The Mayflower – gearing up for the 400th anniversary celebrations

On Friday 24th November 2017 the streets of Harwich will be lit in celebration of the town’s Illuminate Festival.  The festival marks the town’s connections to the ship The Mayflower.  The ship’s sailing to the New World took the first Pilgrims to their new home in America.  At the helm of the ship was a Harwich man, Christopher Jones.  Jones sailed the pilgrims and his crew to the New World arriving in Cape Cod in November 1620.  Harwich will be welcoming local school children who have taken on the task of creating lanterns to bring light to the dark evenings and help to begin the celebrations that mark the town’s place in the historic sailing of The Mayflower.


Harwich’s connection to the sailing of The Mayflower was established in the early 20th Century by researchers confirming that the signature of the Captain of the Mayflower was the same signature as one Christopher Jones contained in the Harwich Charter of 1604.  The original charter is still held in the town archives, a vital part of Harwich’s history.

As a member of a local seafaring family, Christopher Jones had inherited boats and premises within the local area. In his father’s will Jones received a part share of a ship named the Marie Fortune alongside the associated stock from the ship.  His early career was spent importing cloth and wine from the continent, with his passage to the New World being a significant departure from his earlier trading.


Originally married to a local girl by the name of Sara Twitt, on her death Jones married Josian Gray. Josian had previously been married to a local man by the name of Richard Gray and had come to her marriage to Jones a wealthy woman.  Josian was also from a well-known Harwich family of the time. Josian’s father Thomas Thompson was a wealthy mariner, owning a ship by the name of The Desire.  Thompson was a well-respected member of the community, however in 1567 court records show that he was accused of piracy!

Christopher Jones was an Alderman of Harwich, a person of local standing who was obliged to give money to the poor via the Poor Rates. Although a man of local standing and some wealth, Jones was not a Gentleman.  Court records show that Jones was fined for keeping dogs – an occupation reserved only for the landed gentry of the time.

Jones has a clear connection with Harwich. The house that he lived in with his wife Josian can still be seen in the town.  His signature can be found on key local documents and he is listed regularly in court documents of the time.


As the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower draws near Harwich is poised to celebrate its ties to the Mayflower.  A project to develop a replica of the ship is underway and plans are developing to mark the important point the small coastal town had into the founding of the New World.

For more information on the Illuminate Festival visit the Harwich Festival website,

By Sarah Mott

Multi-million pound leisure development at Intu Lakeside

Whether people come for the great mix of shops, lunch overlooking Alexandra Lake or an evening at the cinema, they always find just that little more than they expect at intu Lakeside. Anchored by Debenhams, House of Fraser, Marks and Spencer and Primark and home to over 250 retailers, intu Lakeside is south east England’s favourite shopping destination. Since it opened in 1990 it has always been ahead of trends in shopping and welcomes 26 million visitors each year.  This year intu Lakeside have had several exciting changes, including the upscale and re-fit of both Next & Superdry and the opening of a new Travelodge overlooking the lake. 2017 also saw the installation of a new Changing Places toilet facilities to support customers with profound and multiple learning disabilities and will also cater for people with other physical and non-visual disabilities who require extra equipment and space in a safe and comfortable environment.

In September 2017, intu Lakeside embarked on its multi-million pound leisure development, anchored by the first UK Nickelodeon experience and a 24 Hollywood Bowl; it will also be home to 11 new restaurants for customers to enjoy from late 2018.  This exciting new leisure development is set to create the very best all-encompassing shopping and leisure experience in Essex.

Later this year, intu Lakeside will be one of 14 intu shopping centres up and down the country working with the National Autistic Society to launch the UK wide ‘Autism Hour’, with each of its retailers, restaurants and leisure operators being asked to reduce their lights, music and other background noise for an hour at 10am on Monday 2 October.

This November, intu Lakeside will be launching the festive season with a week full of Christmas cheer, in addition to hosting Santa’s Grotto and an ice rink for all the family to enjoy. 




A family enjoying their Parkdean Resorts holiday home (3)Parkdean Resorts has teamed up with Visit Essex to uncover hidden gems which make the county a great location to buy a holiday home.

The holiday park operator has worked with the Destination Management Organisation to highlight five reasons to snap up a holiday home in the area, from stunning scenery rivalling overseas destinations, to being within reach of family-friendly attractions, the great British seaside and must-see beauty spots.

