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Witham, Essex

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Witham, Essex

This article is about the town in Essex. For the village in Somerset, see Witham Friary. For the river in Lincolnshire, see River Witham. For the village in Oxfordshire, see Wytham. For people with the surname, see Witham (surname).

Coordinates: 51°47′52″N 0°38′14″E / 51.7978°N 0.6373°E / 51.7978; 0.6373


 Witham shown within Essex
Population 22,500 
OS grid reference TL821145
District Braintree
Shire county Essex
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WITHAM
Postcode district CM8
Dialling code 01376
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Witham
List of places

Witham /ˈwɪtəm/ is a town in the county of Essex, in the east of England with a population (2001 census) of 22,500.[1][2] It is part of the District of Braintree and is twinned with the town of Waldbröl, Germany. Witham stands between the larger towns of Chelmsford (8 miles to the south-west) and Colchester (13 miles to the north-east). The River Brain runs through the town and joins the River Blackwater shortly outside it.


Early history

Excavations by Essex County Council field archaeological unit at the recent Maltings Lane development discovered evidence of Neolithic occupation of Witham including human remains and several trackways across ancient marsh. Excavations of the Witham Lodge (Ivy Chimneys) area of the town unveiled remains of a Roman temple in the 1970s as well as a pottery kiln. This would have been alongside the main Roman road from London to Colchester and used as a stop over point on the long journey, another notable find during the excavation was a Votive Offering pool in the grounds of the temple, the pool contained several artefacts that would have been offered to the gods. In 913, according to the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, Edward the Elder marched from Hertford to reconquer Essex and made an encampment here on his route to set up a base at Maldon. Witham's position on the Roman road in relation to the major Viking army based at Colchester was the most likely reason for this and it would have effectively cut Essex in two.

The name Witham is Saxon in origin and remains unchanged in spelling. The parish of Witham appears in the Domesday Book of 1086.[3] The manor of Witham was given to the Knights Templar in 1148. To the north of the current town is Cressing Temple which was the earliest foundation of Templar lands in Britain, built over 700 years ago.

The town as it is now started life on 'Chipping Hill', where the old forge and the church still exist to this day. As the years went by, the hamlet grew to become 'Witham' and St Nicolas Church of England Church (a unique spelling) serves a congregation of around 150 people each Sunday. During the latter half of the 18th century and the early 19th century, Admiral Sir William Luard was the town's most prominent citizen, a resident of Chipping Hill and a founder and patron of St. Nicolas' Church. His funeral cortege through the town in 1910 was witnessed by thousands.

Witham briefly enjoyed a period as an affluent spa town after the discovery of a mineral-bearing spa in the town by Dr Taverner in the 18th century. Witham was also a centre of the wool trade until the decline of the industry in the late 17th century.

1 September 1905

Main article: Witham rail crash
Witham railway station was the scene of a serious accident on Saturday 1 September 1905. The 09:27 London Liverpool Street to Cromer 14 carriage express derailed whilst travelling at speed through the station. 10 passengers and a Luggage Porter were killed when several of the carriages somersaulted on to the platforms causing considerable damage to the rolling stock and the station. 71 passengers were seriously injured.[4] This remains to this day the worst single loss of life in a railway accident in Essex. In 2005 an opportunity to commemorate the centenary was missed and the incident is now largely forgotten. Ben Sainty, a signalman, whose quick action averted the next train hitting the wreckage has a road named after him in the town, Ben Sainty Court.

Post War

The town expanded greatly in the late 1960s and 1970s when the Greater London Council built 3 large council estates on the west and north sides of the town and a smaller one to the South for families from London to move to as part of the 'New Town' and 'Expanded Town' overspill policy of that time.

Starting in the 1980s but accelerating in the 1990s and 2000s a large number of houses were built in several estates to the south and southwest of the town infilling the farmland that used to exist between the town and the A12 bypass. The most recent of which is the Maltings Lane development, which when completed will exceed 1200 homes, a school, business park and community shopping area.

A one time famous resident of the town is the author Dorothy L. Sayers whose statue stands opposite the town's library. The library stands on the site of the old Whitehall cinema, which closed in the late 1970s.


