The archaeological evidence for early Saxon settlement consists of extensive cemeteries, as at Great Chesterford, Mucking, and Prittlewell, near Southend, together with a number of settlement sites, particularly in the south and east of the county. The internationally famous site at Mucking was associated with 53 post-hole buildings and 203 sunken huts, although not all of these were in use at one time. One major focus of Middle Saxon settlement lay around the Blackwater estuary; important estates existed at Mersea and a royal centre at Brightlingsea, with the minster at Bradwell to the south.
There is relatively little archaeological evidence for Late Saxon secular structures. At Springfield Lyons, however, a complex of buildings dating to the 10th and 11th centuries has been investigated and a major settlement has been excavated at Wicken Bonhunt in north-west Essex. It was during this period that the great estates were sub-divided into manorial holdings.