Located north-east of London, Essex combines countryside, woodland and seaside landscapes, and is home to seven of Parkdean Resorts’ holiday parks all offering ownership opportunities.

Great reasons to buy and return for frequent breaks away include…

Scenery that rivals abroad
You’d be forgiven for not knowing that Osea Island even existed, making it one of the county’s best kept secrets. Sat on the Blackwater Estuary surrounded by four and a half miles of its own beaches and coastline, the luxury island is just one of many striking destinations in Essex well worth visiting more than once.

Activities fit for the whole family
Whether it’s Colchester Zoo which is home to over 260 species and set in 60 acres of parkland and lakes, Hedingham Castle for a dose of the county’s history or Cudmore Grove Country Park, there’s plenty of day out options on the doorstep come rain or shine.

Charming countryside and pretty villages
An Outstanding Area of Natural Beauty, Dedham Vale on the Essex-Suffolk border was made famous worldwide by artists such as Constable and Gainsborough. Filled with charming villages, rolling farmland, rivers, meadows and beautiful countryside, there’s no shortage of places to go and see.

Being beside the seaside
Essex has the second longest coastline of any in England, perfect for building sandcastles and relaxing walks. Villages along the coast also make popular visitor spots, such as Frinton-on-Sea, Leigh-on-Sea and Burnham-on-Crouch. Southend-on-Sea remains a firm favourite for holidaymakers due to its attractions from the famous Pier, which is the longest in the world, to Adventure Island Fun Park.

Less chance of rain
Essex is amongst the driest of all of the counties in the UK, with an annual average rainfall of around 600mm. In some years rainfall totals in Essex can be below 450mm, which is less than a third of the annual downpour of some of the soggiest places in the UK. Sunglasses at the ready…

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Carol Jolly, Tourism Marketing & PR Manager of Visit Essex, said ‘In Essex we are extremely lucky to have a bit of everything – an amazing coastline, wonderful rolling countryside, quant villages and inspiring towns.  We have over 450 visitor attractions ranging from beautiful historic houses to galleries, museums and theme parks, plus Essex is 71% rural (not many people realise this!), so we also have incredible open spaces and country parks such as Hadleigh, Cressing Temple and Great Notley.  I believe visitors to Essex will be pleasantly surprised by what we have to offer once here, and will enjoy the many different facets of our wonderful county.’

Parkdean Resorts’ holiday parks in Essex all with ownership opportunities include Valley Farm, Naze MarineMartello Beach, Coopers Beach, Waterside, Weeley Bridge and Highfield Grange.

Holiday homes can be used for at least eight months of the year, sometimes more depending on the park, meaning regular breaks away from the demands of everyday life can be fully maximised, returning again and again to owner communities where lifetime friendships are often formed.

John Waterworth, chief executive at Parkdean Resorts, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Visit Essex and offer prospective buyers an insight into what makes Essex such a great place to buy a holiday home. Essex is one of the most picturesque parts of the country with the likes of Constable Country and the stunning south east coast within arm’s reach of all our parks in the county.”

For anyone interested in owning a holiday home in Essex, each park has a dedicated team of advisors on hand to help. There is also the opportunity to enjoy an Ownership Experience Day. This offering gives families the chance to spend the day at their desired park, with access to all facilities and a complimentary lunch, as well as spending time with an advisor to discuss requirements.

Find out more about becoming an owner with Parkdean Resorts by visiting website or calling 0333 015 6882.

New Hall Vineyard

New Hall Vineyard was established in 1969 by the Greenwood Family, and is now one of the largest commercial vineyards in the UK with over 100 acres of vines.  The vineyard was established after Bill Greenwood read in the Parish records that a vineyard existed next to the local Church, All Saints Parish, in 1170. Wine produced from these wines were requested by King John to be drunk during the sealing of the Magna Carter. Situated in one of the driest regions in the UK with a unique microclimate, Bill begun replacing his arable crops with vines.


New Hall continues to be a family-run business, supported by a long-serving team of staff with combined viticultural experience of over 100 years led by Piers Greenwood.

