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Brentwood is a town and the principal settlement of the Borough of Brentwood, in the county of Essex in the east of England. It is located in the London commuter belt, 20 miles (30 km) east north-east of Charing Cross, and near the M25 motorway.

Brentwood is an affluent suburban town with a small, but expanding, shopping area and high street. Beyond this is extensive sprawling residential development entirely surrounded by open countryside and woodland; some penetrating to within only a few hundred yards of the town centre. It is perhaps most widely known for Brentwood School and for several businesses based in the town.

The name was assumed by antiquaries in the 1700s to derive from a corruption of the words ‘burnt’ and ‘wood’, with the name Burntwood still visible on some 18th century maps. However, “brent” was the middle English for “burnt”. The name describes the presumed reason for settlement in the part of the Forest of Essex (later Epping Forest) that would have covered the area, where the main occupation was charcoal burning. An alternative meaning of “brent” is “holy one”, which could refer to the chapel dedicated to Thomas Becket, for the use of pilgrims to Canterbury.

Although a Bronze Age axe has been found in Brentwood and there are clear signs of an entrenched encampment in Weald Country Park it is considered unlikely that there was any significant early settlement of the area which was originally covered by the Great Forest covering most of Essex at that time. Rather it is believed that despite the Roman road between London and Colchester passing through, the Saxons were the earliest settlers of the area.

Robert Graves, in his book I, Claudius, refers to Brentwood as the site of the battle where Claudius defeated the Ancient Britons in 44 AD. However, Graves also states that names and places in the book are sometimes fictitious.

The borough began as a small clearing in the middle of a dense forest, created by fire, giving it the name of Burntwood, or ‘the place where the wood was burned’. People began to settle there and, because it was on the crossroads of the old Roman road from Colchester to London and the route the pilgrims took over the River Thames to Canterbury, it grew into a small town. A chapel was built in or around 1221, and in 1227 a market charter was granted. The new township, occupying the highest ground in the parish, lay at the junction of the main London-Colchester road with the Ongar-Tilbury road. Its growth may have been stimulated by the cult of St. Thomas the Martyr, to whom the chapel was dedicated: the 12th century ruin of Thomas Becket Chapel was a popular stopping point for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury. The ruin stands in the centre of the high street, next to the tourist information office, and the nearby parish church of Brentwood retains the dedication to St. Thomas of Canterbury. Pilgrims Hatch, or ‘Pilgrims’ gate’, was probably named from pilgrims who crossed through on their way to the chapel. It is likely, however, that Brentwood’s development was due chiefly to its main road position, its market, and its convenient location as an administrative centre. Early industries were connected mainly with textile and garment making, brewing, and brickmaking.

During the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, Brentwood was the meeting place for some of the instigators, such as John Ball and Jack Straw. They, apparently, met regularly in local pubs and inns. The first event of the Peasants’ Revolt occurred in Brentwood, when men from Fobbing, Corringham and Stanford were summoned by the commissioner Thomas Bampton to Brentwood to answer as to who had avoided paying the poll tax. Bampton insisted that the peasants pay what was demanded of them. The peasants refused to pay and a riot ensued as Bampton attempted to arrest the peasants. The peasants mved to kill Bampton, but he managed to escape to London. The rioters then, fearing the repercussions of what they had done fled into the forest. After the event, the peasants sent word to the rest of the country and initiated the Peasants’ Revolt. The Essex assizes were sometimes held here, as well as at Chelmsford. One such pub was The White Hart (now a nightclub called Sugar Hut Village and showing little of its original historic interest), which is one of the oldest buildings in Brentwood; it is believed to have been built in 1480 although apocryphal evidence suggests a hostelry might have stood on the site as much as a hundred years earlier and been visited in 1392 by Richard II, whose coat of arms included a white hart. The ground floor was originally stabling and in the mid-1700s the owners ran their own coach service to London. On 13 September 2009, the building and roof suffered significant damage during a fire.

Marygreen Manor, a handsome 16th century building on London Road, is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diaries and is said to have been often visited by the Tudor monarch Henry VIII when Henry Roper, Gentleman Pursuant to Queen Catherine of Aragon, lived there in 1514. It is now a hotel and restaurant. In 1686, Brentwood’s inns were estimated to provide 110 beds and stabling for 183 horses.There were 11 inns in the town in 1788.

Protestant martyr William Hunter was burnt at the stake in Brentwood in 1555. A monument to him was erected by subscription in 1861 at Wilson’s Corner. Thomas Munn, ‘gentleman brickmaker’ of Brentwood, met a less noble end when he was hanged for robbing the Yarmouth mail and his body was exhibited in chains at Gallows Corner,a road junction a few miles from Brentwood. A ducking stool was mentioned in 1584.

