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Once upon a time in WIVENHOE

PUBLISHED: 11:05 12 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:42 20 February 2013

St Mary the Virgin's Church, undated postcard The church was 'improved' during the mid-19th century and very nearly lost the familiar cupola on its tower. It was only saved because the scheme overspent and there were no funds for its removal

St Mary the Virgin's Church, undated postcard The church was 'improved' during the mid-19th century and very nearly lost the familiar cupola on its tower. It was only saved because the scheme overspent and there were no funds for its removal

From Saxon village to seat of learning, Deborah Peers looks at the Essex Record Office's images of Wivenhoe


WIVENHOE's earliest origins are suggested by its Saxon name, which is thought to mean Wifa's Ridge, although sadly there is no evidence of who Wifa may have been.

Like many Essex villages and towns it is recorded in the Domesday Book, where the victorious Normans noted the 12 acres of meadow, the mill and pasture for some 60 sheep.

The following centuries saw Wivenhoe develop around the quay area. Until the late 19th century, it was effectively a port for Colchester as the Colne was not navigable for large ships past Wivenhoe.

In 1890 Kelly's Directory observed of Wivenhoe that, 'There is a good quay and the population is largely engaged in the fishery of oysters and sprats...ship and yacht building is carried on here'. The population was a little more than 2,000, and a railway station had been opened in the 1860s.

In more rect times, perhaps the single greatest change to Wivenhoe came about in the 1960s when Wivenhoe Park, once immortalised by John Constable, was chosen as the location for the newly-created University of Essex.


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