History

THE SITE

Cressing Temple is situated about three miles north of Witham on the main road to Braintree. The gently undulating landscape is typical of this part of Essex where the clay and gravel sub-soils are well drained. The farm stands where the Boulder Clay plateau begins to slope towards the deep valley cut by the river Brain which joins the river Backwater at Witham.

aerial view of cressing temple

Throughout history, central north Essex has been an area of considerable agricultural potential and easy communication, which has led to a relatively high rural population. Many of the farms in the area are of great age as can be seen from their buildings, and many others where old buildings do not survive can be traced back many centuries in historical records.

Cressing can claim to be both typical and something very special. With its gentle contours, trees and moats, and buildings made of the traditional materials produced by these clay lands – timber, red brick and peg tiles, and thatch, the site has an atmosphere of underlying permanence, whilst acknowledging the gradual changes that 1000 years of occupation have wrought.

Add to this the historical associations with the military orders of the Templars and the Hospitallers, the survival of their great barns and also of the Tudor walled garden, and the unique character of the site becomes clear. The barns are the best preserved examples of their age, the timber-framed equivalents of the massive stone barn at Great Coxwell in Oxfordshire and the brick barn at Ter Doest in Belgium, both built by the Cistercians. For 800 years their huge roofs have dominated the site.

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The walled garden once adjoined a mansion built by the Smith family in the 16th century and demolished a little over 100 years later.

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