As the Roman road grew busier, Brentwood became a major coaching stop for stagecoaches, with plenty of inns for overnight accommodation as the horses were rested. A ‘stage’ was approximately ten miles, and being about 20 miles (32 km) from London, Brentwood would have been a second stop for travellers to East Anglia. This has not changed; there is an above average number of pubs in the area – possibly due to the army being stationed at Warley Barracks until the 1960s. Some of the pubs date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Brentwood was also significant as a hub for the London postal service, with a major post office since the 18th century. The most recent major post office on the high street was recently closed in the 2008 budget cuts; Brentwood residents now must rely on sub-postal offices.

Daniel Defoe wrote about Brentwood as being “…full of good inns, and chiefly maintained by the excessive multitude of carriers and passengers, which are constantly passing this way to London, with droves of cattle, provisions and manufactures.”

The ‘Brentwood Ring’, the earliest Christian ring ever to have been discovered in Britain was found in Brentwood in the late 1940s. It now resides at the British Museum in London. The only other ring of its type in existence can be found at the Vatican Museum in Rome.

Brentwood originated as an ancient parish of 460 acres (1.86 km²). In 1891 the population was 4,949. Under the Local Government Act 1894, the Brentwood parish formed part of the Billericay Rural District of Essex. In 1899 the parish was removed from the rural district and formed the Brentwood Urban District. In 1934 the parish and district were enlarged by gaining Hutton, Ingrave and South Weald. The district was abolished in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, and Brentwood urban district was joined with the parishes of Ingatestone and Fryerning, Mountnessing, Doddinghurst, Blackmore, Navestock, Kelvedon Hatch, and Stondon Massey to form the Brentwood district with a total area of 36,378 acres. In 1976 the new district was divided into 18 wards, with 39 councillors. In 1993, Brentwood gained ‘borough status.

In 1917, the parish church was awarded cathedral status, then between 1989 and 1991 the building was modified to appear in an Italianate Classical style. Brentwood Cathedral is currently the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood.

Incidentally, Ingatestone Hall, noted for its Roman Catholic connections through the Petres, is a 16th-century manor house built by Sir William Petre at Yenge-atte-Stone. The staunch Petres played a significant role in the preservation of the Catholic faith in England. Sir William was assistant to Thomas Cromwell when Henry VIII sought to dissolve the monasteries and ascended to the confidential post of Secretary of State, throughout the revolutionary changes of four Tudor monarchs: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. Queen Mary, in 1553, on her way to claim her crown in London, stopped at Ingatestone Hall; later, Queen Elizabeth I spent several nights at the hall on her royal progress of 1561.

Today, Ingatestone Hall, like all other large Tudor houses, is an expression of wealth and status and retains many of the features of a 16th century knightly residence, despite alterations by descendants who still live in the house. Ingatestone Hall represented the exterior of Bleak House in the 2005 television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, and also appeared in an episode of the television series Lovejoy. It is open to the public for tours, concerts, and performances; the hall and grounds can be rented for weddings and other occasions.

Brentwood was the location of Warley Hospital, a psychiatric hospital, from 1853 to 2001. A British East India Company elephant training school was based in Brentwood and this remained an active army base as a depot for the Essex Regiment until 1959, when much of the site was redeveloped as the European headquarters for the Ford Motor Company. A few buildings remain from the Barracks – the regimental chapel, the gymnasium (now home to Brentwood Trampoline Club) and the officers mess (now Marillac Hospital).

The military has associations with the Warley section of Brentwood going back over 200 years. It also had strategic importance during the time of the Spanish Armada – it was used as a meeting place for contingents from eight eastern and midland counties (900 horsemen assembled here) to then travel on to Tilbury.

The local common was used as a military camp in 1742, with thousands of troops camped there during the summer months. It was an ideal base, as it was less than a day’s march to Tilbury, where the troops would leave for foreign service. In the 1778 encampment, George III came to inspect the troops, and Dr. Samuel Johnson stayed for five days. The camps were made permanent in 1804, with space for 2,000 cavalry. 116 acres (0.47 km2) of land were bought and used for two troops of horse artillery – 222 horses, with 306 soldiers of varying ranks and ten officers – a hospital, and half a battalion of the Rifle Brigade.

In 1842 the East India Company’s barracks at Chatham became inadequate, and they purchased the land to move their troops in. Accommodation was created for 785 recruits and 20 sergeants with new buildings for the officers. Married family housing was also provided, and a chapel. In 1856 further building work was carried out, and a total of 1,120 men were housed there every year. After training they were deployed to India.

The area and men were absorbed into the British Army after the Indian Mutiny in 1857, and in 1861 the barracks was bought by the War Office. By 1881 the many different regiments had evolved into the Essex Regiment, which saw active service in the Boer War and both World Wars. The barracks served as a training centre and depot for the Essex Regiment for a number of years after the war, with many National Servicemen serving their first weeks here, but with the ending of conscription in 1960 the barracks closed.

