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Title: Brightlingsea  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Tendring, History of Colchester, River Colne, Essex, Great Bentley, Great Bentley railway station
Collection: Beaches of Essex, Populated Coastal Places in Essex, Tendring, Towns in Essex
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Brighlingsea harbour
Brightlingsea Harbour
Brightlingsea is located in Essex
 Brightlingsea shown within Essex
Population 8,076 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference
District Tendring
Shire county Essex
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CO7
Dialling code 01206
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament North Essex
List of places

Brightlingsea is a coastal town and an electoral ward in the Tendring district of Essex, England. It is situated between Colchester and Clacton-on-Sea, at the mouth of the River Colne, on Brightlingsea Creek. At the 2011 Census, it had a population of 8,076.[1]

Its traditional industries included fishery (with a renowned oyster fishery) and shipbuilding. With the decline of these industries, the town is largely a dormitory town for Colchester.

Brightlingsea is a limb of Sandwich, one of the Cinque Ports. The town retains an active ceremonial connection with the Cinque Ports, electing a Deputy from a guild of Freemen.

Brightlingsea was for many years twinned with French oyster fishery port Marennes, Charente-Maritime, but the relationship fell into disuse. In the mid-1990s, the port of Brightlingsea was used for the export of live animals for slaughter, leading to a protest campaign dubbed "The Battle of Brightlingsea".[2]

In the centre of the town is Jacob's Hall, reputedly the oldest timber-framed building in England, built during the fourteenth century. Also in the town centre is Victoria Place, where many local businesses are based.

To the west, on the creek is Western Promenade. It has lines of beach huts, a skate park, swimming pool, boating lake, and paddling pool. It is a popular destination for tourists and Londoners. Bateman's Tower, a local landmark by the sea, has recently been renovated by the Colne Yacht Club with help from a Lottery Fund grant.


  • History 1
    • Earliest remains 1.1
    • The Middle Ages 1.2
    • The Cinque Port Liberty 1.3
    • The Mignonette and Cannibalism 1.4
    • 1939-1945 1.5
    • 1984 Miners' Strike 1.6
    • 'The Battle of Brightlingsea' 1.7
  • Landmarks 2
    • All Saints' Church 2.1
    • Bateman's Tower 2.2
    • Brightlingsea Open Air Swimming Pool 2.3
  • Transport 3
    • Buses 3.1
    • Brightlingsea to Alresford 3.2
  • Education 4
  • Sports 5
  • Brightlingsea One Design 6
  • Notable residents 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Earliest remains

Brightlingsea sits on a promontory surrounded by the River Colne and its associated marshes and creeks (it was an island until the 16th century), and was settled from an early date. In 1995, an Early Neolithic pot, dated 4,000 to 3,100 BC, was found in a D-shaped enclosure with a ditch on a farm near Brightlingsea.[3] Other early remains in the area date from the Bronze Age, Roman and Saxon periods.[4]

The Middle Ages

In the Domesday Book of 1087, the population of Brightlingsea (or Brictesceseia) was given as 24 villagers, 26 smallholders and 5 slaves. The lord of the manor had been King Harold Godwinson, but the title had passed to King William I.[5] The medieval town grew up around two centres, firstly around the parish church (see All Saints' Church below) and secondly close to the shore where a port had developed. Trade was in oysters, fish, copperas (a locally found green pigment of iron(II) sulphate) and locally made bricks.[6]

The Cinque Port Liberty

The Cinque Ports were a confederation of the five most important ports on the coast of the English Channel. They had obligations to provide ships and men to fight for the king in time of war but were compensated by lucrative exemptions from taxation.[7] All of the Cinque Ports acquired "Limbs" or subsidiary ports that would ease the burden of their wartime obligations and share the beneifits of their privileges. Brightlingsea became a Limb of the Head Port of Sandwich, and is the only community outside Kent and Sussex which has any connection with the Confederation of the Cinque Ports.[8] Although these days it is a purely ceremonial affair, every year at the parish church, on the first Monday after Saint Andrew's Day (the first in December), known as "Choosing Day", the Freemen of Brightlingsea gather to elect the "Deputy of Brightlingsea" who is the representative of the Mayor of Sandwich in the Liberty.[9]

The Mignonette and Cannibalism

In 1867 the yacht Mignonette was built by Aldhous Successors in Brightlingsea.[10] The Marionette foundered on its way to Australia in 1884. In desperation, three of the four shipwrecked crew killed and ate the sickest member. The subsequent trial, R. v. Dudley and Stephens, established the common law principle that necessity is not a valid defence against a charge of murder.


