Braintree, Essex

Description
Braintree, a small town and parish, and head of a union and county court district, in Essex. The town stands on. The river Blackwater, on the Roman road to Colchester, and on the Maldon, Witham, and Braintree railway, 6 1/2 miles north-north-westward from the Witham Junction of the G.E.R., and 12 NNE of Chelmsford. It was once a seat of the Bishops of London; was constituted a market-town in the time of King John, and owing to its being on the route of pilgrims to Bury-St-Edmunds and Walsingham, it attained some importance; it fell fast into decay after the Reformation, and revived under the influence of trade. The manor was known at the Conquest as Great Rayne or Branchetren, or Branktre, and belonged, till the time of Edward VI., to the Bishops of London. The town is straggling, occupies a rising ground, and connects on the N with Bocking, the two parishes forming one continuous town. The streets for the most part are narrow, and some of the houses are old and timbered, but now considerably renovated and modernized. The parish church (St Michael's) stands on high ground, thought to have been the site of an ancient camp, is Early English and later styles, with a tall spire, was enlarged prior to the Reformation with the proceeds of three plays acted in it. There is a brass to Dr Collins, physician to the Czar of Russia, 1670. The site of the former church, and some vestiges of a palace of the Bishops of London, are half a mile distant. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of St Albans ; net value, £238 with residence. The town is governed by a local board of nine members. It is well drained, and has a good supply of water drawn from two artesian wells. It has a station on the railway, a head post, money order, and telegraph office, two banks, some corn mills, mailings and breweries, and two good hotels. A commodious police station with court-house and every convenience was erected in 1893. In addition to the parish church it has two Baptist chapels, and Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels. There is a cemetery of over 5 acres, a vestry hall, corn exchange, a public hall erected in 1887, a mechanics' institute, and a cottage hospital. A considerable woollen trade sprang up in the time of Elizabeth, but decayed gradually, and its place is taken now by the manufacture of silk and crape, and of brushes and cocoa-nut fibre matting. A weekly market is held on Wednesday for corn and cattle, and fairs are held on 8 and 9 May, and 2, 3, and 4 Oct., the latter being for cattle and hops. There is a weekly newspaper published in the town. Dawes the archbishop, and Tusser the agricultural poet, were born in the neighbourhood. The parish comprises 2218 acres of land and 6 of water; population, 5303.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5

Maps

Old maps of Braintree are available on the old-maps.co.uk site, and a current map is available on the Streetmap.co.uk site.