As trade continued to grow in importance, the benefits of urban areas where specialised crafts people could work and trade, and where opportunities for individual wealth and power were greater, led to the increasing growth of towns. The range of facilities, from markets to churches, grew as the population did.
Some were deliberately planned and planted, as at Braintree and Chelmsford, whilst others grew organically at communication and trading centres. Most, if not all, were heavily dependent on supplies from surrounding agricultural areas - known as the hinterland - for both food and raw materials.
Essex towns include port towns as at Harwich, Burnham and Maldon, towns which developed around a castle as at Pleshey, Castle Hedingham and Rayleigh, towns which developed around an abbey or priory as at Waltham Abbey and Hatfield Broad Oak, and market towns as at Braintree, Brentwood and Chelmsford.