Tales of excellent Essex

A NEW book by historian and Essex champion Gillian Darley takes readers on a vivid personal tour of the county, from the seaside piers to the empty marshlands and the New Town high-rises, revealing a landscape and a story like no other.

Alongside Essex Man and TOWIE, there’s the Essex that despatched the first Puritan settlers to America, welcomed refugees from Europe and beyond, and offered fresh hope to bombed-out East Enders. The place where dreamers and makers, punk poets, anarchist sects and the avant-garde all found inspiration.

America’s Declaration of Independence was drafted in an Essex village. A Colchester nurseryman became the first to trade with a reclusive Eastern kingdom. Braintree’s only earthquake inspired a world-changing building system. In Epping Forest, a spat over firewood led to an historic victory for the common people. And just outside Southend, a royal grave attests to the true spirit of ancient England: open to the world, excited by the new.

And Thurrock is featured, with a spcial mention for St Clement’s Church, the 15th-century St Clement’s church in West Thurrock framed
by the belching hulk of Procter & Gamble’s manufacturing plant, a juxtaposition so blatantly cinematic that it earned a spot in Four Weddings and a Funeral.

The author was brought up in East Anglia, on the Essex-Suffolk borders, which may explain her love of distant horizons and towering skies. Wide-ranging in her interests, she is the author of several acclaimed books, including Ian Nairn (with David McKie) and John Soane. She is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Excellent Essex by Gillian Darley (Old Street Publishing, £14.99 – 978-1-910400-67-8 • DEMY HB) is released on 17 September, priced £14.99.