Some of the earliest reminders of Essex's industries are its mills, originally used to grind corn.

Earliest of all are its watermills, first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, many subsequently rebuilt as technologies improved throughout the centuries. By the 1820s there were about 100 watermills, as well as some 285 windmills in Essex.

Among the best preserved that you can still visit and enjoy today are Bourne Mill in Colchester and Alderford Mill at Sible Hedingham.

Tidal mills made use of the power of the tide in coastal areas and a rare working example stands at Thorrington Tide Mill, a scenic stroll along the creek from Arlesford.

As the Middle Ages progressed, the medieval cloth industry took on a growing importance.

Colchester was the most important cloth centre with its “Dutch Quarter”, settled by weavers from the LowCountries, still today retaining the character of amedieval town.

Braintree was another important cloth town with fine medieval buildings – in the museum you can enjoy displays interpreting the history of the industry.

Elsewhere, less common trades such as saffron cultivation, salt production and cutlery making brought prosperity to Saffron Walden, Maldon and Thaxted.

The wheels of the Industrial Revolution began to turn in England towards the end of the 18th century, shifting the focus of production from man to machine.

The cloth industry saw traditional home weaving replaced with looms powered by water and steam. Braintree, Halstead and Colchester became internationally important silk manufacturing centres while, at Waltham Abbey, the Royal Gunpowder Mills grew to become one of the largest gunpowder producers in the world.

You can still visit today and explore its history.

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