St Anne's Castle, Great Leighs
Great Leighs shown within Essex
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||CM3 1|
|Ambulance||East of England|
|EU Parliament||East of England|
|UK Parliament||West Chelmsford|
Great Leighs is a village in Essex, England, half way between Chelmsford and Braintree. In 2008 Great Leighs became home to the first new racecourse in 80 years, when the nearby Essex County Showground was converted into a state-of-the-art horse-racing venue. Great Leighs Racecourse held its first race meeting on 20 April 2008 and staged its first meeting fully open to the public from 28–29 May 2008.
Great Leighs is also the location of the oldest Inn in England. St. Anne's Castle, situated on the junction of Main Road and Boreham Road, is also reputed to be haunted. Another Pub, the Dog & Partridge, is located at the other end of the village, on Main Road.
The full history of Saint Anne's Castle' has been lost in the midst of time. However, it is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and lays claim to be the oldest licensed premises in England, as it served ale to the pilgrims travelling to Thomas Becket's tomb in the 12th Century. Certainly, it has been an ale house since away back in the Middle Ages although at some point it was, rather ironically, an hermitage. The rather uninspiring exterior is the result of a fire over a hundred years ago which destroyed the original thatched roof which was replaced with tiles. Inside, however, closer inspection reveals timbers dating back hundreds of years. Down in the cellars there are remains of tunnels, which reputedly linked the inn with the nearby Leez Priory, and Gt. Leigh's church. When you visit Saint Anne's Castle, you will be able to read various references on the walls, telling you more of the history, and hear tales of the ghost: reputedly the troubled spirit of a witch who was burned at the stake and buried beneath a stone at the nearby crossroads.
In December 2009, a £730,000 project to renovate the Village Hall was completed. This was aided by money from an agreement associated with a new housing development within the village, extensive fund raising and generous help from funding bodies and Essex County Council. See the website for more details of the extensive facilities of the Village Hall.
The incumbent priest during the First World War, Andrew Clark, kept a voluminous diary of the war detailing activities, opinions and rumours in the village and its environs. An edited version of the diary was published in 1985 under the title Echoes of the Great War. Extracts relating to those commemorated on the War Memorial are available via the "Great Leighs War Memorial" page - see the link below.
In the 2014 BBC series "Britain's Great War", Jeremy Paxman visits St Marys Church, Great Leighs and describes the early loss of Captain Alan Tritton and brothers Privates Richard (Dick) and Arthur Fitch, and speaks with their niece Valerie Frost. The BBC has very kindly provided this video clip available via the link below.
There is a Spring by the side of the road (at Cole Hill on the Boreham Road) near Great Leighs Church. It once had a Lions head over the outlet.TL739157
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Great Leighs.|
- Great and Little Leighs Parish Council
- Leighs Village Hall
- Churches at the Leighs and Lt. Waltham
- The War Memorials at the Churches of Gt. & Lt. Leighs and Lt. Waltham
- Great Leighs War Memorial, including video clip from the BBC series "Britain's Great War"
- St Anne's Castle - The Oldest Inn in England
- The Dog and Partridge
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