During World War II, over 1,000 bombs were dropped on Brentwood, with 19 flying bombs (doodlebugs), 32 long-range rockets (V2s) and many incendiary bombs and parachute mines. 5,038 houses were destroyed, 389 people were injured and 43 died. The 15th- and 16th-century pubs, however, survived. Brentwood had been considered a safe enough haven to evacuate London children here – 6,000 children arrived in September 1939 alone.

Brentwood gained some unfair notoriety and national attention in the 1990s, mocked as the most boring town in Britain. The controversy was initially caused by David McClucky, the former manager of Brentwood Theatre, who, while being interviewed by a local reporter, said it was “hard to pick something interesting about Brentwood” in response to a query about the upcoming Brentwood Festival (a now-defunct parade and street festival). He later claimed he meant it was hard to pick from the many interesting historical events in Brentwood’s history. The trivia that ‘bored town’ is an anagram of Brentwood added to the jesting in the press.

The town is increasingly suburban, but it does have a very rural feel, with trees, fields and open spaces all around the town; Shenfield Common is also less than one mile from town centre shops.

In 2008 The Daily Telegraph found Brentwood to be Britain’s 19th richest town. The newspaper cited Brentwood’s private schools, open parks, good motorway access and a 35-minute train journey to London’s Liverpool Street station as reasons why it was chosen. A sizable proportion of the housing stock in Brentwood is characterised with large detached houses. 79% of the town’s 28,767 dwellings are owner-occupied, and 40% of households own two or more cars.

A significant proportion of residents, particularly those who live in the suburbs of Shenfield and Hutton, work in the financial services sector in London. The City ‘bonus season’ is known to have a positive affect on the economy of Brentwood.

Brentwood’s high street has also been subject to major redevelopment works costing between £3 million and £7 million. This included the demolition of the Sir Charles Napier pub to build an additional lane to improve traffic flow at the west end of the high street, and re-laying the pavements and road surface in the high street itself.

Several notable businesses are located in Brentwood.

The Ford Motor Company’s United Kingdom headquarters are located in the suburb of Warley, as are the property developer Countryside Properties. Hinge manufacturers NV Tools are based in the commuter suburb of Hutton.

From the financial services sector, Equity Insurance Group, comprising Equity Red Star (Lloyd’s syndicate 218), affinity provider Equity Direct Broking Limited and motorcycle insurance broker Bike Team, is headquartered in the town centre. General insurance broker Brents Insurance established in the town in 1963. The Bank of New York Mellon also have a substantial presence in the town.

LV= also has a major office in the town, employing 350 people at present.

The previous and current headquarters of electronics company Amstrad are located in Brentwood. The television show The Apprentice used overhead views of the Canary Wharf business district in London as an accompaniment to interior shots of the previous Amstrad offices, Amstrad House, which has since been converted into a Premier Inn hotel. Amstrad’s current headquarters are located directly opposite the old Amstrad House.

Well-known businesses that used to operate in the town include vacuum flask manufacturer Thermos, and Nissen whose UK factory and headquarters were established in the town by Ted Blake in the mid-1960s but closed in the 1980s.

In 2011, a beauty parlour in the town became the focus of tabloid controversy when it was reported to be offering cosmetic treatments to children. The salon opened on the same day that a government report expressed concern over the commercialisation and sexualisation of children.

Brentwood forms part of the larger Borough of Brentwood which also encompasses the surrounding smaller suburbs and villages. For elections to Westminster, Brentwood forms part of the Brentwood and Ongar constituency. In the 2010 General Election, Conservative Eric Pickles retained his seat in parliament, a position he has held since taking office in 1992.

The Brentwood Theatre and The Hermitage are the main cultural buildings in Brentwood; located on the same site in the town centre, the yellow and blue theatre and the historic brick buildings are difficult to miss. Owned and maintained by an independent charity, Brentwood Theatre receives no regular arts funding or subsidy. However, through careful management and with the support of a team of volunteers it is able to keep costs low so that hire rates are good value for a 100- to 176-seat professional venue. The Hermitage is used as the centre for Brentwood Youth Service.

Brentwood Theatre is a fully fitted community theatre that serves more than 40 non-professional performing arts groups. With high-quality lighting and sound, set design and production, and flexible staging, it is also an ideal venue for touring professional troupes, like Eastern Angles, who recently staged Return to Akenfield to critical acclaim. Audrey Longman, the retiring chair of Brentwood Theatre Trust, and patron Stephen Moyer led a fundraising campaign to build on much-needed backstage facilities. The “Reaching Out, Building On” campaign, well publicised by local radio station Phoenix FM, enabled the theatre to build on an entire back wing, enhancing the theatre with dressing rooms, a kitchen, office space, lifts, and the Audrey Longman Studio, a 40-seat multi-purpose room outfitted with dance mirrors, staging, seating, lighting, and sound for intimate performances, rehearsals, workshops, classes, and community meetings and ceremonies.

