More For Your Money: The small village that's big on history

Coggeshall is the small village that's big on history - and antiques. Robert Liebman turns back the clock
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The Independent Online

A pleasant and picturesque village today, Coggeshall was once where it was all happening in the wool trade. That was between the 15th and 17th centuries. And when wool became passé, the locals turned to lace.

Located between Colchester and St Albans, this village was settled in Roman times and was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The village has grown rapidly, and its current population is 5,000.

It has more than 200 listed buildings, including the remains of a 12th-century Cistercian Abbey, and two National Trust properties - the 13th-century Grange Barn, and Paycocke's House.

Grange Barn was built by sheep-farming Cistercian monks and is among the oldest timber-framed buildings in Europe. Paycocke's House takes its name from a prosperous butcher who became a sheep farmer and wool trader. The cathedral-like Church of St Peter-ad-Vincula is one of the largest in Essex.

Coggeshall attracts East Enders who have had it with the hassles of urban life and have enough equity in their London properties to do something about it, says estate agent Phil Howorth of Country and Village. "Some of our buyers are retirees, but many are young families. Our local primary is among the best in all of Essex. Coggeshall is not too close but also not too far from the train station in Kelvedon and the A12. It is 35 to 40 minutes' drive from London and the M25 but it is like middle England."

Good communications and an abundance of attractive old houses come at a price. Coggeshall is about 5 per cent more expensive than nearby villages and about 30 per cent more than Braintree, Howorth adds.

Ann and Roy Howitt moved to Coggeshall 44 years ago. "You can't leave after you start living here," says Ann. "It has great community spirit, better now than in the past.

"It used to be a village community, and now it is a commuting community. Many new people have moved in, and new groups and associations were formed to reflect their interests."

A former physical education teacher, Roy says that active sports-minded children are well catered for in Coggeshall. "The village has cricket and football facilities, and squash courts are nearby. For young children growing up, there was also fishing and other country sports. We have two sons and one daughter, all of whom are grown now. We could let them do all of these things on their own. It was safe in those days."

How much do homes cost?

Flats start at about £130,000. A one-bedder in a listed recently converted warehouse with communal gardens and pond, £158,000 at Allen Estates. Listed cottages start at about £175,000, and three- and four-bed modern houses start at about £250,000. A massive part residential and part commercial listed building in the town centre is asking £545,000 at Fenn Wright. Large houses on spacious plots in the area generally sell for more than £1m.

What about quaint country cottages?

A two-bed listed cottage with red-brick fireplace and exposed beams, sizeable rear garden and off-street parking, £174,995 at Country and Village. A larger two bed listed end-terraced has two receptions and a walled rear garden with four brick-built storage sheds, £194,995 at William H Brown. Larger still is a listed three-storey heavily half-timbered end terrace, seeking offers over £210,000 at Country and Village.

What about transport?

Kelvedon station serves Liverpool Street Station and is three miles from Coggeshall. The Community Bus Service connects with morning and evening trains daily and also transports the elderly to and from the market on Thursdays. It is staffed entirely by volunteers. Convenient for Stansted and the M11, Coggeshall is almost exactly midway between Braintree and Colchester on the A120, which bypasses the village just to the north. The A12 is a few miles to the south.

Shops and restaurants

Coggeshall has some 150 shops: its antiques trade has declined, but its restaurant business is flourishing. Popular eateries include Baumanns Brasserie (formerly Langan's), the Carved Angel, the White Hart and, in Great Tey, the Barn Brasserie. The weekly market dates to 1256.

What is there to do?

Coggeshall has a swimming pool, cricket club, badminton club, adult education facilities and a museum. The library operates a book-delivery service for the elderly and housebound, and an amateur dramatic society is based in Kelvedon. Just outside Coggeshall is Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, former home for more than 300 years of the Honywood family.

What about education?

Coggeshall's St Peter's CofE Primary and Honywood Secondary schools serve the surrounding area. Both schools enjoy comfortably above-average results.

And one for the pub quiz

What TV programme was filmed in and around Coggeshall? Answer: Lovejoy

Allen Estates (Kelvedon), 01376 573333; Country and Village, 01376 563656; Fenn Wright (Witham), 01376 516464; William H Brown, 01376 561204.