At the start of World War II, the Royal Navy established a base in the harbour called HMS Nemo which operated small auxiliary patrol vessels and air sea rescue boats.[11]

1984 Miners' Strike

The port came to prominence in the 1984-85 Miners' Strike, where attempts were made to import coal through the Port (as with the small port at Wivenhoe further up the river Colne). However the efforts of picketing miners prevented coal imports through Brightlingsea. The construction of the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm operates from the port.

Protesters block the roads

'The Battle of Brightlingsea'

Brightlingsea port came to national prominence again in the 1990s with an attempt to use the port again for a controversial cargo. Dubbed the "Battle of Brightlingsea" it comprised a series of protests against the live export of animals from the town for slaughter in Europe. Many people believed that the conditions in which the animals were exported were cruel and inhumane. The protest began on 16 January 1995 and ended on 25 October 1995. During this nine-month period, over 150 convoys passed through the town and 250,000 animals were exported; of these, 24 died, 28 were destroyed by the M.A.F.F., and 38 could not be exported. 598 people were arrested by the police, of whom 421 were local residents. The campaigners eventually won and the live exports ceased.[12][13][14] Over 1,000 complaints were made against the police and the estimated cost of policing the protest was over £4,000,000.


All Saints' Church

All Saints Church

The ancient parish church of Brightlingsea stands on a hill at the northern edge of the town. The earliest surviving parts of the building, the chancel, the north and south chapels, and the eastern end of the nave and aisles, date from the 13th century. Further additions were made in the 15th century including the four storey tower, which was completed around 1490. The church contains a number of monuments dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries. Most notable is a band of 211 square memorial tiles dating from 1872 to 1973; each tile records a Brightlingsea person who has died at sea. A marine chart dated 1590 gives Brightlingsea Church as a navigation mark; Canon Arthur Pertwee, who was the vicar from 1872 to 1917, even in his old age climbed the tower to give a guiding light to the fishing fleet entering the harbour. The church is used as a meeting place to elect the Deputy of Brightlingsea, the officer responsible to the Mayor of the Cinque Port of Sandwich. All Saints is a Grade I listed building.[15]

Bateman's Tower

Bateman's Tower

Bateman's tower was built in 1883 by John Bateman which he used as a folly for his daughter to recuperate from consumption; however it may have been intended as a lighthouse as part of a failed plan to expand the port.[16] The tower is sited on Westmarsh point at the entrance to Brightlingsea Creek on the River Colne, and is often mistaken for a Martello Tower. During The Second World War the original roof of the folly was removed so that the tower could be used as an observation post by the Royal Observer Corps. In 2005, a restoration project funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund took place to restore the tower to its original condition, including the fitting of a replica of the original roof, refurbishing the interior of the tower and also painting the outside. The tower is now used by the Colne Yacht Club to administer races. During race days, the public can visit the tower, whose new roof makes it a popular gallery from which to watch races.[17] Bateman's Tower is leaning slightly; it is said that its foundations were laid on bundles of faggots.[18] It is a Grade II listed building.

Brightlingsea Open Air Swimming Pool

Brightlingsea open air swimming pool was built in 1933 and is one of the few remaining lidos (open air swimming pools built mainly in the art-deco period) still in use in the UK. Brightlingsea Lido was originally a salt water pool, but is now a two-level, non-heated freshwater facility. The pool had recently been threatened with closure, but local opposition and the pools status as listed lido helped save it. The pool comprises a 15m children's pool and a 50m main swimming pool, with a 2.0m diving pit located in the deep end. The facility is always popular and regularly used by residents and visitors to the town.


