THIS county is bounded on the north by Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, from the first of which it is divided by the Stour; on the west by the counties of Hertfordshire and: Middlesex, separated from the latter by the Lea ; on the south by the Thames, flowing between it and Kent; and on the east by the ocean. Its figure is irregular, the maritime side in particular being indented and uneven. Its length from north to south is about 44 miles ; its breadth from ease to west about 48 miles. Its area in square miles is reckoned: at 125. It is divided into twenty parts, of which 14 are hundreds, five half hundreds, and one a royal liberty.

Essex is the most southern of the three counties on the eastern coast of England which together form a continued tract of vast extent, undistinguished by any considerable eminence or ridge, but in general sufficiently elevated to be dry and arable, and rich in the various products of agriculture. The road from London to Norwich by Newmarket, which passes along the western sides of Essex and Suffolk to the middle of Norfolk, a distance of one hundred and eight miles, is more level and unvaried in its surface than any tract of equal length in the kingdom.

Essex, however, possesses a considerable variety of soil and face of country. Its south-western part is chiefly occupied. by Epping-forest, and its several branches. The Roddon, a rivulet running parallel to the Lea, fertilizes this part of the county, which is famous for its butter, sold for a high price in London under the name of Epping butter.

Northwards the country becomes more open and uneven. Saffron Walden, in this part, by its name shows the product for which it is famous. Safllon, which was formerly cultivated in various parts of the kingdom, is now grown almost solely between this place and Cambridge. A rich light soil and dry Country is peculiarly adapted to this plant. The English saffron has always been in high estimation. Another singular product of this county is a kind of treble crop of coriander, carraway, and teazel the two former cultivated on account of their aromatic seeds, the latter for prickly heads, used for the purpose of raising the nap in woollen cloths. They are all sown together, but come to maturity at different periods, and the succession of the whole crop lasts three or four years.

Potatoes are grown in greater quantity in Essex than in any other southern county. This culture is particularly practised in the south-western angle, between the Lea and the Thames, for the purpose of supplying the London markets.

The middle of Essex is in general a fine corn country, varied with gentle inequalities of surface, and sprinkled with woods. Towards the sea coast it gradually declines into marshy grounds, broken by arms of the sea into islands, and frequently inundated. The fine pasturage which these tracts, commonly called the Hundreds of Essex, afford, scarcely compensate for their unwholesomeness, which is in a manner proverbial. The banks of the Thames, from the entrance of the Lea to the sea, are a similar tract of marshes. The farms in these parts are very large, and their occupiers are industrious to improve their grounds by manuring with chalk, brought by sea from Kent. Numbers of calves are taken from all these parts of Essex to the London markets.

The northern part of the coast, between the Stour and the Coln, which projects further than the rest, is a more elevated and healthy country. Upon the whole, few counties have a smaller proportion of waste land than Essex; and the nrety and goodness of its agricultural products are not exceeded by those of any other part of the kingdom.

Of minerals and fossils Essex is scantily provided. The most remarkable lime and chalk quarries are those which appear at Purfteet, to the north of the Thames, where they seem to have wandered across the river from Kent. Some mineral waters occasionally show themselves, but of little repute. That of Tilbury is sometimes resorted to, and is found to be impregnated with earthy and muriatic salts.

The principal rivers properly belonging to this county are the Come, rising in its northern side, and passing Castle Hedingham, Halstead, and Colchester, emptying into a creek f the sea, between Mersey island and the main. In the salt-water inlets and pools at the mouth of this river are bred the famous Colchester oysters so well known as an article of commerce and luxury.

The Blackwater, called also the Pant at the beginning of its course, rises near Saffron Walden, and passing through Braintree and Coggeshall, receives another stream near Witham. It then proceeds to join the Chelmer near MaIden, and both conjointly unite with an extensive estuary, which at high tides inundates a large tract of country. The Chelmer takes its source near Thaxsted, and passing the town and priory of Dunmow, visits Chelmsford, and thence flows on to meet the Blackwater near Maiden. The Grouch, after a short course on the south-eastern side, mixes with the sea among the marshes of Burnham and Foul-ness isle. The Wallfleet and Burnham oysters are the products of its creeks and pits.

The Roddon or Roding, visits Cheping Ongar, and several villages in its progress through Wanstead, Ilford, and Barking to the Thames. It is made navigable from Ilford bridge. The Lea is the boundary river between Essex and Middlesex and part of Hertfordshire. It has a long course of navigable canal interposed between the streams by which it is separated.

Text: England Described etc (1818) by John Atkin M.D.

Map: Cary’s Traveller’s Companion or a Delineation of the Turnpike Roads of England and Wales etc.,(1812) by John Cary.

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