Days out in Essex

Stuck for something to do over the holidays? Why not go out and visit a historic house or a castle? Use the search function below to find interesting places to visit in your area – or if you’re interested in a particular period in time, find places across the county which will help you learn more.

Select an area where you want to go, and a time period you want to find out about, and click “go” to find interesting places to visit.

Area Period 

Audley End House

Generations of barons imprinted their taste on this former royal residence. This was one of the great wonders of the nation when it was built by the first Earl of Suffolk, Lord Treasurer to James I, on the scale of a great royal palace. In fact, it soon became one after Charles II bought the house in 1668 for £50,000, using it as a base when he attended the races at Newmarket. On its return to the Suffolks from 1701, large parts were demolished – what remains is one of the most significant Jacobean houses in England. Successive owners have left their stylistic imprint, both within the graceful exterior and in the surrounding parkland.

Battle of Maldon site

The site of the famous Battle of Maldon in AD991 is regarded as one of the most important battle sites in the Country where the Saxon Earl Brythnoth was defeated by the Danes who sailed up the River Blackwater. The Battle was said to have lasted several days and is depicted in the earliest recorded epic Saxon poem.

Braintree Museum

YOU'LL BE SURPRISED AT EVERYTHING YOU SEE AND LEARN AS THE PAST COMES TO LIFE IN A VICTORIAN SCHOOL, NOW RESTORED TO PRESERVE YESTERDAY FOR TOMORROW "Threads of Time" tells the story of Braintree District and its important place in our island's history. By creativity and skill, the people of the area developed ideas which shaped 20th Century life. Gallery exhibits interpret the diverse local industrial heritage: the production of fabrics for State occasions during the past 200 years and innovations in metal window design and man-made textiles in which our District led the world.

Chapel of St. Peter on the Walls

This Saxon Chapel of St Cedd was built in 654 astride the western wall of the Roman Fort of Othona. Over the centuries it has had a variety of uses - a warning beacon for shipping, a barn and an animal store. The church was re-consecrated in 1920 and attracts visitors worldwide who are impressed with its simplicity and tranquil setting.

Chelmsford Museum

The Chelmsford Museum is set in a lovely Victorian mansion in Oaklands Park, off Moulsham Street, Chelmsford and car parking is free. There are so many things to see and do... Whether it's nostalgia, fun or learning you want, you'll get a warm welcome! Follow the STORY OF CHELMSFORD from the Ice Ages - via the Roman Town - right up to the present day. Listen, look and smell as a Bronze Age smith makes bronze axe heads. Find out how the town of Chelmsford grew and changed, and how it is still changing! Visit our changing EXHIBITIONS GALLERY or DISCOVER a huge variety of fascinating and fun things in our DISPLAYS - there really is something for everyone.

Colchester Castle Museum

A visit to Colchester Castle Museum takes you through 2000 years of British history. Once capital of Roman Britain, Colchester has experienced devestation by Boudicca, invasion by the Normans and siege during the English Civil War. Since the 16th century, the Castle has been a ruin, a library and a gaol for witches. Today it is an award-winning museum featuring many hands-on displays showing Colchester’s history from the Stone Age to the Civil War. The Castle itself is the largest keep ever built by the Normans, and was constructed on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, which can still be seen today.

Cressing Temple

Once a Queen's gift to the mysterious Knights Templar, Cressing Temple is now owned by Essex County Council and open to the public. With its magnificent medieval barns and Tudor Walled Garden set amongst glorious countryside, Cressing Temple is a delightful and fascinating place to visit.

Cudmore Grove Country Park

You can find Cudmore Grove at the eastern end of Mersea Island, with fine views across the Colne and Blackwater estuaries. Come and walk the sea wall, explore the shore and watch for wildlife. Behind the sandy beach is an area of cliff top and grassland providing a tranquil open landscape for picnics, flying kites and other outdoor activities. The park and surrounding areas also hold a variety of WWII defences, including pillboxes, and the earthworks of a Tudor blockhouse.

Essex Police Museum

The Essex Police Museum was established in 1991. Based at Police Headquarters in Springfield, Chelmsford, holds archival material relating to the history of the force from 1840, including personnel, disciplinary and other records, together with more general documents and a large photographic record.

Essex Regiment Museum and Essex Yeomanry

The Essex Regiment Museum tells the story of The Pompadours and the Fighting Fours. The 44th and 56th Regiments from 1741, to the modern Royal Anglian Regimen. Essex men have over 250 years service in battle and in barracks all over the World

Grange Barn, Coggeshall

One of the oldest surviving timber-framed barns in Europe, dating from the 13th century and originally part of a Cistercian monastery. It was restored in the 1980s by The Coggeshall Grange Barn Trust, Braintree DC and Essex CC, and contains a small collection of farm carts and wagons. The Essex Way long-distance footpath passes the barn.

