovely independent shops as well as a pharmacy, supermarket, Post Office and a garden centre. The Clockhouse Tea Rooms and the White Hart Hotel provide refreshments as well as another taste of the town’s history. Every Thursday morning, a market is held in Stoneham Street and a farmers’ market is held monthly in the village hall, selling a range of local meats, cheeses, breads, cakes and pies as well as many other products and foods. All profits raised go to local good causes.
Coggeshall is served by its parish council and by Braintree District Council. It has a good pre-school, plus primary and secondary schools, a doctor’s surgery, dentist and opticians providing services for a population of around 4,000. Every summer, the town continues to celebrate its heritage and history with a lively carnival.
The town also has a proud sporting history. Coggeshall Football Club was founded in 1878 and jointly holds the title as the second oldest football club in Essex. Club colours are red and black and it is believed the club nickname, The Seedgrowers, refers to founder members from JK King & Sons – a local family seed business. The club plays at West Street and currently has two senior teams both of which were successful in being promoted last season. The first team is now playing in the Eastern Counties League Division One and the reserves play in the Essex and Suffolk Border League Premier Division.
The club has more than 150 members and has a healthy youth division with teams ranging from the under fives to the under 17s. Two of the competing youth teams play in the Colchester and District Youth League and the others participate in the Blackwater Dengie Youth Football League. This summer the club hosted teams from both Colchester United FC and Ipswich Town FC, attracting hundreds of spectators to see just how well they can compete with the bigger local names. The current committee is working hard to develop opportunities for the club and looking to a positive and exciting future for Coggeshall’s aspiring Rooneys and Ronaldos.
Cricket is also alive and well in the town. Although not as old as the football club, the cricket club has knocked up its own century of providing teams to take part in local leagues and cup competitions. It currently sends out five teams each weekend. On Saturdays Coggeshall teams compete in the Marshall Hatchick Two Counties League in Divisions 1, 3 and Division 8 South and on Sundays, teams participate in the Piri Piri NECL Divisions 4 and 5.
By all accounts, not only is the club extremely welcoming, it also likes to have some fun too by hosting various fundraising events that have included a beer festival, several quiz nights and a ladies’ day. Like the football club, CTCC has an active youth section – The Colts – whose development is encouraged by involvement in Kwik cricket tournaments and young players are encouraged to take part in Sunday games with the senior team. All equipment is supplied and for those interested the club has a website and a facebook page for more information on current events and tournaments as well as team news.
The town is also fortunate to have its own Community Swimming Pool, located at the rear of Honywood Community Science School. As well as offering various swim times to suit everyone with various slots for the general public, family swimming or adults, the pool also provides lessons for beginners and improvers from the ages of four upwards. In addition, a course was held this summer for those wanting to obtain a National Pool Lifeguard Qualification. The pool is also available for private events such as birthday parties or can be hired for nervous swimmers or for those with other needs and requirements.
Coggeshall has a great past that has helped shape the town today and it is clear that, in modern times, the town has developed into a lively and close community of its own making – one that in several centuries to come will no doubt be recorded in the history books of the future.
Find out more
For the full route of the three-mile walk, visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk and search Coggeshall walks. You can find out more about the other local groups by visiting these websites.