In order to understand how London used to look, there are many places in Essex to visit and learn about old buildings that look like those which once were to be seen in the capital.








London has plenty of interesting buildings remaining from many periods of history, like Georgian terraces and 17th century Wren churches. What it lacks are examples of houses from before 1600. In the City of London, this is due mainly to its almost total destruction by the Great Fire of London, in 1666. In Inner London, almost no houses date from before 1600 mainly because the villages in which they would have stood, like Camberwell or Eltham, were so small that few houses were built. The other reason is that ‘the march of progress’ has destroyed most of them. If you drive around Essex, there are many examples of early houses, providing excellent life-size visual aids of how parts of London must have looked in earlier centuries. This page lists a few of the villages that have something to teach us about London’s history. It is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty more examples in the county.

The Villages

Beaumont Quay lies at the end of a very long sea estuary. It is now derelict but was once a working quay where Thames sailing barges used to loaded grain bound for London.

Bradwell is village near the sea but its one claim to fame is that nearby is one of the oldest religious buildings within the British Isles.

Cressing was land which, in the 14th century, was owned by the Knights Templar who built enormous timber barns on their farm.

Finchingfield is often described as ‘the most photographed village in England’. It certainly has one of the most picturesque situations of any village.

Greenstead is an ancient village with a church constructed entirely of tree trunks before the Norman Conquest and it remains to this day.

Layer Marney is one of the ‘Marney’ villages. In Tudor times it was the seat of the wealthy Marney family who built a large gatehouse near the parish church.

Little Maplestead has one of the only four round churches in England, this one built by the Knights Hospitaller around 1180.

Thaxted looks as if it has been constructed for a film set. The main attraction is the delightful Guildhall built in 1390 by the cutlers, a thriving craft in the town.


There is a pdf file with much more information on these villages, along with pictures. The relevance of the villages to how they help with understanding London's history is fully explained.

Click here to download

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