A civil servant by day who has a passion for exploring what Great Britain has to offer in my spare time.
Published October 29th 2014
A town which has so many fascinating places to visit
Thaxted has to be one of the most fascinating towns in Essex. With a population of just over 2,500 people, Thaxted has retained the charm and character of a small town. It has been described by one commentator as "the jewel in the crown of Essex" and it would be hard to argue that viewpoint! This is a town which holds a weekly market (on Fridays) and the annual Thaxted Festival in June which celebrates its proud musical connections.
The easiest way to reach Thaxted is by car. The car parks in the town are free entry which is obviously a bonus. The downside is that being a popular place to visit, it can be a struggle to find parking, especially on market days and at weekends. There are also regular bus services that pass through the town as an alternative mode of transport.
The parish church of St. John's has to be one of the county's finest churches with some fascinating historic features which have survived the centuries including a fair quantity of medieval stained glass. Several of the depictions in medieval glass are of Adam and Eve. The magnificent Lincoln organ in the church, built in 1821, is the only 3 manual church organ dating from the (late) Georgian period which has not been altered in any significant way since it was originally built and was the subject of a recent major restoration.
One of Thaxted's most famous residents was the composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934). He lived in the town from 1917 -1925 in a house in Town Street called 'The Manse'. It was whilst living in the surrounding area that Holst wrote the music for his most famous work 'The Planets'. In fact, the well-known hymn 'I Vow to Thee My Country' from the Jupiter suite was originally named 'Thaxted' in recognition of Holst's appreciation of the town. Holst regularly played the Lincoln Organ in St. John's church as did his friend, the renowned composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams.
Thaxted has a wealth of historic buildings, many of which are of architectural interest. One is the 15th century Guildhall used as a market space and at one point a school. Away from the centre of the town, a little further beyond the enchanting Thaxted almshouses, is the only surviving windmill in the town. Built in 1804, this impressive building is open to visitors on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.
There are a number of small independent shops in the town as well as a useful tourist information centre. There are several places where you can stop for refreshments including Parrishes on Town Street, Poppy's Team Room and, opposite the church, The Swan Inn which is an historic coaching inn.
It is very easy to see why artists such as Gustav Holst fell in love with Thaxted. That spirit is very much alive a century later. With the exception of today's traffic it can feel as if time has almost stood still. A very special place to visit indeed.