Two men in period costume riding horses.

Interesting and quirky facts about Essex not everybody knows

Culturally vibrant, redolent with over two thousand years of history and an economic powerhouse, Essex is a fascinating place to discover and explore – here’s some fascinating things about our county you might not know, but won’t quickly forget.

Essex's 'oldest'...

Exterior of the castle with flower beds on front lawn.

Colchester Castle

Picture of the outside of the church.

Greensted Church

Picture of a number of people parading with a flitch of bacon.

Dunmow Flitch Trials

Picture of an old Templar's barn.

Cressing Temple Barn

Picture of a replica Viking ship moored on the shores of the island.

Northey Island

Picture of the lifeboat travelling along in the sea.

The James Stevens No 14 Lifeboat

- Essex is home to Britain's oldest recorded town, Colchester. It was the first Roman capital in Britain.

- Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in the world. It was built in 1081 AD.

- Great Dunmow is home to the oldest recorded competition in Britain still running today, the Flitch Trials. Mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and believed to have begun in the 13th century, the Trials aimed to find a married couple who had not quarrelled or repented their marriage during the preceding year and a day. A mock court of locals would test the veracity of stories of marital bliss, with a flitch of bacon the prize for success.

- The oldest timber-framed barn in the world is at Cressing Temple near Braintree. The huge Barley Barn was built by the Knights Templar.

- Northey Island is where the battle of Maldon took place in 991, making it the oldest battlefield in Britain.

- The James Stevens No.14 was the second RNLI lifeboat at Walton-on-the-Naze. She has been restored and is now the oldest surviving motor lifeboat in the world.

Essex's smallest, largest, longest, tallest and more...

Picture of a sandy beach.


Aerial view of the island.

Osea Island, one of Essex's 35 islands.

Picture of the pier during sunset.

Southend Pier

Saffron Walden turf maze

Group of people cycling along a road.

Manningtree, England's smallest town.

Old fashioned cart with various jams.

Wilkin and Sons museum in Tiptree.

Picture of the tower from the back with steps leading to the entrance.

Layer Marney Tower

Picture of the snake all rolled up ready to attack.

An adder at Danbury

- The 350 mile long Essex coast is the longest coastline of any English county.

- The county has 35 islands, more islands than any other English county.

- Southend Pier, at 1.33 miles long, is the longest pleasure pier in the world.

- Saffron Walden is home to the world's largest turf maze. It's believed to be over 800 years old.

- Manningtree is Britain’s smallest town…whilst Tiptree is the UK’s largest village

- The largest village green in England is at Great Bentley. It covers an area of roughly 43 acres.

- Colchester Castle is the largest Norman Castle Keep in Europe.

- Built during the reign of Henry VIII, Layer Marney Tower is the tallest Tudor Gatehouse in Britain.

- Danbury Common, near Chelmsford, has the largest population of Adder snakes in Britain.

Other quirky facts

Picture of Dame Nellie Melba

Dame Nellie Melba

Picture of the town sign

Chelmsford sign

Picture of Robert de Bruce

Robert the Bruce

Picture of George Washington

George Washington, 1st US president

Picture of the exterior of the church

Waltham Abbey church

Picture of the seafront with Bateman's Tower in the backgrund.


Pictrue of a jam jar in a bed of little scarlet strawberries.

Little Scarlet jam by Tiptree

PIcture of a graphic of a crocodile's jaw and teeth.

First Essex crocodile?

Picture of the church

Borley Rectory

- In 1920,  the first ever radio broadcast featuring Australian Dame Nellie Melba, a famous opera soprano of the time, was made from Chelmsford, the Birthplace of Radio.

- Chelmsford was once the capital of England for a few days when the seat of Government was temporarily moved to the town 600 years ago.

- Iconic Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, might actually have been an Essex boy. Historians have claimed that he was born at Montpelier’s Farm in Writtle, near Chelmsford, in 1274.

- Did you know five US presidents hailed from Essex? George Washington, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.

- Waltham Abbey is the burial place of King Harold who died in the Battle of Hastings.

- The sailing mecca of Brightlingsea has the distinction of being the only Cinque Port outside Kent and Sussex.

- Essex is one of the few places in the world where the "Little Scarlet" strawberry is grown, the perfect variant for jam making.

- The first crocodile to be brought to the UK was in 1701 by Richard Bradley who kept it in the lake and grounds of his home in Braintree.

- Borley Rectory is widely proclaimed the ‘Most Haunted House in England.’

Explore our county

Picture of the iconic Firstsite building at night.
Discover Essex’s creative spaces. They come in all shapes and sizes and are crammed with artistic treasures, from international names to emerging local artists.
Picture of a sunset over the The Naze waters with some rocks protruding from the water.

Explore our 350 miles of coastline, the longest shoreline of any county in England, a place of surprising wild beauty, rich in wildlife and sprinkled with history and hidden cultural gems.

Essex’s history has been shaped by a wide variety of cultures. Romans, Saxons, Vikings, Normans – all left their mark. Echoes of their influence can still be seen today.
Picture of a cow at the edge of the River Stour and drinking water.
A scenic patchwork of rich farmland speckled with pastelwashed villages of thatch and timber, the views interrupted by mighty oaks and ashes presided over by the hurrying skies.