Piers began his winemaking career in Alsace in France, trained by the prestigious Hugel et Fils family and heavily influenced by the region’s wine styles. Piers has been producing critically acclaimed fruity and aromatic wines ever since, which have won over 200 awards in the last 40 years including trophies, international sommelier awards and the prestigious UKVA Winemaker of the Year three times.  New Hall’s ethos centres on supporting the East Anglian wine industry by providing help, consultation, winemaking facilities and on-going advice for smaller and expanding vineyards. Currently producing over 120,000 bottles of still and sparkling wine, there will be a further 30 acres planted in the next few years.


The Moot Hall

The Moot Hall has stood in the centre of Maldon for nearly 600 years and is probably one of the oldest brick buildings in the County and is Grade 1 listed. It began life as a part of the family home of Sir Robert D’Arcy and went on to be the centre of local government in this ancient borough until the mid-1970s.


The Moot Hall has served Maldon as town hall, prison, police station, court house, charter house, armoury, council chamber and public meeting space for nearly 450 years. It was believed to have been built in around 1420, the tower is part of a brick extension to an existing timber manor house and was commissioned by Sir Robert D’arcy ( d1448) probably not long after his marriage in 1417 to a Maldon heiress Alice Fitzlangley (1395-1448). D’arcy was the MP for Maldon six times, a lawyer by trade and had become a rich and powerful man as legal advisor to the king and local gentry and his family held part of the Manor of Little Maldon.

The Moot Hall now has a new life as a centre for the social history of the town and plays host to numerous events, including: weddings, civil ceremonies, performances and exhibitions. Come and see for yourself this wonderful historic building on one of our bespoke tours. You can choose from; a private tour, a day tour with or without afternoon tea or a twilight tour with a glass of wine on the balcony. All of them offer a perfect way to enjoy this beautiful historic building.

Discover Brentwood

Brentwood is a historic market town surrounded by beautiful open spaces, family attractions and historic locations to explore.

Brentwood’s numerous country parks are havens for nature-lovers, walkers and families. For some fun with the kids, Thorndon Country Park is home to the famous Gruffalo Trail and Weald Country Park to the Stickman Play Trail and there’s real animal magic at Old MacDonald’s Farm. Or for those looking for adventure, head to Rope Runners for some high-wire fun in the trees, or try your hand at skiing, go-karting or paintballing.

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For history lovers, the 16th Century Ingatestone Hall hosted Elizabeth I on several occasions, whilst the Secret Nuclear Bunker is an eerily fascinating, subterranean reminder of the Cold War era.

The borough’s high streets and older bijou side streets offer a great choice of shops, including quality independent niche shopping and a great choice of places to eat and drink. Brentwood is of course also known for the ITVBe show The Only Way is Essex, so you can discover some of the places featured in the show and do the ‘TOWIE Trail’.

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Brentwood is host to great events throughout the year. The popular Strawberry Fair, Brentwood’s traditional summer community fair, takes place on 17 June, 12-6pm on Shenfield Common, including stalls, food and drink, family activities and entertainment. Six family fun days will also run every Friday during the school holidays across the Borough.

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Back for its 7th year, the Brentwood Festival takes place at the Brentwood Centre 14-16 July. Headliners include Status Quo.

The second annual Brentwood Children’s Literary Festival takes place 22-29 July 2017 with some great children’s authors and illustrators lined up.

140 years of Clacton Pier

The Pier was officially opened on 27th July 1871 when the SS ‘Albert Edward’ called, bringing with it a party of directors from Woolwich Steam Packet Company and around 200 guests. When it opened it was just 160 yards in length and 4 yards wide.

Clacton Pier was originally built mainly as a landing platform, a jetty to accommodate the movement of manufactured goods, products and many other items. They thought that some passengers may visit but the owners could not have dreamt of such an overwhelming footfall. With The Piers and Promenade offering a new type of day out at the sea Victorians were simply flocking to Clacton. It was soon realised, as the numbers continued to grow, that there was money to be made from the holidaymakers. Word spread about this tourist hot spot so buildings and shelters were slowly added.

The first major alterations to the Pier took place In1893, it was lengthened to 1,180 feet and a theatre and the Pier Pavilion (later called the Jolly Roger), was built by architects Kinipple & Jaffrey at the sea end.

