Brentwood is a pleasant shopping and commercial centre in south Essex, surrounded by historic parkland and open countryside. It began life as a staging post on the old coaching road from London to Chelmsford (A12). Several fine coaching inns still stand in the High Street, including the famous 15th century White Hart Hotel. In the 1840s the town expanded greatly from coming of the railway.

Ruins of St Thomas Chapel

Ruins of St Thomas Chapel © John Salmon (CC2)

During the medieval period Brentwood was a convenient stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to St Thomas Becket's shrine at Canterbury. The ruins of the town's 14th-c St Thomas's Chapel still stand in the High Street. The replacement parish church is more modern, built in the 1880s to the Gothic style.

Other important ecclesiastical buildings include a classical styled Roman Catholic Cathedral and a Congregational chapel of 1847. A few miles to the southwest stands St Mary's Church (1904) in Great Warley, which is worth visiting just for its elaborate interior.

Although most of the town is modern there are remains of some older buildings in Ingrave Road, including the old School House, a fine Georgian building dated to 1773. Brentwood also has a small community cinema and theatre, which hosts regular productions by non-professional groups.

Hundreds of acres of parkland surround the town, forming a protected "green belt" of unspoilt countryside providing extensive walks and trails. In particular, Weald Country Park, a former estate that was partially landscaped in the 18th-c, has a medieval deer park, lake and woodland. Thorndon Country Park and the woodlands of Thorndon are spectacular in the spring when densely packed with woodland flowers. The woods here are also rich in bird life, attracting many species of migrant and over-wintering birds.

Brentwood Museum

This small, picturesque cottage museum, located at Warley Hill, concentrates on social and domestic interests from the first half of the 20th century, including relics from both world wars. The museum is open at the weekends during spring and summer. See website for details.

Map of Brentwood


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