A fleeting History of Braintree Essex

A fleeting History of Braintree Essex

A active town in the county of Essex in the east of England, United Kingdom, Braintree today has a population of around 42,000, slightly larger than the small village which existed in pre-Roman times some 4,000 years ago.

When the Romans invaded Britain, the east of England was one of their strongholds, and what is now Braintree developed from an existing settlement at the junction of two roads which the Romans had put in place. Though the Roman settlement was later abandoned, as their keep up on Britain weakened, the village continued to exist by the Saxon period, and by the time of the Norman conquest, was known as Branchetreu, and was listed as such in the Domesday Book.

The origin of the name of the town is slightly uncertain, and there are several theories as to how it came about. It seems doubtful that it was named after the River Brain (as is the case with many English towns), as it is generally thought that the town truly gave its name to the river, instead of the other way round. Perhaps more likely is that it came from the Old English Branoc’s tree, Branoc simply being a family name.

In the centuries following the Norman conquest the village succeed and grew as it became a popular stopping off point for Pilgrims. Braintree was granted its charter to keep up a weekly market in 1190, an event which attracted people from the surrounding areas and increased the wealth of the village. Braintree later became well known for its wool trade, a skill introduced by Flemish immigrants during the early 17th century.

Braintree suffered a harsh blow in 1665, when the Great Plague hit the village, and wiped out one third of the population. The wool trade was replaced by the silk industry by the 19th century and agriculture was nevertheless an important source of income much as it had from the early days.

Modern day Braintree is a busy commuter town with excellent road and rail links with London, Colchester and Chelmsford.

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