Hadleigh Castle and Country Park

The park gets its name from the nearby Hadleigh Castle: an impressive ruin of a fortress built over 700 years ago. There is always plenty to do at Hadleigh. Where else in Essex can you see Kent, Canvey Southend Pier, Canary Wharf and the Dartford Bridge all from the same place? Its a great place to walk, picnic, fly a kite or discover wildlife.

See also

Harwich Redoubt

An extremely impressive 180ft (60m) diameter circular fort built in 1808 to defend the port of Harwich against a Napoleonic invasion. It is the only such example open to the public. Eleven guns sit on the battlements. Eighteen casements below would house 300 troops in siege conditions. Part of the fort is now used as a military museum. Battle reenactments and other events are held during the summer months. The fort was restored by the Harwich Society as a voluntary project.

Hatfield Forest

An outstanding ancient woodland and rare surviving example of a medieval royal hunting forest. The pollarded hornbeams and oaks support a wide variety of wildlife and there are many excellent walks and nature trails, as well as fishing in the lake. During summer cattle graze in the forest.

Hedingham Castle

Hedingham Castle's Norman keep, 110 feet high, was built c.1140 by Aubrey de Vere and is still owned by one of his descendants, The Honourable Thomas Lindsay and his wife Virginia. There are four floors to explore, including a magnificent Banqueting Hall spanned by a remarkable 28 foot arch, one of the largest Norman arches in England. A good view of this splendid room can be obtained from the Minstrels' Gallery, built within the thickness of the 12 foot walls.

Hollytrees Museum

Enjoy 300 years of history through hands-on exhibits and displays with fun and humour in mind. Look out for the dolls' house, it's a model of Hollytrees House. Discover what family life was like for the rich and the poor people. Hear the stories of those who lived and worked in Hollytrees, a beautiful Georgian town house built in 1718. Meet Isaac Calthrop, a sedan chair carrier, who will fill you in on all the local goings-on. Listen to Charles Gray Round and his family, and imagine what life was like for Mary Last, their servant.

Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker

The Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker is a veritable maze of rooms and corridors based on three huge floors, and protected from a possible nuclear attack by 10ft thick reinforced concrete walls, not to mention blast doors made from tank metal.

Layer Marney Tower

The Marney family had lived at Layer Marney for about 350 years before Henry, 1st Lord Marney, started building Layer Marney Tower in the early years of Henry VIII's reign. He died in 1523 and the work was continued by his son John for two more years. His premature death brought the project to a halt, leaving the courtyard unfinished. What stands today is the magnificent Gatehouse with East and West wings, the Long Gallery and Medieval Barn. There have been many owners over the centuries, adding to its colourful history. It is still a family home.

Maeldune Heritage Centre

Houses the Maldon Embroidery a 42ft long embroidery celebrating the Battle of Maldon in AD991 depicting the History of Maldon 991-1991 and also housing exhibitions by local artists and displays of general interest.

Natural History Museum

Housed in the unique setting of the former All Saints Church, the museum focuses on the rich natural heritage of North-East Essex. Travel from the open sea through the salt marshes and beaches to the more familiar urban environments or the park. Discover what rocks lie beneath your feet with a look at local geology. You can even find out what lurks in your garden! There are hands-on displays, live animals plus a churchyard nature reserve and a well stocked shop.

Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge

This historic hunting lodge, owned and maintained by the Corporation of London, is a unique survivor from the magnificent Tudor and Elizabethan period of English history. Originally built for King Henry VIII in 1543 and then taken over after his death by Queen Elizabeth I, the Lodge is a supreme example of timber-framed architecture at a time when English carpentry was at its peak. Originally known as the Great Standing, the Lodge's top two storeys were open at the sides to give panoramic views of the hunts which used to take place in Fairmead deer park in the former Royal Forest of Essex, parts of which still survive today as Epping Forest. Disused after Henry's death, the building was repaired and a large brick chimney stack was added in 1589 on the orders of Elizabeth I, who was also a keen hunter.

Saffron Walden Museum

The Saffron Walden Museum was first opened in 1835 by the Saffron Walden Natural History Society. The Museum quickly established a high reputation which it continues to retain, with its up-to-date displays about local history and archaeology as well as collections of national significance, particularly in the fields of natural history, decorative arts and anthropology. The main building is in its own grounds in the mediaeval centre of the town, adjacent to the ruins of the Castle, with the fine parish church nearby.

