Key History

An ancient kingdom, now a flat county of contrasts, where London expanded from the west towards mysterious marshes, seacoast and estuary

AD43 Colchester - thought to be Britain's oldest recorded town - is captured by the Romans.

653 St Cedd built St Peters on the Wall, Bradwell on Sea, as consecrated Bishop of Essex.

991 The Battle of Maldon epic poem records the death of the giant Saxon hero, reputed to be 6'9" tall.

1066 After defeat in the Battle of Hastings, King Harold was buried at Waltham Holy Cross.

1381 Dissidents from a number of Thameside villages are prominent in the Peasants' Revolt.

1588 Elizabeth I rallies her troops camped to the north of Tilbury.

1646 Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins of Manningtree searches for sin amongst vulnerable residents of north-east Essex.

1648 The cannon Humpty Dumpty' falls from a Colchester building and the siege of Royalists ends in Parliamentary victory.

1698-1703 Essex-born adventurer Henry Winstanley builds his first Eddystone Lighthouse, and dies with it in a great storm.

1798 General Sir John Moore plans defence of London from Danbury.

1806 The Taylor sisters of Colchester and Ongar first publish Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

1835 Construction work begins at Southend on the world's longest pleasure pier.

1850 Barking has the largest fishing fleet in the world to supply London.

1898 Guglielmo Marconi opens his radio factory at Chelmsford.

2004 Momentous archaeological discovery of a Saxon noble's grave at Prittlewell.

Once a kingdom named for the East Saxons, Essex is now special for the quiet beauty of picturesque preserved villages, stately homes and monuments. The population exceeds 1.4 million and it has 3,500 square kilometres. To the west is London and Epping Forest, and to the north, south, and east are 150 miles of sea-coast and riverside.

Colchester claims to be the oldest recorded town in the UK and was a capital before the Romans invaded. Harwich was the port linked with the continental postal service. Chelmsford, the county town, is a diocese with a cathedral. Thurrock and Southend-on-Sea, both in the south, now have a separate political existence. As transport developed many East Londoners moved their Essex holiday haunts from the forest to the sea-side.

Several rivers flow east and empty into the North Sea: at Harwich the Stour; near Colchester, the Colne; near Maldon, the Blackwater; near Burnham, the Crouch; and at Shoeburyness, the Thames. The Rivers Can and Chelmer are at Chelmsford, with a waterway to Maldon and the sea, while the Rivers Lee and Roding flow south to the Thames. Hills at Danbury, Horndon and west of Saffron Walden were defensive points against invaders. Finchingfield claims to be the prettiest village in England and Saffron Walden was recently crowned the most pleasant place to live.

The Thames has ports and the huge Ford motor complex is at Dagenham. Victorian Barking fed Londoners with the largest fishing fleet in the world. There are famous oyster beds at Maldon

"Victorian Barking fed Londoners with the largest fishing fleet in the world. There are famous oyster beds at Maldon and Colchester and clothing and silk weavers thrived in the north-east"

AUDLEY END: Commissioned by Thomas, first Earl of Suffolk, to entertain his monarch, James I - but he fell out of favour in the 1620s and the house became a burden and Colchester, and clothing and silk weavers thrived in the north-east. Chelmsford was home to radio and telegraph factories of Marconi and Colonel Crompton, and Prittlewell to EK Cole's Ekco Radio works. Bata's shoe factory was at Linford while the Royal Gunpowder Mills have been by the River Lee for more than three centuries.

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