Heavenly Halstead

PUBLISHED: 14:26 17 April 2009 | UPDATED: 15:56 20 February 2013

Thelma Salmon, Halstead Icing

Thelma Salmon, Halstead Icing

Home to a number of historic Essex industries, Halstead has maintained an individuality that makes it a pleasant place to live and work, writes Jo JarvisPhotography by Paula Davies

HALSTEAD is one of the most attractive towns in
East Anglia. Untainted by the scores of chain stores that can make so many town centres look identical, people return to Halstead again and again to enjoy a day out
with a difference.

Located in the Colne Valley in northeast Essex, Halstead is surrounded by largely unspoilt countryside. There is a variety of local attractions including a walk along the banks of the River Colne, the beauty of Trinity Street's gardens, the history of St Andrew's Church and the striking nature
of the town's architecture which ranges from Georgian buildings in the High Street to the Tudor Bull Hotel in Bridge Street.

Weekly market
It first began to flourish in 1251 when it was granted a market charter by Henry III and almost eight centuries later the weekly market, which is held on Market Hill every Friday and Saturday, continues to draw in hundreds of visitors a week.

'The biggest asset is the town itself - shop
owners always welcome customers with
a warm and friendly smile'

For many years the rural town has been linked with the textile industry, firstly in the mid-1400s with the making of Halstead cloth, and later in 1825 with Samuel Courtauld's silk. It is also renowned for Tortoise stoves, which were invented in the town in 1870 by Charles Portway. The Portway family continued to produce the stoves in the town up until four years ago and in all that time they did not alter. Thanks to members of the Halstead Historical Society, a museum is going to open in the Old Mill where the town council is based on April 26, and one of the ovens will be on display.

However, despite these industries disappearing, Halstead is still a thriving commercial village. The town is also home to around 30 pubs and bars, and more than 100 shops including a Post Office, a butchers, craft and fashion
stores and a book shop.

Halstead has managed to retain its uniqueness with its large assortment of individual shops which includes Eden lingerie boutique, Willow Galleries and Halstead Icing, which offers cake decoration classes.

Michael Portway, Charles Portway's great grandson and president of Halstead Historical Society as well as
vice-chairman of Halstead Chamber of Trade, said: 'It is fantastic that there are so many individual shops that
are unique to Halstead.

'What's also nice is that there's a good community feel
and everyone is working together in the town which I believe came about after Halstead in Bloom was formed around ten years ago - it's bought the town together
like nothing else has done before.

'We have won a Gilt Silver Award in the Anglia in Bloom Awards and when you walk around the town you can see how wonderful it looks with hanging baskets up and
down the High Street.'

Steve Kirby, owner of Steve's Hardware and chairman
of Halstead Chamber of Trade, moved to Halstead
from London 16 years ago and is sure he would not
live anywhere else.

'It's a lovely town and you would need a crowbar to get
me out of here,' says Steve. 'The biggest asset is the
town itself - shop owners always welcome customers
with a friendly smile, it's pretty, kept clean and five minutes up the road you have farming land and countryside.'

Halstead is a great place to be and has lots to offer and still it continues to grow. To keep up with the 21st century several housing estates have been developed and a hospital, medical centre, swimming pool, leisure centre
and a theatre have been established to cater for the
growing population, which currently stands at around 11,000 people.

If you want to explore a friendly town bursting with
history and quaint shops - visit Halstead.

Latest from the Essex Life