History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Paycocke's, with its superb carved ceilings
Coggeshall was granted a market charter by Henry III in 1256. The market was held at the bottom of Market Hill (at the junction of East Street and Church Street). In the centre of the market place stood a small chapel and a market house.
A later addition to the market place was the Chapel Inn, which served as the official residence of the High Sheriff of Essex. When the Peasant's Revolt erupted in 1381 poor workers on their way to join Wat Tyler's rebellion sacked the residence. This attractive timber-framed building became an inn in 1856.
One of the most iconic sights in Coggeshall is the blue and white painted Clock Tower, just a few steps up from the market place This weatherboarded building was built in the 14th century. By the 17th century it was called Crane's House, after Samuel Crane left rent from the property to the poor of the parish in 1669. In 1787 Sir Robert Hitcham left money to set up a school for poor people, and rooms were rented inside Clock House for this purpose until 1859. When the medieval Market House in the market place was pulled down around 1795 the clock and bell were installed in Crane House. Then in 1887 the tower was raised and a new clock added to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
Further up Stoneham Street from the Clock Tower is the village hall, once a brewery, with a small annexe housing the Coggeshal Museum. The museum has collections of genealogical resources, historic artefacts, old photographs, and other historic objects donated by local people. Displays include the heritage of lace making, the wool trade, and wood carving in Coggeshall. There are exhibits on famous local families, including the Doubledays, prominent Quakers. A few steps from the museum is a legacy of the Doubledays; a peaceful garden, and beside it, a Millennium garden.
The Coggeshall Gang
The Doubleday's would have worshipped at the Friends Meeting House, built in 1878, which now serves as the town library. Another historic place of worship on Stoneham Street is Christs Church, formerly the Congregational Church, built in 1715. At the bottom of Stoneham Street is the site of Black Horse, once an inn frequented by the Coggeshall Gang, a band of violent criminals whose grip over the town in the 1840s has been described as a 'reign of terror'. The gang was broken when a captured member informed on his fellows, and they were transported to Australia.
We've already mentioned the National Trust's Paycockes house on West Street, but immediately beside Paycockes is The Fleece Inn, another attractive 16th century building, once home to the wealthy Richold family, related by marriage to the Paycockes next door. Opposite the Fleece is the Sir Robert Hitcham School, established in 1636 to educate the poor of Coggeshall.
We haven't yet mentioned ne of Coggeshall's most impressive historic buildings; the parish church of St Peter ad Vincula. This is mainly a 15th century building, a testament to the wealth and influence of East Anglian wool merchants in the medieval period. There are excellent 15th and 16th century brasses, including many to the Paycocke family. The church is large and spacious, with huge Perpendicular windows.
Further along Church Street is Woodlands, a 16th century house, and Coggeshall House, first recorded in 1492 and now home to Lord Newton. The Manse is 16th century, with a lovely carved frieze of 1565 on the exterior wall. The Hutleys is 15th century, and Cockerells is another excellent 16th century timber-framed buildings. Near Market Hill is a row of three timber-framed buildings, one of which is Saunders, all that is left of the 16th century merchant's house called Great House. It was here in the Victorian period that local women made tambour lace, which was so popular it became known as Coggeshall Lace. Opposite Saunders is Spooners, with a plaque dated 1467, though parts of the building are a century earlier.
These are just some of the historic highlights of one of the most beautiful and historic towns in Essex. Most of these sites are outlined in an excellent leaflet published by the Coggeshall Museum and titled 'A Walk Around Coggeshall'. This is available at many tourist outlets locally and is well worth picking up. Our family followed the trail and had an extremely enjoyable time exploring all the historic highlights of the town - and there are a lot of highlights to explore!
Address: Coggeshall, Essex, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location: Off the A120 midway between Colchester and Braintree. Signposted parking area off Stoneham Street, near the library
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Paycockes - 0 miles (Historic Building)
Coggeshall Museum - 0.2 miles (Museum)
Coggeshall, St Peter ad Vincula Church - 0.3 miles (Historic Church)
Coggeshall Grange Barn - 0.3 miles (Historic Building)
Coggeshall Abbey - 0.5 miles (Abbey)
Marks Hall Arboretum and Garden - 1.9 miles (Garden)
Cressing Temple Barns and Gardens - 3.8 miles (Historic Building)
Copford, St Michael and All Angels Church - 5.4 miles (Historic Church)
Nearest Accommodation to Coggeshall: