Coordinates: 51°51′30″N 0°57′55″E / 51.8582°N 0.9653°E / 51.8582; 0.9653

Wivenhoe is located in Essex

 Wivenhoe shown within Essex
Population 9,135 +
OS grid reference TM045225
District Colchester
Shire county Essex
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district CO7
Dialling code 01206
Police Essex
Fire Essex
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Harwich and North Essex
List of places: UK • England • Essex

Wivenhoe is a town in north eastern Essex, England, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) south east of Colchester. Historically Wivenhoe village, on the banks of the River Colne, and Wivenhoe Cross, on the higher ground to the north, were two separate settlements but with considerable development in the 19th century the two have merged.

In 2008, the town had a population of over 10,000. The town's history centres around fishing, ship building, and smuggling[citation needed]. The town is considered to have a bohemian quality, remaining popular with local artists and writers.

Much of lower Wivenhoe is also a designated conservation area, with many streets being of particular architectural interest.



Wivenhoe may be derived from a Saxon name meaning Wifa's (Wiven) Ridge (hoe). Wifa was a person or tribe the town's area belonged to before the Norman Conquest.[citation needed] The town's first church, St. Mary-the-Virgin, is of Saxon origin. According to folk etymology, the name derived from "Wyvernhoe"[citation needed], originating from a mythical beast called a wyvern and the previously mentioned ridge (hoe).


Wivenhoe, which is thought to mean Wifa's Ridge, is of Saxon origin.[1] It is recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Wiivnhou when it formed part of the land of Robert Gernon, where there was a mill, 12 acres (49,000 m2) of meadow and pasture for 60 sheep.[2] Wivenhoe developed as a port and until the late 19th century was effectively a port for Colchester, as large ships were unable to navigate any further up the River Colne,[1] and had two prosperous shipyards.[3] It became an important port for trade for Colchester and developed shipbuilding, commerce and fishing industries.[3] The period of greatest prosperity for the town came with the arrival of the railway in 1863.[3]

In 1884 the town suffered significant damage when it lay close to the epicentre of one of the most destructive UK earthquakes of all time - [4] the 1884 Colchester earthquake. In 1890, there was a population of about 2,000 mostly engaged in fishing for oysters and sprats and in ship and yacht building.[1] A dry dock was built in 1889 and extended in 1904, making it one of the largest on the East Coast; it was demolished in the mid-1960s.[5] In the 1960s, Wivenhoe Park was chosen as the location for the University of Essex.[1]

During the UK miners' strike (1984-1985), the now defunct Wivenhoe Port imported coal and became subject to picketing by miners (many from Yorkshire), which led to a very substantial police presence, some of them drafted in from other counties, and violent skirmishes as striking miners tried to prevent vehicles entering and leaving the port.

Wivenhoe Park, John Constable, 1816.

Wivenhoe Park

Wivenhoe Park, bordering on the town of Colchester, is the location for the University of Essex. The site was the home for several centuries of the Rebow family, descendants of Flemish clothweavers from Colchester. Wivenhoe House was designed for Isaac Rebow in 1759 by Thomas Reynolds; the park itself was designed by Richard Woods. it was remodelled in 1846-7 by T. Hopper.[6] It was the setting for a John Constable painting, which was painted for Major-General Francis Slater-Rebow in 1816 for a fee of 100 guineas and is a view of the house across the lake.[7]


Wivenhoe station is served by an electric rail service to and from London Liverpool Street currently provided by National Express East Anglia. The town is connected by a seasonal foot ferry service at weekends in the summer across the River Colne, Essex to Fingringhoe and Rowhedge. There is a bus connection to Colchester.[3] Wivenhoe is just over one hour from Stansted Airport and 30 minutes from Harwich International Port.[3]

Society and leisure

Wivenhoe riverfront on the River Colne

Wivenhoe has a population of between nine and ten thousand people with a mixture of students from the University of Essex, a long-standing artistic community, and commuters. Property prices averaged £286,000 in February 2008. The town has a number of small, local shops: there is a bookshop, chemist, two post offices, corner house coffee shop, toy shop, delicatessen, tea rooms, greengrocer, Co-op, pet supplier and florist. There are six pubs, some of which are the venue for musical events, including a jazz club.[3] The Crab & Winkle Gallery can be found at the town's railway station. The town is popular with students from the university who walk from the campus to enjoy the facilities of the town's public houses and its waterfront.

The town has a number of sports and leisure clubs and societies: Wivenhoe Sailing Club's clubhouse is just downstream of the river barrier. Wivenhoe Town Football Club play at Broad Lane Sports Ground, which is also used by Colchester United Ladies and Wivenhoe Old Boys Football Club, and is also home to Wivenhoe Tennis Club. Wivenhoe Town Cricket Club is located on Rectory Road. There are a number of musical and theatre groups, and an art gallery.[3] The King George V Playing Field is in the lower half of the town, with a small skate park, football pitches, a small play park and a dog-walking area. There is a bowls club on De Vere Lane and a bridge club meets in the Town Council's offices.


Wivenhoe has two primary schools: Broomgrove Infant and Junior, and Millfields Primary.

Secondary schools are available in the surrounding area. The University of Essex has been located at Wivenhoe Park since 1964.[3]

Notable residents/natives

It was home, until her death, of the actress Joan Hickson who played Miss Marple in the BBC adaptations of Agatha Christie's novels, and children's writer Leila Berg. It is also home of the poet and musician Martin Newell.

It was once a favourite watering hole of the painter Francis Bacon (whose house still remains as it was when he died, on Queens Road), and several journalists and writers have been based in the lower end of the town - George Gale (former editor of The Spectator, Daily Telegraph cartoonist and Daily Express columnist) and Peregrine Worsthorne, (former editor of the Sunday Telegraph) both had homes there.[citation needed]

Actor-manager Sir John Martin-Harvey was born in the village in 1863 and is commemorated by a blue plaque on Quay House, one of his childhood homes. He was the son of yacht-designer John Harvey and grandson of Thomas Harvey, yacht builder. The Volante was built by Thomas Harvey & Son (Thomas & Thomas Harvey junior) in the Halifax Yard at Ipswich. The "Volante" competed in the first America's Cup in 1851.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, Wivenhoe Hall was the home of William Brummell, brother of the more famous Beau Brummell.

Harry Bensley became famous for taking on a wager to walk around Britain and eighteen other countries while wearing an iron mask and pushing a perambulator. Bensley lived in the village with his wife, Kate, after having served in the First World War.[citation needed]

Wivenhoe also became the adopted home of Louis Claiborne.[citation needed] Mr. Claiborne served as a U.S. Deputy Solicitor General from 1962 to 1985, presented oral argument in over 70 cases to the United States Supreme Court and is regarded as "one of the single most important lawyers in environmental law's formative years in the Court." [8] Additionally, Claiborne was noted for being one of only a few American lawyers to have been admitted as an English barrister, and also for being one of even a smaller number of English barristers to have argued before the United States Supreme Court.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Peers, Deborah (January 2009). "Once upon a time in ... Wivenhoe". Essex Life (Archant): pp. 61. 
  2. ^ Dr Ann Williams, Professor G. H. Martin, ed (2003). London: Penguin Classics. pp. 1019, 1426. ISBN 0-141-43994-7. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Embling, Charlotte (June 2008). "What is it like to live in... Wivenhoe". Essex Life (Archant): pp. 22–23. http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?referral=other&pnum=&refresh=3Ex0Hy14j5C1&EID=52357006-6cf2-46b7-874f-a85febe6a2c6&skip=true. Retrieved 2009-02-03.  (registration required)
  4. ^ "Earthquake in England". The Times. April 23, 1884. 
  5. ^ Peers, Deborah (January 2009). "Once upon a time in ... Wivenhoe". Essex Life (Archant): pp. 63. 
  6. ^ Colvin, Howard (2008). A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840 (Fourth Edition ed.). New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 156–7. ISBN 9780300125085. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=CSyaO-MqYoAC&pg=PA156&dq=%22Wivenhoe+Park%22+Rebow&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a. Retrieved 3 February 2009. 
  7. ^ National Gallery of Art (U.S.), John Hayes (1993). British Paintings of the Sixteenth Through Nineteenth Centuries. Washington, D.C: Oxford University Press US. pp. 29–32. ISBN 9780521410663. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2VT3aCo2j-gC&pg=PA29&dq=%22Wivenhoe+Park%22+Rebow&as_brr=3&client=firefox-a#PPA29,M1. Retrieved 3 February 2009. 
  8. ^ Lazarus, Richard J. (2004). "Judging Environmental Law". Tulane Environmental Law Journal 18: 203. http://www.law.georgetown.edu/faculty/lazarus/docs/articles/Lazarus_Judging_Environmental_Law_2004.pdf. 
  9. ^ Briscoe, John. "A Life of Law and Letters". http://www.briscoelaw.net/pubs/JXB_LClaiborne.pdf. 


  • Butler, Nicholas (1989). The Story of Wivenhoe. Quentin Press. ISBN 0-947614-01-X. 
  • Haining, Peter (1976). The Great English Earthquake. Robert Hale. ISBN 0-7091-5395-3. 

External links

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