Rayleigh, Essex

Rayleigh, Essex

infobox UK place

country = England
official_name= Rayleigh

latitude= 51.5864

longitude= 0.6049

os_grid_reference= TQ805907
population = 34,000
shire_district= Rochford
shire_county = Essex
region= East of England

constituency_westminster= Rayleigh
post_town= RAYLEIGH
postcode_district= SS6
dial_code= 01268

Rayleigh (IPAEng|ˈreɪliː) is a market town in Essex, England located between Chelmsford and Southend-on-Sea. It lies 30 miles to the east of London. It has a population of around 34,000 people, having expanded rapidly in the 1960s.


The name "Rayleigh" is Saxon in origin. According to the English Place Names Society, it derives from "raege", and "leah", meaning "Female roe-deer stream" or "she-goat stream'". [English Place-Name Society 2008] According to the Rayleigh Civic Society, "Roa" is a Saxon word for Roebuck and "Lea" a pasture probably for goats. [Rayleigh Civic Society 2006]

In any case the connection with deer continued through the centuries. Lands around Rayleigh were used as Royal hunting forests for many hundreds of years. A deer was included in the coat of arms of Rayleigh Urban District Council and in the early 2000s a new pub was named the "Roebuck".


Prehistoric and Roman times

There have been a scattering of stray finds around the town from Prehistoric and Roman times, including some Roman roof and hypocaust tiles found within the fabric of Rayleigh Church. This suggests there was a Roman habitation site within the area. However there is little evidence of any density of population here during this period. [Historic Town Assessment Report for Rayleigh, 1999, pages 3 and 7.]

axon Era

One significant archaeological find was in the early 2000s at the western edge of Rayleigh, at the site of the former Park School in Rawreth Lane. An early Saxon cemetery site was discovered here, with 144 cremation burials and evidence of just one high-status female burial. [Essex County Council [http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk/custom_pages/monument_detail.asp?content_page_id=89&monument_id=1035613&content_parents=61,80&monument_type_id=&monument_name=&search_related=&admin_area_id=&period_from=&period_to=&selPeriod=&selStatus=&evidence_type=&media_type_id=&media_what=&easting=&northing=&grid_square=&freetext_content=&smr_number=&name=&email=&address=&q1=&q2=&q3=&q4=&q5=&q6=&q7=&q8=&q9=&mailme=&comments=|work= Unlocking Essex's Past] . SMR Number 45134.]

By the end of the Saxon period there was definitely a village here, as it is recorded in the Domesday Book.

Norman Period (1066-1154)

The Domesday Book mentions Rayleigh as having a number of villagers and smallholders, plus two slaves. Pigs, cattle, horses and goats were kept here. In addition 6 arpents of vines were grown , producing '20 measures of wine' [Historic Town Assessment Report for Rayleigh, 1999, page 4.]

Between the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the compiling of the Domesday Book 20 years, Rayleigh Castle was built, making it one of the few Norman castles mentioned in the book and therefore one of the earliest Norman castles in England. The castle was built by Swein (other spellings are Sweyn, Sweyne, Suen), son of Robert FitzWimarc. (these names are commemorated today in Rayleigh in that the two secondary schools are Sweyne Park and Fitzwimarc.

Later Medieval Period (1154-1485)

A courthouse was erected in Rayleigh in 1338. This was apparently resented by the townspeople, who turned out in force to destroy it, with 20 ringleaders later arrested and tried. [Burrows 1909, p.31.]

The forests around Rayleigh were royal hunting grounds. It is recorded that King Henry III hunted here in 1222 and the three King Edwards also visited. [Burrows 1909, p.27.]

Rayleigh Castle gradually fell into disuse and in 1394 King Richard II gave permission for the townspeople of Rayleigh to use the foundations as a source of stone (by this time site was in royal ownership and used for pasture:: know all men of special grace who have the will to repair certain Chapel in the said town and tobuild anew a certain belfry we have granted them the foundations and to take away and use any stones found theren". [Rayleigh Civic Society 2006, Holy Trinity Church] Following the granting of this permission, the Rayleigh parish church, Holy Trinity, was built in the Perpendicular Period style during the 15th century.

Tudors and Stuarts

Records indicate that the Church was rich in plate, vestments and stained glass, but these were disposed of :: "No church within the hundred was more splendidly adorned; noe were so richly furnished with plate, vestsments and other accessories for the celebration of the divine service; none were so rich in painted glass;none have been more mercilessly despoiled" [Burrows 1909, p.303.]

King Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to Rayleigh for hunting, and before his marriage to his second wife Anne Boleyn lived nearby at Rochford Hall. During his reign deer were constantly taken from here to replenish the herds in Greenwich Park [Burrows 1909, pp. 28 58.]


During the 1990s many new housing estates appeared on formerly greenfield areas of the town, with the East of England region currently pushing for even more homes to be built in the area. This has caused some controversy locally, with residents of Rayleigh feeling that the areas surrounding the town should be preserved with more care. [Overwhelming objections to homes plan, 2007, Southend Echo.]


