Braintree

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Braintree is a town of about 42,000 people and the principal settlement of the Braintree district of Essex in the East of England. It is 10 miles (16 km) northeast of Chelmsford and 15 miles (24 km) west of Colchester on the River Blackwater, A120 road and a branch of the Great Eastern Main Line.

Braintree has grown contiguous with several surrounding settlements: Braintree proper lies to the south of Stane Street, and Bocking lies to the north. The two together can be referred to as Braintree and Bocking, although many people refer to them together as “Braintree”.

Braintree is twinned with the French town of Pierrefitte-sur-Seine.

Braintree, Massachusetts, United States, was named after the town in 1640.

The origin of the name Braintree is obscure. One theory is that Braintree was originally Branoc’s tree, Branoc apparently being an old personal name. Another theory is that the name is derived from that of Rayne, which was actually a more important settlement in Norman times. Braintree, Essex was also called Brantry and Branchetreu[citation needed] in the Domesday Book and this means “town by the river”. It has been clearly established that the Brain is not associated with any Brid. Britain has been established to be named after Brit or the word origin of Brutus a legendary founder of London. The River Braint is another possible origin. “Tree” comes from the Saxon suffix, more usually spelt “try”, denoting a big village. In many early American Colonial documents, it is referred to as Branktry. The name “Braint” is well attested as a river name in Britain, there is a river of that name in Anglesey, and it may be conjectured that it was name of the blackwater in pre Saxon times, although there is an even likely Celtic name in “Bran” also used widely for rivers, derived from the British word for a Crow and usually thought to refer to the dark or crow-black appearance of such a river, making it a good fit for a river now called “blackwater”. Here again, the reference to a river would indicate that Braintree literally means “town (or village) by the river”. The Suffix to either Braint or Bran is the common Britonnic “Tre” widely found in Wales and Cornwall, but also noted in towns such as Daventree, with the meaning of initially a farm or settlement later a town.

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 but was later abandoned when the Romans left Britain. The town was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1085 when it was called Branchetreu and consisted of 30 acres (120,000 m2) 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. The town prospered from the 17th century when Flemish immigrants made the town famous for its wool cloth trade. In 1665, the Great Plague killed 865 of the population of just 2,300 people.[2] 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. By the mid 19th century, Braintree was a thriving agricultural and textile town, and benefited from a railway connection to London. The wealthy Courtauld family had a strong influence on the town, supporting plans for many of the town’s public buildings such as the town hall and public gardens established in 1888.

Braintree lies in north Essex, about 40 miles (64 km) from London, with factories and housing to the south and rural areas to the north, where arable crops are grown. It lies about 150 feet (46 m) above sea level. Essex is rather flat on the whole, and the Braintree area is no exception; however, there is a general downward trend in the height of the ground from the northwest towards the coast to the southeast. Two rivers flow through Braintree in this direction. Pod’s Brook approaches the western side of the town, forms a natural boundary between Braintree and the neighbouring village of Rayne about two miles (3 km) to the west. Pod’s Brook becomes the River Brain as it passes under the Roman road, before running through the southern part of Braintree. The River Pant (or Blackwater) runs roughly parallel to it, through the north of Bocking and away to the east of the town. The Brain eventually flows into the Blackwater several miles away, near Witham.

Braintree has its own museum, which contains displays relating to the history of the town. It is named after John Ray and has a number of relatively famous patrons, including the Essex-born artist, Jennifer Walter and Lesley Killin, an influential member of Essex Council of Education (the ECE).

There is a cinema on the outskirts of the town. Opposite the cinema, there is also a bowling alley and various restaurants, together with numerous public houses and bars in the town centre.

Braintree’s local newspapers are the Braintree and Witham Times, Essex Chronicle and Evening Gazette.

The Braintree and Bocking Carnival takes place each June. The event starts with a procession of floats through the town centre, finishing at Meadowside. Events, including a fair and sideshows, continue throughout the afternoon at Meadowside until around 10pm.

Freeport is a shopping area on the outskirts of Braintree, described as a “designer outlet village”. It has approximately 90 departments where designer brands sell surplus stock for lower than the recommended retail price. Freeport also has its own railway station, namely Braintree Freeport railway station, which is the first stop on the journey from Braintree to London Liverpool Street via Witham.

Braintree has two railway stations, Braintree and Braintree Freeport next to the Freeport shopping area. Trains depart from Braintree station to Witham, where the Braintree branch line joins the Great Eastern Main Line to London Liverpool Street. Service frequency is approximately once an hour during the daytime. Nowadays the track terminates at Braintree. However, it used to continue westwards, as the Bishop’s Stortford-Braintree Branch Line, through the village of Rayne, to Great Dunmow, but this section of the route was closed and has been disused for decades (although has now become part of a country walk and cycle route, known as Flitch Way).

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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