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Discover Braintree

By The Beresfords Marketing Team - 16 May 2011

The 14th century woollen cloth trade brought prosperity to the area leaving a legacy of fine architecture and listed buildings whilst the 18th century heralded the arrival of silk weaving and the famous Huguenot name of Courtauld. Generations of this generous family not only provided the increasing population with work and housing but also donated many public buildings including the magnificent former Town Hall.

The grand central tower with striking clock dominates the Market Square whilst inside murals by Maurice Greiffenhagen depict scenes of Braintree's history. A bronze fountain of a young boy with

shell and fish, designed by John Hodge, standing alongside St Michael's Church was yet another gift to the people of Braintree.

By the mid 19th century the opening of a railway line offered the opportunity to transport bulk materials, which led to the establishment of large engineering firms such as Crittall's metal window company and Lake & Elliot iron foundry.

A full story of Braintree's diverse industrial heritage and traditions is told at the Braintree District Museum in the town centre.

The Warner Archive is a unique record of the history of textile manufacture since the 18th century and includes examples of woven and printed fabric produced by Warner's as well as examples produced by other companies.

Not far from Braintree is Cressing Temple which takes its unusual name from the medieval monks of the Knights Templar who founded the two vast wooden barns, which form the centrepiece of this delightful rural estate.

Nestled to one side of the barns is the Walled Garden. Inspired by an age when gardens combined beauty and functionality, it is the result of painstaking research and archaeological excavation, and is filled with species widely cultivated at the time.

As you step within the Tudor walls, you step back in time. Here plants have been carefully grouped according to medicinal, culinary and dyers' plants, a potager and a small orchard and nuttery. The nosegay garden is a fragrant delight with a wealth of sweetly scented plants that were grown for their perfume, whilst the arbour is planted to recall Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream with its profusion of roses, woodbine and oxlips. At the centre of the garden is the fount, on which four spouts take the form of the green man, the spirit of vegetation frequently found in medieval carvings.

Set in peaceful surroundings, the gardens make a perfect escape on a clear winter's day. The barns are open throughout the main season, and visitors can enjoy a full programme of cultural events.

In 1199 King John granted Braintree a charter to hold a weekly market. Today the market is held twice a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when the streets abound with colourful stalls and friendly faces.

Discerning shoppers are attracted to the town throughout the year by the traditional and specialist smaller shops while bargain hunters are well served by the discounted designer village on the outskirts of the town at Freeport.

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