Ongar Castle mound and house1830.

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The Epping Forest District itself offers an exciting and diverse heritage, ranging from the commuter suburbs of Loughton and Chigwell in the south to ancient rural villages in the north. There are many traditional market towns across the district and Epping Forest itself, which at 6000 acres is the largest public open space in south Essex and London. All of these elements contribute to the diverse and dynamic heritage of the area.

Evidence of human activity in the district from the earliest times is found along the Lea and Roding river valleys. Items found at the site of Little London near Abridge, an area of significant Roman settlement in the south of the district show how important this area was on the route between the east coast and London. Epping Forest contains the remains of two Iron Age forts.

In medieval times, Waltham Abbey was an important monastic centre and benefited from extensive royal patronage. The Abbey Church of the Holy Cross and St. Lawrence lays claim as the burial place of the last Anglo Saxon King of England, Harold II, a connection the town celebrates each year around the anniversary of the king’s death at the Battle of Hastings on the 14th October 1066.

During the Tudor period, the area's proximity to London led wealthy people to establish their estates here and the remains of the country home of Sir Thomas Heneage a member of the Tudor Privy Council, can be seen in the grounds of Copped Hall. The Grade II* listed museum building is a good example of a typical merchant's house from this period

The rich agricultural land of the district has supported the lives of many ordinary people who worked the farms and mills throughout the ages. In the 19th and 20th centuries the district was at the forefront of experimental agricultural techniques through the work of Primrose O'Connell. This period also saw the rise of the main manufacturing firm of the area, Cottis and Sons of Epping, whose agricultural tools became renowned the world over.  Along the Lea valley extensive market gardening using greenhouse technology was developed in the early 20th century to supply the London markets.

The arrival of the railway in the late 19th century brought major changes, not just in the growth of the commuter suburbs, but also by making the open spaces of Epping Forest accessible to the poorest people in the slums of the East End of London, thousands of whom were brought here on day trips by charitable organisations and lead to the creation of an early tourist industry  in the form of the Retreats,  a range of tea houses and associated entertainments linked to Epping Forest as the Cockney paradise.

The development of the Royal Gunpowder Mills and its associated sites in Waltham Abbey in the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries created an industry that was an essential component of Britain’s military might up to and including the Second World War. The district played an important role in planning for the defence of London from the threat of invasion. The North Weald Redoubt (fort) was built to protect Victorian London from attack. During the First World War North Weald Airfield was established with aircraft stationed to intercept airships and aircraft on bombing missions over the Capital.  During the Second World War North Weald Airfield, played a crucial role in the Battle of Britain and went on to be home to the early generations of jet fighters defending the country.

The district, especially Epping Forest, has been an inspiration for many artists and authors such as Lucien Pissarro, Augustus John, Jacob Epstein, Eric Dawson, Walter Spradbery and Jill Barklem.

Find out more at the district's museum in Waltham Abbey.

Map & Directions

Epping Forest District

Type:Towns & Villages

CM16 6BZ

What's Nearby

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  3. 9 walks, 9 local nature reserves and 20 additional wildlife sites across the district.

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  4. 9 walks, 9 local nature reserves and 20 additional wildlife sites across the district.

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  1. Discover the varied wildlife on your doorstep within Epping Forest District's nine nature…

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  9. Find your place at Epping Sports Centre

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  10. Starting at Epping Station, walk the Essex Way and celebrate some of the finest…

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  11. North Weald Redoubt, one of the London Mobilisation Centres planned in 1888 and completed…

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