During the First World War, in around 1922 Ernest Kingsman purchased the Pier after it had gone into administration and set about turning the Pier into a leisure and entertainment centre. By the outbreak of the Second World War he had invested around a quarter of a million pounds into The Pier’s redevelopment. Building the Ocean Theatre, the Children’s Theatre, the Blue Lagoon Dance Hall. the Crystal Casino an open air swimming pool, open air stage for the Ramblas Concert Party and the Steel Stella roller coaster (which was later destroyed by a fire in 1973). During the war the pier was damaged by enemy action and was also breached to prevent Its use by an Invasion force. By now the Pier had helped to establish Clacton as one of the leading seaside resorts in the country.

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By 1971 the pier was under the control of Barney Kingsman (Earnest Kingsman’s Son) and had fallen a little behind with the times, with visitor numbers falling the decision was made to sell the Pier and it was in this same year that it was sold privately to Mr Michael Goss. The Goss family were no stranger to seaside pleasure Piers and already had the majority share in neighbouring Walton Pier, Mr Goss ran the pier as a successful amusement centre until he eventually grew frustrated with the lack of support from the local authority and their understanding of what was required to bring new visitors to the town and so decided it was time to sell up and retire.

August 1981 see’s local businessmen Francis McGinty, John Treadwell, Denis McGinty and David Howe take ownership of the pier from Michael Goss with plans for a major redevelopment of the Pier including the possibility of a bar and disco, reintroduction of the dolphins to the dolphinarium and an upgrade of the pier ride offering.

The proceeding years saw major additions to the pier at varying stages including the Whirlwind roller coaster, a Circus, Ice rink and a Roller Rink and even a water slide, unfortunately not all of the additions were a success and the pier company struggled financially on a couple of occasions until eventually in around 1993 the then operating company went into receivership which is where it remained for around about one year.

Towards the end of 1994 a local business family. The Harrisons, bought the pier and embarked on a refurbishment programme that would see most of the Pier rides upgraded and the whole pier cosmetically improved, the Harrisons ran a successful operation at the pier until they made their decision to exit the leisure industry and sell the pier to the current owners with the deal completing in March 2009.

Since the takeover “The Clacton Pier Company” has been steadily investing in the Pier in an attempt to restore the pier to its former glory and in the last two years since the takeover locals, day trippers and holiday makers alike will have seen a gradual upgrading of the piers facility’s taking place. The former Cockney Pride pub has seen a total redevelopment and now stands proudly on the front of the pier as the Boardwalk Bar & Grill, the Casino Royal amusement hall has been completely upgraded and now houses all of the latest in slot machine equipment, new rides and guest rides have been introduced, probably most noticeably the traditional Helter Skelter and the all new Stella’s Revenge Roller Coaster, the pier neck has seen the addition of a new adventure golf facility and a two new eatery’s; The Ocean Diner and Fish and Chips at the Pier have recently been opened. Recently opened is the new Lanes 10 Pin Bowling Lounge and Bar which is a spectacular addition to the pier.

Heres to the next 140 years…

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Explore Saffron Walden

Saffron Walden is a picturesque, medieval town, in north-west Essex. It has a rich heritage of old buildings reflecting its wealth as a rural market town. The name Saffron comes from the valuable Crocus sativus crop, which was cultivated here between the 15th and 18th centuries and was used as a dye, flavouring and medicine.

There are many interesting historic buildings in the town. At the heart lies St Mary’s Church, the largest parish church in Essex. Fine examples of elaborate moulded plasterwork (pargetting), can be seen on the Old Sun Inn and the houses in Castle Street & Bridge Street. Also of note are the Eight Bells, the timber-framed Cross Keys, and the medieval building located at 1 Myddylton Place.

Nearby, Saffron Walden Museum is of particular interest. The collections are housed in one of the oldest purpose built museum buildings in the country, completed in 1835. It has everything from mammoth tusks to mummies, from an early Tudor bed to a natural history museum gallery. In the grounds of the museum are the ruins of the Castle keep which dates back to the 1130s or 40s.

Bridge End Garden is a real jewel and an environment of great charm on the north side of Saffron Walden. Careful restoration has replicated gardening techniques and designs typical of the Victorian era and brought the garden back to its full splendour. The hedge maze is of particular appeal to children. The path into the garden passes the Fry Art Gallery which houses a collection of works by a Great Bardfield group of artists who settled in the Essex countryside in the 1930s.

The attractive Common is the oldest of Saffron Walden’s open spaces and on its eastern side is the largest turf labyrinth still surviving in Europe. Children of all ages enjoy following the ‘path’ through the turf, which winds for about one mile within a circle 100 feet (30.5 meters) in diameter.