The constituency of Rayleigh is represented in the House of Commons by the Member of Parliament Mark Francois of the Conservative Party. Rayleigh will be succeeded by the newly formed constituency of Rayleigh and Wickford at the 2009 or 2010 general election.

Rayleigh is part of Rochford District which from May 2008 had 33 Conservative members, 5 Liberal Democrats (all of whom represent wards in west Rayleigh) and 1 Rochford Residents Party councillor. Rayleigh Town council is also Conservative controlled, comprising 19 Conservatives, 2 independents and 2 Liberal Democrats.


Rayleigh is served by two prominent modes of public transport; bus and train. The bus services are run by Arriva, First and Regal Busways and usually terminate at Rayleigh railway station. National Express East Anglia run the rail line which leads from Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street, stopping at Rayleigh, running as often as every 10 minutes during rush hour. First Buses also operate an hourly coach service to Stansted Airport, named the X30, which makes a stop at Rayleigh Station.


Rayleigh has two secondary schools: Sweyne Park, formed by the amalgamation of the Sweyne and Park schools, and FitzWimarc. It also has seven primary schools - Rayleigh Primary, Glebe, Down Hall, Our Lady of Ransom, Edward Francis, Grove Wood and Wyburns. In addition, St Nicholas Primary School, a long-established school for the adjoining village of Rawreth, moved in 2006 to a new building just on the Rayleigh side of the parish boundary.

ports and recreation

Rayleigh has a King George's Field in memorial to King George V, and a newly built leisure centre including a bowling green, four badminton courts, squash courts, dance room, gymnasium, tennis courts, football pitches and a fully licensed bar. Rayleigh Bowls Club play at St Georges playing Fields.

Rayleigh used to have its own stadium, The Weir Stadium, where speedway racing took place. The Rayleigh Rockets speedway team competed against other clubs from around the country in the late forties, early 1950s, early 1960s and in the late 1960s. The stadium was situated adjacent to the Weir roundabout along the A127. Stock car and banger car racing also took place there. The stadium was sold for redevelopment in the early 70's, and the site is now occupied by Sainsbury's and other retail stores. These stores are accessed via Stadium Way. Rayleigh also used to feature a cinema, the Regal, located close to Mill Hall; a car park next to Rosebys retail shop is now in its place.

Public facilities

The town has grown considerably in the last 25 years, but many consider that this growth has not been matched in the construction of leisure amenities. A 49-room Holiday Inn is situated on the southern boundary of the town, adjacent to the Weir roundabout and the A127. This is a welcome addition to the town's amenities, which include several decent public houses, restaurants, shops, and an indoor market (Rayleigh Lanes). The town's road layout leads to periods of inevitable traffic congestion at peak times, but the town retains some of its old-world charms and Rayleigh ranks well in South-East Essex amongst the more desirable and congenial places to live. Many citizens of Rayleigh believe that green areas must be preserved and more recreational areas and opportunities are badly needed. Rayleigh also has a wide variety of football teams in the name of Rayleigh Boys. They play matches at the park adjacent to Grove School and also fairview park. The teams run from the age of 5 up to 16 years old



* Burrows, John William. (1909). "Southend On Sea and District: Historical Notes". ISBN 0854096426.
* Percival, Geoff. (2007-06-05). [http://www.echo-news.co.uk/search/display.var.1523045.0.overwhelming_objections_to_homes_plan.php|work= "Overwhelming objections to homes plan"] . Southend Echo. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
* English Place-Name Society. (2008). [http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/english/ins/kepn/detailpop.php?placeno=12321 "The Survey of English Place-Names: Rayleigh"] . Institute for Name-Studies. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
* Essex County Council. (1999). [http://www.essexcc.gov.uk/vip8/ecc/ECCWebsite/content/binaries/documents/Planning396/rayleigh_1999_historic_towns_assessment_report.pdf "Historic Town Assessment Report for Rayleigh"] . Retrieved 2008-06-28
* Rayleigh Civic Society. (2006). [http://www.rayleighbusiness.co.uk/history.asp "History of Rayleigh"] . Rayleigh Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Retrieved 2008-06-28.
* Rayleigh Civic Society. (2006). [http://www.rayleighbusiness.co.uk/holytrinitychurch.asp "Holy Trinity Church"] . Rayleigh Chamber of Trade and Commerce. Retrieved 2008-06-28.

External links

* [http://www.parishofrayleigh.org.uk/ Parish of Rayleigh (Church of England)]
* [http://www.rayleighbowlsclub.co.uk/ Rayleigh Bowls Club]
* [http://www.rayleighbusiness.co.uk/history.asp/ Rayleigh Chamber of Trade- Section on Rayleigh's history]
* [http://www.rayleighconclub.co.uk/ Rayleigh Conservative Club]

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