Braintree in Essex

Probably most famous for dance-rock act the Prodigy, Braintree in Essex is close to the A120 and is served by the Great Eastern Main Line. The north is actually called Bocking, but is largely referred to as Braintree. Villages in Braintree include Panfield, Cressing, Rayne, Felsted and Notley. There is historic evidence of a village in Braintree over four thousand years ago, the Romans built two roads through the area and it was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1085.

It wasn’t until the seventeenth century that Braintree’s importance was established, as an influx of Flemish immigrants allowed the woollen cloth trade to flourish. This trade began to flounder and in the nineteenth century it became known for its silk trade. By 1850 it had a railway link with London, and was an aspiring town with a textile and agriculture focused economy. In 1888 the town hall was constructed.

The northern part of Braintree is still rural and agricultural, two rivers flow through it in the northwest to southeast direction. On the west is Pod’s Brook and Rayne, the neighbouring town. Pod’s Brook flows into the River Brain. Although it was originally thought that the town was named after the River, it has become apparent that the river was actually named after the town.

Attractions in the centre of Braintree include a museum detailing its history, a cinema, bowling alley, restaurants and other types of eating and drinking establishments. There is also a new Arts Theatre on Notley Road. There is a carnival every June, featuring floats through the town centre, as well as fairs and other small attractions.

There are three secondary schools in the area; Alec Hunter Humanities College, Tabor Science College and Norley High School Technology Centre. There is Braintree College and Braintree Sixth Form for post-16 education. On the outskirts of Braintree, in Freeport, a designer outlet village comprising of ninety retail units where designer brands sell stock. There is a railway station Freeport close to the outlet village, as well as one in Braintree centre. Trains leave hourly to London, arriving at Liverpool Street.

There used to be a line on the other side of Braintree to Rayne and Great Dunmow, but it has been disused for decades and has become part of a country walk and cycle route called Flitch Way. Considering the rural tranquility which can be found in Braintree, and its close proximity and easy access to London, it’s easy to see why it proves a popular area with commuters.

Starting Your Own Home Education Support Group

If you are starting a support group, you can decide what type of group you want right from the beginning.

If you have toddlers or small children you could meet in your own home (in the beginning) for mainly parents to chat and children to play.

With older children/teens organised activities related to home education such as crafts, field trips, science experiments and projects are a good idea.

Do investigate venues. Prices for church halls vary enormously as do the facilities available. Will your children want to do lots of claywork and painting? Then make sure your hall has easy to clean floors.

If you expect to have more arts and crafts (pens, crayons, etc) and events with guest speakers then a carpeted hall may be fine.

Once you have decided which hall you want to hire, you will need to contact the person who has responsibility for hiring it out.

Once you have organised your first date, start telling people about it. Maybe put up a leaflet at your local library or newsagent. Maybe put an advert in your local paper (although you will need to consider the financial aspects of this).

At your first monthly meeting remember to ask for donations from each family to cover the cost of the hall and refreshments. An average price for this depending on price of the hall and/or families attending is £2.50 to £3.50. Take a note of names, addresses and contact telephone numbers or email addresses. (You can then contact people a couple of days before the next meeting to remind them).

Get chatting to the people attending, ask them what they would like to do at the meetings, would they be interested in bringing an activity next time? Do they know anyone who would be interested in coming to give a talk or workshop? In this way you can gradually build a list of people who are willing to help out. Actively encourage members to bring activities each time for all the children to enjoy.

Some people like to “theme” a meeting say, astronomy or sealife to begin with. It makes it easier for other members of the group to think of activities to bring.

Try to book at least 3 meetings in advance – you can then give out a letter at your meeting with the next dates on.

If you want to advertise your new home education support meeting on this website for free please contact me at:

[email protected]

Good Luck and Enjoy!

Connecticut’s Best Communities: Essex CT

Essex, Connecticut was in the top of “The Best 100 Small Towns in America” by Norman Crompton. Its high rating reflects a combination of factors, including education, low crime rates, annual growth, prosperity and income.

Dating back to the mid-17th century, Essex sits on the west bank of the Connecticut River, 6 miles upstream from Long Island Sound. It includes the villages of Ivoryton and Centerbrook. Today, Essex retains its early 18th century New England village charm with its tree-lined streets and heritage.

The area known today as Essex Village was originally named Potapoug Point that’s a peninsula with two large coves on either side. Shipbuilding which played a central role in the early development of the community first began in the area in 1720 by John Tucker.

By the 1740s “Snows” for the West Indies trade were being built that was a distinctive New England vessel with two main foremasts and a small mizzen mast astern. When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, Uriah Hayden built the “Oliver Cromwell” which was a man-of-war carrying twenty-four guns that was the first warship ever built for the Continental forces.

During the War of 1812, the town’s shipyards was one of the few American cities that received a major attack by the British. The British blockaded the Connecticut River which had a major economic impact on Essex shipbuilding.

The shipyards turned to building small fast ships that were used as privateers that could overcome the larger slower British merchant ships. Captain Richard Hayden was a prominent local shipbuilder who advertised the Black Prince he was building in a New York City newspaper as “a 315 ton sharp schooner that would make an ideal privateer.”

The British spied the shipyards. In the early morning hours of April 8th, 1814, about 136 British marines and sailors from four warships under the command of Richard Coot rowed six boats up the Connecticut River arriving at the shipyards at four o’clock in the morning.

The Marines quickly gained control of the town, receiving a promise of no resistance from the local militia in return for not burning their homes or harming the town’s people. The Marines and sailors went to work with torches and axes burning and destroying the newly built privateers being readied for sail in the harbor.

They marched to Bushnell Tavern – now the Griswold Inn one of Essex’s several historic houses – and the Hartford Courant later reported that “$100,000 or upwards” worth of rum was captured. The British also seized the town’s supply of rope that was of strategic value as each ship required about seven miles of rope to sail.

After six hours the British had destroyed a total of 28 ships inflicting a major defeat against the Americans before setting off downstream towing two captured ships – one of which was the Black Prince that is believed to have initiated the raid.

However, the British became mired in the shallows as the tide dropped and came under fire from the residents of Killingworth who lined the river bank, killing two marines and causing the British to destroy the ships. They finally made their escape with the rising tide.

Following the raid and perhaps as a response to the notoriety the town had gained with its less than heroic defense the town’s name was forever after changed to Essex. Today, The Connecticut River Museum is located at the site where Coot and the British landed. It houses an exhibit portraying the raid with a large diorama and a musket ball believed to have been fired at that time.

There are many leisure and cultural activities in Essex. Summer recreation activities abound along the coast along with summer house rentals. The town promotes and maintains beaches, and boating and fishing areas. Attractions such as the 1920s Essex Steam Train and Riverboat are among Connecticut’s most popular tourist stops.

Essex village’s traditional New England charm and heritage makes it one of Connecticut’s best cities for your home and family.