"Braintree" Top 5 Page for this destination Essex Things to Do Tip by allikat
Essex Things to Do: 45 reviews and 84 photos
OK, admittedly Braintree probably doesn't top many lists for the UK's Top Tourist Destinations, but it's a nice old market town, with lots of history. It's probably best as a base from which to explore the many pretty villages which can be found roundabouts, but don't miss out on the town itself.
Braintree, along with neighbouring Bocking, used to be home to many thriving family industries, such as Courtauld's weavers, Crittall windows, Warner's silk mill and Lake & Elliott's foundry, but these have now all closed down. My father worked for Lake & Elliot's, my uncle worked for Courtauld's and my grandfather worked for Crittall's. The resultant derelict factory sites have largely now been redeveloped as residential areas and the town has had a new lease of life with the arrival of Freeport retail village - well worth a visit if you want to pick up some designer bargains on your travels.
Wednesdays and Saturdays are good days on which to visit the old town centre as busy markets are held on these days. The shops are certainly better than they used to be - George Yard is the best area to head for shopping-wise.
The old town hall no longer houses the local council but hosts art exhibitions, functions and houses the town's tourist information office - it definitely deserves a visit to discover more about the long history of the town. Just over the road the old John Ray primary school has been converted to a local history museum with a small gallery displaying the works of local artists and craftspeople. It's also the place to go if you are researching local or family history and the shop there stocks some excellent books on the subject, mostly written by locals.
There are many churches in the town, but the main one is St Michaels. I lived in Braintree for 30 years, but have never been inside, mainly because it has been targeted by vandals for many years and is not only usually locked, but has had metal grills fitted over it's stained glass windows. A good moment perhaps to advise that the town centre can be very rowdy at night, and whilst I've enjoyed many an evening out there, you do need to take care.
The fountain outside is a real local landmark. Cast in bronze a young boy stands on top of a shell , surrounded by sea lions and holding another shell to his ear. It was gifted to the people of Braintree in 1937 by W J Courtauld (of Courtauld's weavers) and represents the town's motto - "Hold To The Truth"
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