Beach at end of Western Promenade with Bateman's Tower in distance

The Wivenhoe and Brightlingsea railway opened in 1866 and was a branch line that operated rail services from the nearby town of Wivenhoe into the town centre of Brightlingsea.

The service unfortunately fell victim to the Beeching cuts in the 1960s, and was eventually axed in 1964 supposedly prompted by the high maintenance costs of the swing bridge over Alresford Creek, which was necessary to allow boat traffic to the many sand and gravel pits in the area.

Brightlingsea railway station was located on the southern side of Lower Park Road where the town's community centre now sits. It stayed in place for four years after the railway's closure until it was destroyed by fire in 1968.

The visible relics of the railway's presence today are the Railway public house and micro-brewery, and the old embankment which is now a footpath. It is possible to walk along virtually the whole length of the former route from very near the site of the old station in Brightlingsea along the old embankment to the site of the former swing bridge. This makes for a pleasant, scenic walk alongside the River Colne with its ecologically interesting salt marsh environment.

The closest railway station with parking facilities is now Great Bentley. The station at Alresford is closer but lacks parking.

Being almost totally surrounded by the Colne Estuary, Brightlingsea Creek & salt marsh, Brightlingsea's road links are unusually limited for a town of its size, with only one road linking the town with the outside. During the North Sea Flood of 1953 Brightlingsea was cut off from the outside, though the town itself was not as severely affected as some neighbouring communities.


From To Via Operator Notes
78 Brightlingsea Colchester, Norman Way Schools Wivenhoe, Colchester Town New Horizon Travel (Great Bentley) 1 return journey on school days only. [] for the up-to-date timetable.
87 Brightlingsea Colchester Town Centre Alresford,
Hedingham Omnibuses Mon-Sat (every 20 minutes) Sun & evenings (every 60 minutes).
Timetable [1]

|- | 87C | Weeley | Brightlingsea, Colne School | Elmstead Market, Wivenhoe | One return journey - school days only [] for recent timetables.

Brightlingsea to Alresford

One of the reserve schemes of Sustrans's Connect2 scheme is a new swing bridge over Alresford Creek. This is to give an alternative crossing over the waters around Brightlingsea.[19] Project put forward by John Muffett SUSTRANS Ranger route 1 The latest information on this scheme 17/04/2012 is that the project is still on hold, although plans for the replacement were made up and money resources were allotted by SUSTRANS. This money has since been withdrawn. JDM


Brightlingsea is home to the Colne Community School, a secondary school which serves an extended catchment area which includes Wivenhoe, Alresford, Great Bentley, Thorrington as well as Brightlingsea itself. Ex-principal Terry Creissen, who now resides in Qatar with his family, was honoured (whilst still in the position of headmaster at the Colne) with an OBE.


The town has an active recreational boating scene. Brightlingsea Sailing Club runs an active competitive sailing programme, and has produced many champions at international and Olympic level. The club is one of the oldest, largest dinghy and certainly friendliest sailing clubs in the East of England. The Club is situated on the north east coast of Essex where the Colne Estuary meets the North Sea and offers sailing in sheltered waters at all times of the tide for, dinghies, catamarans, and windsurfers and caters for novices to national champions. An active Sailing School provides training.

Brightlingsea Waterside Yacht Club is a co-operative venture between the University of Essex it's sports centre and Brightlingsea sailors. The Colne Yacht Club caters mainly to cruising members. It has an active cruiser racing fleet. There is also a waterski and wakeboard club that operates on Brightlingsea creek.

Brightlingsea Regent Football Club plays its matches at North Road in the Ryman North League.

Brightlingsea Cricket Club plays home matches at the Recreation Ground, and competes in the Two Counties Championship during the summer months. The Rugby Club plays its matches at Strangers Corner.

Brightlingsea One Design

The Brightlingsea One Design is a class of wooden dinghy designed in 1927 by Robbie Stone of Stone's shipyard (now the waterside marina).

The boats are of clinker construction, originally planked in elm and later boats in mahogany. The boats numbered 5x boats are constructed in GRP.