A market has been held here since 1141, and market days are now Tuesdays and Saturdays. Shoppers enjoy browsing & buying goods from a number of different market stalls. Beyond the Market Place in Saffron Walden, there are many independent shops and eating places to choose from. Many small business premises are located in the Rows, which were the town’s shopping centre from medieval times onwards.

For more information, attraction opening times, or for a free copy of the Saffron Walden Town Trail, please contact Saffron Walden Tourist Information Centre on 01799 524002 or see


Listening Benches

What better way to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting on a bench taking in a nice view in a pretty Essex village? Sitting on a talking bench taking in a nice view!

The Essex Sound and Video Archive (ESVA) at the Essex Record Office has been installing talking benches across Essex. These park benches with speakers installed are loaded with historic recordings from the Archive. While sitting on the bench in Castle Park, Colchester, you can hear memories of visiting the Castle when it was roofless.

Or try the bench by the war memorial in Great Waltham to hear about the shops that used to line the nearby streets.

These listening benches are part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project run by the ESVA, called You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place. For the project, we are digitising and cataloguing a number of the unique recordings in the Archive to better preserve them. We are then making them freely available online through our Essex Archives Online catalogue .

Once digitised, we are taking the recordings out into every corner of the county – including through these talking benches. Volunteers from different communities have reviewed our recordings about their area, selected the best bits, and edited them together into montages for the bench. The volunteers have also used their local knowledge to decide on the ideal location for each bench.

Most of the recordings come from oral history interviews with long-term residents of the community. These memories describe buildings that have disappeared and businesses that have changed hands. They also reveal a different way of life: life without electricity and indoor plumbing; life where everyone knew each other’s business – and had plenty to say about it!


Map showing the location of the listening benches being installed this summer

How many benches can you find? Check our Essex Sounds website for the location of each bench. Then send us a #benchselfie of you with the bench, and tell us which clip is your favourite (@essexarchive on Twitter, or The Essex Record Office on Facebook)!

The website also lists the venues for our touring benches, and for our touring audio-video kiosks.

Next year, we plan to install another ten benches in additional locations. Please get in touch if you would like to be part of installing a listening bench in the following locations:

  • Burnham-on-Crouch
  • Chelmsford
  • Clacton-on-Sea
  • Coggeshall
  • Epping
  • Galleywood
  • Southend-on-Sea
  • Witham



Celebrating 25 years of the Clacton Airshow

How time has flown…..   Preparations are well & truly underway for the Clacton Airshow (@ClactonAirShow) taking place on Thursday 25th & Friday 26th August.  All the flights have been booked including the world famous Red Arrows and Typhoon and are steadily being announced over the coming weeks.  More event information can be found here.

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Clacton Airshow has grown over the years from a one-day event with a few flights and ground entertainment attracting tens of thousands to a well-established event in the UK’s air show calendar attracting around 220,000 flight fans visiting from far and wide to support the event come rain or shine. The Red Arrows (@rafredarrows) are now considered old friends of the event and have been displaying at the show since the 90s.

In addition to the usual day flights and to celebrate 25 years of the event there will be evening flights taking place on Thursday 25th August from 8pm ending thereafter with a spectacular fireworks display on Clacton Pier (@ClactonPier).  The site will stay open for the whole duration and festival style entertainment will take place on site from 5pm on Thursday until the evening flights.

10620674_10152285767602797_6803908066201968997_nAt ground level, the site will be buzzing with various exhibitions/traders from Water Walkers to an interactive unit by Fuji Film. Titan the Robot (@TITANtheROBOT) makes a most welcome return on both days displaying at 11am, 12pm & 6pm on Thursday and 11am & 12pm Friday wowing the crowds with his cheeky banter.

Event parking is available at West Road Car Park, Clacton priced at £6 per vehicle where priority parking can be booked here.  A park & ride service is also available from Clacton Factory Outlet (@ClactonOutlet) priced at £10 per vehicle or from Holland-on-Sea priced at £5 per vehicle.

Sadly the one thing we are unable to book is the weather!! The Airshow Angels have their fingers and toes crossed for some good flying weather and a great event.

We hope you will join us in celebrating 25 years of this spectacular event.

For now it’s “chocks away”.