Although essentially an agricultural county, mediæval industries made Essex prosperous. Most unusual, perhaps, was the cutlery industry of Thaxted. With no particular advantages in raw materials, the Cutlers prospered in the town, building parts of the beautiful church and, reputedly, the unique timber framed Guildhall which dominates the marketplace.
More widespread was the cloth producing industry which was of outstanding importance throughout East Anglia. Within Essex Colchester was the most important centre with the ‘Dutch Quarter', settled by weavers from the Low Countries', retaining the character of a mediæval town.
It is to Coggeshall, however, that you should travel to see the real fruits of the industry. Next to the church, the beautiful Woolpack Inn commemorates and illustrates the foundations of the towns wealth. In the church you will find memorials to many of the local merchants, one of whom, Thomas Paycocke, lived in the 16th century Paycockes House in West Street. Now owned by the National Trust, the house is possibly the finest mediæval domestic building in Essex, its elaborate wooden carving witness to the wealth of the merchant class.
Close by, Braintree was another important cloth town with fine mediæval buildings surviving in Bocking Church Street. The museum has displays interpreting the history of the industry. Established during the 19th century by George Courtauld in nearby Pebmarsh and Halstead witness to the wool industry is Townsford Mill, now an antiques centre, the long, white weatherboarded building, straddling the River Colne, once housed Courtauld's water powered looms.
The Great Dunmow Maltings dating from 1560 retain much of the original malting infrastructure used to produce malt by hand throughout the building's active life of 400 years until closure in the late 1940s.
The building demonstrates superb examples of 16th and 18th century architecture and building techniques of very high standards carried through to the recent restoration. Beautifully and sympathetically restored the Maltings are a visitor attraction incorporating the Town Museum on the ground floor.
In the 19th century, Chelmsford's modern importance was secured as it became established as a centre of industry and commerce, with the best-known example being the birthplace of broadcasting and the centre of the ‘second industrial revolution'. Guglielmo Marconi, the pioneer of radio, built the world's first radio factory in Hall Street, Chelmsford in 1899, with a new factory opening in 1912 in New Street. On the 15th June 1920, the first entertainment radio broadcast was made from Chelmsford, featuring Dame Nellie Melba - a famous opera soprano of the time.