Braintree, Essex is a bustling market town and the main settlement of the Braintree District. It’s situated 10 miles northeast of Chelmsford and 40 miles from London. Located on the River Blackwater, the town has plenty of character. With quaint old streets and beautiful buildings, the town is a lovely place to visit.
A brief history of Braintree
Braintree was once a Bronze Age settlement dating back to over 4,000 years ago. Houses were built near the river on the lower parts of town. When the Romans invaded, they built two roads and the settlement grew at the junction of these roads. The town was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086, where it was noted as a small village consisting of 30 acres. The town grew in size and received a market charter in 1190.
As far back as the 14th century, Braintree was involved in processing and manufacturing woollen cloth. When Flemish immigrants arrived in the 17th century, the town’s industry really took off. The markets for the woollen cloth expanded overseas to Spain and Portugal. When the wool industry died out in the 19th century, silk production took its place. Silk mills opened in town, and by the end of the 19th century, Braintree was a flourishing agricultural and textile town. The arrival of the railways around this time helped the town establish itself as a centre for textiles. The industries have left the town with a fascinating architectural heritage.
Things to do in Braintree
Great Notley Country Park
For a day out in nature, the Great Notley Country Park covers 100 acres of open space. It’s a great place to take the kids, as the park is home to both the Sky Ropes high ropes adventure course, and Essex’s longest children’s play trail. If you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, the park also has many lovely areas to enjoy nature, including a fishing lake and wildflower meadows. Get involved in birdwatching, walking, cycling, fishing and horse riding.
Cressing Temple Barns
This ancient monument is not one to miss. Cressing Temple was given to the Knights Templar in 1137. The Grade I listed barley and wheat barns were built in the 13th century, and one of the three Medieval barns is the oldest standing timber-framed barn in the world. The site is also renowned for its gardens, and the Walled Garden has been beautifully recreated as a Tudor pleasure garden. Make sure you stop for afternoon tea at the The Barns Tea Room.
Braintree is a great place for shopping. Braintree Village is an outlet shopping centre where you can find big brands at small prices. In the heart of the town, you’ll find George Yard Shopping Centre with everything from high street names to independent boutiques, as well as eateries and coffee shops. Ever since the town was granted a market charter in the 12th century, Braintree has had a market running every Wednesday and Saturday. Find a variety of stands selling everything from local produce to plants and crafts. Running alongside the regular market every last Saturday of the month, the Braintree Street Market specialises in local food and drink.
Warner Textile Archive
The Warner Textile Archive is Britain’s second largest collection of textiles. It tells the story of Britain’s textile industry from its local roots to global recognition, covering nearly 500 years of design history. There are around 100,000 items including paper designs, photographs, rule papers, hand-woven silks and printed textiles. The museum is located inside the Warner & Sons’ original textile mill.
Braintree District Museum
Another museum worth the visit is the Braintree District Museum. Learn more about the history of Braintree through the collections covering archaeology, artwork, ceramics, photographs and textiles. Get to know the famous Courtauld family who set up the international Courtaulds company.
Places to stay
The Onley is a modern British pub with rooms. Comfortable rooms come with TVs and tea and coffee making facilities. The restaurant serves traditional British food with a contemporary twist using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. The pub also has a village store selling fresh produce.
If you’re looking for a self-catering cottage, Panfield House is a lovely, relaxing space in the centre of Braintree. The one bedroom cottage has a fully equipped kitchen and dining area, as well as a cosy lounge with a TV, books, games and puzzles to keep you entertained.
Looking to splash out? A 20 minute drive from Braintree is Prested Hall, a gorgeous 15th century part-moated manor house set in 75 acres of parkland. The luxurious rooms have elegant period features, modern amenities and views of the surrounding countryside. Pamper yourself with a range of beauty treatments on offer at the spa.
Places to eat
47 The Street
This stylish and contemporary restaurant has an Italian inspired menu. As well as Italian dishes like pastas and pizzas, you’ll also find British classics like battered cod and Sunday roasts.
The Chophouse Braintree
The Chophouse is a meat-lovers haven. Using fresh ingredients from local suppliers, the restaurant serves up classic British seafood and meat dishes.
The Fowler’s Farm
This renovated farmhouse has everything a country pub should have – hearty, seasonal pub food, a great range of cask ales and wines, and a warm and buzzing atmosphere. There is also a beer garden for warm days.
In & Around Braintree
Tiptree Tea Room at The Barns
The Barns Tea Room, Cressing Temple, Witham Road, Braintree, Essex, CM77 8PD