They still flock to Chigwell

PUBLISHED: 11:00 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 15:07 20 February 2013

The King's Head, Chigwell

The King's Head, Chigwell

Home of the famous sitcom Birds of a Feather and long associated as a hang out of the rich and famous, Elaine Sivyer discovers why Chigwell causes such a stir

CHIGWELL is not known for keeping a low profile and has attracted its share of attention over the centuries.

Charles Dickens was so enamoured with the village that he once wrote to a friend, 'Chigwell, my dear fellow, is the greatest place in the world'. It is even suggested that the Maypole Inn, featured in his novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty, was based on the King's Head Inn in Chigwell.

The King's Head could well be straight out of a Dickensian novel. More than 500 years old, this startlingly vast building boasts three storeys, with attics, cellars and beautiful exposed timber framing. It is well worth the trip up the hill to see one of the finest and most dramatic pubs in Essex.

Several other notable characters from history seem to have agreed, and the King's Head has counted Winston Churchill among its patrons on visits to his Woodford Green constituency. Somewhat less respectable - but no less famous - Dick Turpin was also said to sup here, his hide being only three miles away in a cottage near High Beech.

A mere stone's throw away stands one of the oldest and foremost public schools in the country, founded at the behest of Samuel Harsnett, Archbishop of York, in 1629. Among its many famous past pupils is William Penn, who went on to found Pennsylvania. The original 17th century schoolroom where Penn was taught still exists, and today is the school library.

While Chigwell enjoys such long-standing institutions, much has changed since its traditional days as a rural farming community. Chigwell is still celebrated as a lingering bastion of the countryside, and local people take pride in the fact that theirs is the first Essex village encountered when travelling from London. True to form, pick your spot and swaths of greenery roll out as far as the eye can see, while the atmosphere has a tranquility offering relief from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

Yet Chigwell has welcomed the comforts of modern living with open arms and is far removed from a rural retreat suspended in time. One look into the King William IV pub on the High Road shows that Chigwell can leap from the low-slung timbers of ye olde world to sleek, trendy interiors in a single bound.

Now largely suburban, Chigwell caters well for commuters with a tube station transporting its passengers straight into the heart of London. It has long been a desirable place to live, with residents appreciating a taste of village life alongside access to all the amenities of the City.

The area attracts affluence and has a reputation for a high class of property. Large modern houses, many built in striking and individual styles, line the roads and make for impressive viewing. Particularly spectacular are those congregated around the 18-hole golf course situated on the border of Epping Forest.
Indeed, Chigwell has become nationally famous for its supposed lifestyle - but rather through fiction than fact. This reputation was largely established by the popular British sitcom Birds of a Feather, based in the village. The colourful antics of its residents Sharon, Tracey and Dorien ensured Chigwell was a household name throughout the 1990s and beyond.

Chigwell was further immortalised following the TV series Essex Wives and has since been referred to, along with Loughton and Buckhurst Hill, as part of the Essex 'golden triangle'.

While artistic license has played a mischievous hand in such representations, Chigwell does have its fair share of high profile and wealthy residents. The area is particularly known for sporting personalities, entertainers and entrepreneurs, who may be attracted by the substantial properties standing in their own grounds. Such luminaries have included tough-talking host of The Apprentice Sir Alan Sugar, and footballing greats Bobby Moore and Sir Geoff Hurst.

One of the most legendary properties in Chigwell was Belmont Hall and its accompanying Gate Lodge. Built in 1810 and covering some 47 acres, Belmont Hall was once home to the Earl of Stradbroke. Sadly, however, Belmont Hall was ravaged by fire in 1973, sparing only what was once the carriage and stable block.

Today, what little can be seen of Belmont Hall stands about 250 yards from the present Chigwell Hall. From here, traces of both original driveways can still be viewed leading from the High Road towards what were two elegant estates. Belmont Lodge remains at the front entrance - a reminder of Belmont's past splendour.

Chigwell has clearly seen plenty of the limelight over the years. However, those who know the village best are proud of its community spirit and unique identity. With many assets for residents and visitors to enjoy, there is something for everyone from all walks of life.


More from Out & About

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

We’ve put together 15 questions that will push your knowledge of Essex to the limit - let us know how you’ve done on social media!

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From James Bond to Batman, Essex has been known to bask in a little Hollywood glitz. Here are 19 that have used our county’s incredible locations on the big screen

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Spend Halloween hunting down ghouls and ghosts in the county’s most haunted places and spaces. We pick 10 absolutely terrifying locations to visit this October.

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Chelmsford is on the rise, blossoming from its city status. One iconic landmark which has been part of the landscape for 300 years, and is also enjoying a renaissance, is Hylands House. Petra Hornsby reveals more

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Laurie Page of the Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council shares with us this beautiful six-mile walk around Bradwell’s stunning coastal delights

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

With one of the warmest and driest summers on record, this year has been a difficult one for gardeners. Susie Bulman from The Beth Chatto Gardens at Elmstead Market shares some top tips for plant survival, even in these conditions

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Our county’s remaining windmills stand the test of time as a tribute to a bygone era. Mica Bale highlights some of the best examples in Essex

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Whether you’re looking for a memorable day trip or an impromptu weekend getaway, Essex is a perfect patchwork of all the little things we love about Britain. Proudly showcasing the charm of the county, we pick 13 towns you must visit when planning a trip to Essex

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

This walk from the town of Bures on the Essex and Suffolk border leads you through the Essex countryside to the little villages of Alphamstone and Lamarsh | Words and photos: Laurie Page Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A popular Southend escape game venue has launched a new room inspired by the town’s seafaring past

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search