Braintree dates back over 4,000 years when it was just a small village. When the Romans invaded, they built two roads; a settlement developed at the junction of these two roads. The town was recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1085 when it was called Branchetreu and consisted of 30 acres in the possession of Richard, son of Count Gilbert. Pilgrims used the town as a stop-over, the size of the town increased and the Bishop of London obtained a market charter for the town in 1190. As early as the 14th century, Braintree was processing and manufacturing woolen cloth, a trade which it had seen the use of up until the late 1800s. The wool trade died out in the early 19th century and Braintree became a centre for silk manufacturing when George Courtauld opened a silk mill in the town.
With colourful, bustling market towns and picturesque villages set in the most beautiful rolling countryside, the district of Braintree has it all: from the designer shopping village to the medieval barns of the Knights Templar, jousting knights at a Norman Keep to steam railways, magnificent houses with stunning gardens and listed windmills. The district has four delightful market towns; Braintree, Coggeshall, Halstead and Witham, each unique in their own way and worth a visit. Marvel at historic houses and gardens, such as the National Trust properties of Paycockes and Grange Barn, or the landscaped woodland walks and footpaths of Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum. For heritage enthusiasts, why not pay a visit to the magnificent medieval barns of Cressing Temple, the largest of its kind in Europe or enjoy thrilling displays by jousting knights at Hedingham Castle, home to one of the best preserved Norman keeps in Europe. There is a lot for families to do too, including the Colne Valley Railway where everyone can enjoy a ride on a vintage steam or diesel engine, and Great Notley Country Park. If shopping is more your thing, head to Freeport where you can hunt for a bargain or two.