Murder, fire and Essex man – a taste of Brentwood’s past


Essex County Flag

Essex County Flag

Stay at the historic Marygreen Manor Hotel in Brentwood, Essex and you’ll also be staying in an area steeped in fascinating history.

A Bronze Age axe….an entrenched camp….just two of the fascinating ‘finds’ that hint at Brentwood’s history

These would seem to be the sort of discoveries to excite the producers of television’s Time Team and to start to reveal something about the lives of Brentwood’s early inhabitants. However, way back in the mists of time, it would appear that Brentwood was under-populated, to say the least. Despite the discovery of the axe and the traces of the ancient camp in Weald Park, the historians’ view is that it’s very unlikely that early man settled in the town because it was probably part of the Great Forest that covered much of Essex.

And the Great Forest didn’t fare too well either. In the late 12th century, houses – and their occupants – started to appear in a clearing in the Forest, believed to have been the result of either an accidental or a deliberate fire! It was at this time that the historic name for Brentwood, ‘Burnt Wood’, first came into use,

Although it wasn’t an Essex man who helped the town become more historically significant, this individual’s legacy can still be seen in today’s High Street. Thomas a Becket’s murder in 1170 and his canonisation three years later had a key role in the foundation of Brentwood. After miracles took place at his tomb, pilgrims journeyed to the shrine in Canterbury, with many from the Midlands and East Anglia travelling through Brentwood. This led to a chapel being built in the town centre for the pilgrims and the growing local population to use. Today, the ruins – outside the Baytree Centre – make an attractive counterpoint to the more modern High Street.

Ancient ruins on Brentwood High Street

The first church building dedicated to St. Thomas in Brentwood, built around 1221

Watch out for future Marygreen Manor Hotel blog posts about the history of Brentwood!

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