Stansted Mountfitchet Castle and Norman Village

MOUNTFITCHET CASTLE is a national Historic Monument, protected by the Department of the Environment. It is believed to have been an early Iron Age fort and Roman, Saxon and Viking settlement. Artefacts found on the site from these periods support this belief. In 1066 the site was attacked by the Normans and Robert Gernon, the Duke of Boulogne, built his castle here, making it his chief seat and the head of his Barony. There is some evidence that Robert Gernon was a close relative of William the Conqueror.

Thaxted Guildhall

Thaxted Guildhall was built by the Guild of Cutlers six hundred years ago, and is still in active use. In 1390, long before the Church was finished, the Cutlers chose a site near to Hall Gate, where three roads met, and started work on their Guildhall. The resulting building was used by the Cutlers as their headquarters, using the open-paved ground floor as a market and meeting place, and the first floor as an open gallery, with window openings which could be screened when necessary. The top floor was probably the Cutlers Guild and also perhaps the Warden's living quarters.

The Museum of Harlow

The Museum tells the story of Harlow through Roman, Saxon, Georgian and Victorian times to the development of Harlow New Town. Visitors to the museum can discover Harlow’s history by seeing and touching objects, and trying on costumes from the past. The fascinating displays of objects and memorabilia are housed in five galleries within a 19th Century Stable Block of Mark Hall Manor.

Thorndon Country Park

Thorndon Country Park and Hartswood, linked with the treasures of lesser-known sites, provide a large area of countryside for you to enjoy. Walk in precious woods, historic parkland and timeless commons. Experience atmospheric places charged with a sense of history and filled with the scent of wildflowers and the call of birds. Whether on foot, bicycle of horseback you can enjoy the peace and wildlife of the Brentwood countryside.

Thurrock Museum

The extensive museum gallery is housed within the Thameside Complex along with the Thameside Theatre and Thurrock Main Library in Orsett Road, Grays. Here you can explore the history of Thurrock through 40 permanent display cases and 20 temporary display cases, containing over 1,500 objects, interpreting 250,000 years of Thurrock's past. Discover the mammoths from Aveley, the earliest known Thurrock coins dating to 75bc, Prehistoric Flint tools, Roman Pottery, Saxon artefacts and medieval finds from Grays.See a heavy horse harness, leather fireman's pipe, cast Iron boundary post for Sir John Cass, a Victorian post box and railway notices.

Tilbury Fort

The finest surviving example of 17th-century military engineering in England, Tilbury Fort remains largely unaltered. Designed by Charles II’s chief engineer, it was built as a low-lying and mainly earthen construction, designed to withstand bombardment at a time when artillery was the dominant weapon. Today, exhibitions, the powder magazine and bunker-like ‘casemates’ demonstrate how the fort protected the city. You can even fire an anti-aircraft gun.

Timperleys Clock Museum

This museum of clocks is housed in a beautiful 15th century timber framed house, once home to William Gilberd, scientist and physician to Elizabeth I. Tymperleys now houses part of the famous Bernard Mason Collection, one of the largest collections of clocks in Britain. All were made in Colchester between 1640 and 1840 and give a fascinating insight into this specialist trade.

Waltham Abbey Royal Gunpowder Mills

Established way back in the 17th century and acquired by the Crown in 1787, the Royal Gunpowder Mills has a very important place in both the history of Great Britain and of its home town of Waltham Abbey. Described by a local historian in the 1730s as ‘the largest and completest works in Great Britain’ and in the 1860’s by Colonel George Rains as the ‘best existing steam powered mills in any country’, the Royal Gunpowder Mills certainly boast an illustrious past. In operation for over 300 years, there was never a challenge the Royal Gunpowder Mills could not rise to in the development of gunpowder and explosives. Its superior production methods and high quality results earned it a reputation on an international level and played a significant part in the rise of Great Britain as an international power.Set in 175 acres of natural parkland and boasting 21 important historic buildings, the site mixes fascinating history, exciting science and beautiful surroundings to produce a magical trip for both old and young.

Weald Country Park

Weald Country Park is steeped in history. It was once a deer park and used for hunting by the Abbots of Waltham in around 1063. It has been the site of a great hall with formal gardens and there are even the remains of an Iron Age settlement which dates from the 1st century BC. If you look closely at the shapes and character of Weald’s landscape, you will see a pleasantly sculpted land created by people who have lived here over many centuries. Visit the deer, reintroduced to the park in 1987, stroll through 500 acres of parkland, wander round the lakes and discover the Visitor Centre full of lively and interactive displays illustrating the history of the park.

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