Boats 1 - 14 were built before the war. The use of the symbol 'C' on the sail has never been fully explained, although it is thought to stand for the river Colne.

The last wooden boat built, C32 'Avocet', was built in 1989 by Malcolm Goodwin.

The numbers do not run in sequence. The Stone built boats are 1 - 30 (27, 29 & 30 by T. C. White). 31 was built by John Mullins and 32 by Malcolm Goodwin. Another series starting at 40 was built in West Mersea. The new GRP boats built by John Mullins are 5x and 75 was the only boat built by the Aldous yard.

In 1951 a new rig was designed for the boat, and caused a split between the advocates of the new rig and the supporters of the old. The class raced as two different fleets until the end of the 1950s, when most of the boats racing converted to the new rig.

The new rig has no bowsprit, a shorter boom and a taller mast. This rig is to be seen on most of the boats sailing today, although C28 has an original rig. Two other boats are expected to fit the original rig after restoration.

In 2004 C1 'Jean' was relaunched 77 years after being built as the BOD prototype, after a ten-year restoration by Malcolm Goodwin.

In 2007 the first GRP BOD C51 'Greta' built by John Mullins was launched.

In 1986 the BOD became a film star appearing in 'The Ted Kennedy Jr. Story', Billed as a profile in courage, the film examines the trauma and effort that Senator Edward Kennedy's (Craig T. Nelson) son (Kimber Shoop) went through after losing his leg to a rare form of cancer and with the rehabilitation that was required.[20] Apparently the BODs are the nearest to those used by the Kennedy family at Cape Cod.

Notable residents

  • Christine Walkden, TV gardener, lives in Brightlingsea.[21]
  • Reginald White and John Osborn, Olympic gold medalists in the Tornado catamaran sailing class, both awarded MBEs in 1997[22] Osborn subsequently emigrated to Canada.


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Battle of Brightlingsea
  3. ^ Seax Archeology - Brightlingsea Ringditch
  4. ^ Seax Archeology - Brightlingsea Search Results
  5. ^ Open Domesday: Brightlingsea
  6. ^ Tendring District Council: Brightlingsea Conservation Area
  7. ^ The Cinque Port Liberty: History - The Cinque Ports
  8. ^ The Cinque Port Liberty: History - Brightlingsea and the Cinque Ports
  9. ^ The Cinque Port Liberty: The Freemen - Choosing Day
  10. ^
  11. ^ NAVAL-HISTORY.NET British and Other Navies in World War 2 Day-by-Day by Don Kindell - ROYAL NAVY SHIPS, January 1942 (Part 2 of 4) - HOME WATERS, Part 2: Nore Command
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ British Listed Buildings: Church of All Saints, Brightlingsea
  16. ^ British Listed Buildings - Bateman's Tower, Brightlingsea
  17. ^ Colne Yacht Club - Bateman's Tower
  18. ^ Thames Sailing Barge Trust - 11G Bateman's Tower
  19. ^
  20. ^ The Ted Kennedy Jr. Story. IMDb. Retrieved on 2008-07-30.
  21. ^ BBC. (2008). Christine's Garden Retrieved 2008-08-27.
  22. ^
Brightlingsea One Design
  • Nancy Mathams. (1991). Sixty Years on: With the Brightlingsea One Design. ISBN 0-9512297-0-2.
  • Lance Edwards. (2008). Brightlingsea One Design. Brightlingsea One Design Association. Retrieved
  • Wayne Lockwood.(2006). Local DJ & budding Entrepreneur. Loves protecting animals and running for Mayor, to name a few.


External links

  • Brightlingsea Town Website
  • Brightlingsea Museum Website
  • Brightlingsea Sailing Club
  • Save Brightlingsea's Open Spaces
  • Live weather from Brighlingsea from a weather station at Brightlingsea Sailing Club
  • Brightlingsea Regent football club
  • Colne Yacht Club
  • Brightlingsea Cricket Club
  • The Battle of Brightlingsea - Photos of the 1995 live export protests
  • Brightlingsea live exports - Photos and figures of the Battle of Brightlingsea protest
  • Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm - Tendring District Council
  • Bright Voices
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