The town is served by Witham railway station, situated on the London Liverpool Street to Ipswich main line operated by Greater Anglia. Trains take approximately 40–45 minutes to reach Liverpool Street. The station is also the junction for the Braintree branch line to Braintree, Braintree Freeport, Cressing and White Notley. Another branch line, now dismantled, went from Witham to Maldon.

Witham is situated on the A12 trunk road between Chelmsford and Colchester. Originally the A12 ran in a straight line through the middle of the town; however for some decades there has been a by-pass completely avoiding the town.

Because of these excellent transport links, the town has a large number of residents who commute to work in London. This is evident by Witham railway station's appearance within the 150 busiest railway stations in Great Britain,[5] which would not be expected based on the town's population alone.

Economy and facilities

Witham has a mainly linear town centre, concentrated on the high street and its two modest shopping precincts form a cross, bisecting the high street, the Newlands Shopping Centre of 70s design to the north and the Grove Centre an 80s brick design to the south. There are a reasonable range of small shops, a full range of major high-street banks and several national commercial chains. The town also has three supermarkets, Tesco in the centre of town, Morrisons near the railway station and Asda near to Maltings Academy.

A significant industrial presence remains in the town, mainly concentrated on three industrial estates on the eastern side of the town close to the junction with the A12. There is also significant office accommodation in the town centre area.

In March 2007, Crittall closed its Braintree factory and returned to Witham to occupy a new factory on the Freebournes Industrial Estate. The factory Crittall moved into was built for J.L. French in 2001, but never used for production. The new Crittall factory is visible on the right hand side of the road exiting Witham towards Colchester via the A12.

Sport and leisure

Witham has a Non-League football club Witham Town F.C. who play at Spa Road. There is also a rugby club situated behind the football ground.

Leisure facilities include Benton Hall Golf and leisure centre, a pool club and a library which occupies the building of the town's long-closed cinema, the Whitehall. A 'River Walk' runs for three and a half miles through the town and is home to a range of wildlife. squash courts and a "Kinetika" gym.


There are two secondary schools in Witham, Maltings Academy and New Rickstones Academy. Maltings Academy achieved 94% A*- C GCSE grades in 2012. (51% including Eng and Maths) and an above national average of 99% of students gaining at least one GCSE in 2012. The two schools are part of the AET academies chain.

The town's primary schools are Templars, Holy Family Catholic School, Howbridge, Powers Hall, Chipping Hill (This became a primary school in September 2010 and moved to a new site in the south of town in January 2012), Rivenhall CoE, Elm Hall Primary, Southview and Silver End Primary. Both Chipping Hill School and Powers Hall Junior School received Outstanding OfSTED reports in 2008.


Witham is part of the Witham constituency of the House of Commons. The local Member of Parliament (MP) is the Conservative Priti Patel, who was elected at the 2010 General election, being the first Asian female Conservative MP ever elected to Parliament.

The constituency includes Hatfield Peverel, Langford, Wickham Bishops, Marks Tey, Tiptree, Tolleshunt Knights, Stanway Kelvedon, and Coggeshall. It is regarded as a safe seat for the Conservative Party, and Priti Patel holds a strong 15,196 vote majority. Witham was once a strong Labour party area, but in 2011 the local Conservatives won a majority on the Town Council.

Witham is under the jurisdiction of Witham Town Council (its parish council), Braintree District Council and Essex County Council.

Witham, and parts of the Braintree district, hold one of the best recycling schemes in the UK, with compulsory recycling, reaching over 50% recycling.

Notable residents

  • James Gibson, the 2003 World Breaststroke 50m (Long-course) Champion, was born in Chelmsford and lived in Witham.
  • Admiral Sir William Luard, K.C., President of the Greenwich Naval College and Admiral of the Fleet.
  • James Winslow, Australian and Asian Formula 3 champion lived in Witham before moving to Australia and then the US to race in Formula Atlantic.
  • Eddie Hall, Multiple British and European karting champion was born and raised in Witham.
  • Graham Hedman, 2006 European Champion, 4x400 men's relay, was born in Witham.


Climate data for Witham
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7
Average low °C (°F) 3
Precipitation mm (inches) 51
Source: MSN Weather

Twin town

Germany Waldbröl, North Rhine-Westphalia


External links

  • Witham Town Council

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