Local photographer captures beauty of Essex towns & villages

PUBLISHED: 17:51 20 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 24 August 2020

Ashdon (photo: Robert Hatton)

Ashdon (photo: Robert Hatton)


Two years ago, Robert Hatton set himself the challenge of creating an Essex Photo Sketchbook to showcase some of his favourite parts of the county. Here he shares his results with readers of Essex Life

As an Essex-based landscape photographer travelling throughout the county, I am always amazed by the beauty and history associated with the Essex villages. In 2018 I was asked to produce a number of photographs for a local public house, the theme being towns and villages of Essex. While working on this commission it dawned on me that making photo sketches of these hamlets would be a perfect personal project. Over two years I visited some of my favourite locations in the county on several occasions, gathering images that are now included in a new e-book. Here I share just a few highlights from the book with Essex Life readers.

Ashdon: Ashdon sits about 4 miles from Saffron Walden in northwest Essex and can be traced back to Roman settlements. The name Ashdon means ‘hill of ash trees’ and the area has been linked to a possible site for the Battle of Assandun in 1016, which allowed the Danish King Cnut to claim the throne of England. As can be seen from this image, there is a windmill on the hill above the village, Bragg’s Mill, which has recently been renovated and is one of the few remaining post mills in Essex.

Dedham (photo: Robert Hatton)Dedham (photo: Robert Hatton)

Dedham: Dedham is a village in the northeast of Essex lying next to the River Stour, which forms part of the border between Suffolk and Essex. Following the decline in the wool trade around 1500, Dedham forged a new character as a seat of learning, with Elizabeth I issuing a dispensation for the formation of a grammar school. Now the surrounding Dedham Vale is the heart of Constable Country, taking its name from the landscape artist John Constable who attended the grammar school mentioned above and took inspiration from the local scenery. The area around the village is considered to contain some of England’s most beautiful lowland landscapes.

Leigh on Sea: Archaeological finds of pottery and coins from the Romano-British era in the locality of Leigh suggest an early settlement here from at least the Saxon period. From the Middle Ages onward, Leigh moved from being much of a backwater (with its fortunes ebbing and flowing with the increasing and diminishing maritime trade), to a 20th century western suburb of Southend on Sea. Nevertheless, the maritime heritage remains and the fishermen of Leigh played a significant role in the World War II tale of Dunkirk, risking their own lives to rescue survivors of the British Expeditionary Force from the French beaches.

Leigh on Sea (photo: Robert Hatton)Leigh on Sea (photo: Robert Hatton)

Orsett: Orsett was a large settlement in the Domesday Book, located in the Hundreds of Barstable, it had a recorded population of 61 households and had two owners listed, The Bishop of London and Count Eustace of Boulogne. There is evidence of some Neolithic activity in the form of concentric ditches with a number of causeways, these were however later used by the Saxons as burial grounds. Before a national system of policing was set up, each village had its own lock up to detain petty criminals and drunks. Orsett’s lock up was removed in the mid-19th century but restored in the mid-20th century and today sits on the junction of the High Street and Pound Lane.

Thaxted: The earliest record of any church in Thaxted is in 981, the structure was replaced in the 14th/15th century. Although it was probably acting as a market town long before this, in 1205 it was granted a charter to do so. The windmill at Thaxted was built in 1804 for John Webb, a local farmer. Its main use was to satisfy the increasing need for milled flour in the growing London. The ownership of the windmill passed to the local council and then to the Thaxted Society who have since had it fully restored.

Orsett (photo: Robert Hatton)Orsett (photo: Robert Hatton)

Find out more: Download Robert Hatton’s Essex Photo Sketchbook via roberthattonphotography.co.uk/Gallery.html

Thaxted (photo: Robert Hatton)Thaxted (photo: Robert Hatton)

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