Local involvement provided support for Brentwood Theatre’s renovation, but the campaign received a significant bump when a fan-based fundraiser became known to American fans of actor Stephen Moyer, the first patron of the theatre. Word of the endeavor rapidly spread among fansites on the internet that emerged as a result of the popularity of HBO’s True Blood, created and produced by Alan Ball and based loosely on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire Mysteries. The show stars Brentwood-born Moyer and Golden Globe and Academy Award winner Anna Paquin. Moyer’s portrayal of vampire Bill Compton inspired American and international contributors to donate more than £5,000 to the cause.

The theatre has also become known for its month-long Annual Holiday Children’s Production every December. In 2008, local families enjoyed Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox with Stephen Gunshon, Deborah Leury, and Katie-Elizabeth Allgood; the theatre presented Dahl’s The Twits in the 2009 season.

The Hermitage youth service operates its own cafe, youth club and a live music venue called The Hermit, which has had hosted bands such as Motörhead and InMe. InMe were heavily supported in their early years by the venue, whose purpose is to promote and encourage youth bands. It also plays host to private events such as a weekly jazz club that was run by the saxophonist Spike Robinson until his death. Both venues co-host the Brentwood Blues Festival, a music event that has played host to the Blockheads and Bill Wyman.

The Brentwood Art Trail has become a popular annual summer event which was developed to create an arts experience whereby art created by local people can be recognised and appreciated.

Brentwood is also home to the Royal British Legion Youth Band, which perform at many events throughout the year, including the military tattoo at Haileybury and Swanage Carnival. It is a successful band and attracts youngsters from the age of eight from Brentwood and surrounding areas. It was the first British band to ever take part in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. It meets twice a week in Warley.

Among the many theatre companies in the region, Brentwood Operatic Society and Shenfield Operatic Society are two that represent the many groups providing excellent theatrical productions for the community. Brentwood Operatic Society also trains young actors with its BOSSY Youth acting program, headed by Gaynor Wilson, who formerly directed actor Stephen Moyer. David Pickthall serves as musical director when not heading the music department at Brentwood School, scoring films and television shows for the BBC, directing British orchestras, and composing. The award-winning composer wrote two operas and three musicals, published worldwide by Samuel French Ltd. He is also the musical voice of the villainous penguin in the Oscar-winning Wallace & Grommit: The Wrong Trousers.

Brentwood’s Orchestras for Young People was founded in 1990 and grew to include five ensembles for orchestral instrumentalists of school age, who perform regularly in and around the town. Regular rehearsals and workshops introduce the musicians to a wide variety of music, from well-known classical pieces to modern music.

The Brentwood Performing Arts Festival has now been accepted into membership by the British and International Federation of Festivals of which Queen Elizabeth II is patron. With this, the Festival has achieved recognition as the Festival of Performing Arts for Brentwood.

The town is the venue of the Brentwood International Chess Congress which was set up in 2006 and first ran 17-18 February 2007. The congress attracted 235 competitors who included three Grandmasters and five International Masters. The prize fund is relatively generous in comparison to many other similar congresses, being around £4,000. In 2007 it was the largest chess competition to be held in Essex and was organised by Brentwood Chess Club.

Although close to the extremities of Greater London, Brentwood is surrounded by open countryside and woodland. This has been cited as showing the success of the Metropolitan Green Belt in halting the outward spread of London’s built-up area.

Brentwood has a number of public open spaces including King George V Playing Field, Shenfield Common, and two country parks at South Weald and Thorndon. Brentwood hosts a number of Criterium Cycle Races that attract many of Britain’s greatest cyclists.

Although no longer manufactured here, Brentwood became the centre of trampolining in the United Kingdom between 1965 and 1981 after George Nissen brought the new sport to the town in 1949 and eventually manufactured trampolines in the town, continuing to do so for many years after they ceased production in the USA for fear of litigation. Ted Blake, a long-term Brentwood resident, was managing director of Nissen UK from its inception until shortly before it closed and became a leading figure worldwide in the development of modern trampolining. Brentwood still has a thriving trampolining community but no longer a local factory.

Brentwood is served by a number of bus services, many being operated by First Essex. The other main public transport providers include Arriva Shires & Essex, Imperial Buses, Regal Busways and First London. London Buses route 498 links Romford with Brentwood and operates daily.

The A12 trunk road bypasses the town to the north and the M25 motorway is located 2 miles (3 km) to the southwest of the town.

Brentwood railway station is located to the south of the town and is served by Greater Anglia stopping services between London Liverpool Street in the City of London and Shenfield.

Brentwood is twinned with Montbazon, France; and Roth, Germany.

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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