Great Dunmow

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Great Dunmow
High Street, Great Dunmow - - 388676.jpg
High Street, Great Dunmow
Grid reference: TL626220
Location: 51°52’23"N, 0°21’42"E
Population: 8,480  (approx, 2008)
Post town: Dunmow
Postcode: CM6
Dialling code: 01371
Local Government
Council: Uttlesford
Saffron Walden

Great Dunmow is a pretty and ancient market town in Essex. It stands in the midst of the shire, off any major national route but on the old roads threading rural Essex together.

The town is found approximately midway between Bishop's Stortford and Braintree. Running east-west through Essex the A120 dual carriageway bypasses Great Dunmw at a respectful distance on its way between road between Bishop's Stortford and Colchester. The route once passed through the heart of the town; it was the Roman Stane Street in ages past. The pretty road down from Saffron Walden through Thaxted down towardsChelmsford passes through Dunmow and forms the high street; it crosses the old Stane Street in the town centre. Stansted Airport, another transport hub, is 6 miles to the west.

The charm of the town is in its great collection of mediaeval and early modern buildings; a mark of its history and the days of its greatest prosperity. There is a sixteenth century town hall amongst them all.


The name "Dunmow" is said to mean "Hill Meadow on the Hill";[1] a name from Old English; presumably Dunmæd, a form not found in records, or from mawan; "to mow". In 951 the town is recorded as Dunemowe, and later Dommawe.

The town has variously been named Dunmow Magna, Much Dunmow, or most commonly Great Dunmow.

About the town

Originally the site of a Roman settlement on Stane Street, the town thrived during the Middle Ages. Many buildings survive from this period, including a sixteenth century town hall. Dunmow means "Meadow on the Hill".[2] The settlement was variously referred to as Dunmow Magna, Much Dunmow, or most commonly Great Dunmow.

Great Dunmow borders the former estate of Easton Lodge, a country house belonging to the Maynard family. The most notable member, Frances Maynard, became the Countess of Warwick and later a mistress of King Edward VII. As the Prince of Wales he was reportedly a regular visitor to the Estate, travelling from London on the train to Easton Lodge railway station. The initials "CW" are visible on a number of Victorian era properties in Great Dunmow. Known as Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick she was a generous philanthropist in the local community.


Doctor's Pond in Great Dunmow
Church End

A Roman small town developed on the junction between Stane Street and the Roman roads which ran north-east to south-west from Sudbury to London and north-west to southeast from Cambridge to Chelmsford. The main settlement area spread westwards from the road junction, with cemeteries on the outskirts. There was a second Roman settlement at Church End immediately to the north of present-day Great Dunmow. The site likely included a rural Roman Temple.[3]

In the Domesday Book, Dunmow had seven manors, some of which still exist, in name at least – including Bigods, Newton Hall, Merks Hall, Minchins and Shingle Hall. The earliest record of a church in the town is in 1045, and in 1197 Geoffrey de Dunmow was rector.

In the Middle Ages, Dunmow was a thriving commercial centre, with market charters granted in 1253 and two fairs held annually until the 19th century. Dunmow's Corporation was granted in 1555 and confirmed in 1590.[4]

Both Roman settlements were reoccupied during the Saxon period, at Great Dunmow in the seventh century and at Church End in the later Saxon period. The earliest mediæval settlement appears to have been a continuation of the late Saxon settlement at Church End, where the parish church is located. The granting of a market charter may mark the time of the movement of the main focus of settlement from Church End to the High Street and market-place. The mediæval and post-mediæval development of Great Dunmow is reflected both in the surviving built heritage, which includes 167 Listed Buildings and the below-ground archaeology.

Great Dunmow was located on the GHQ Line, a series of defences and concrete pillboxes built to hinder an anticipated German invasion. Many of these still remain and are clearly visible along the Chelmer Valley, one being located on the west bank of the River Chelmer in meadows behind the Dourdan Pavilion and recreation ground.

Easton Lodge became RAF Station Great Dunmow in Second World War and for a time was home to squadrons from the USAAF and the RAF. (The site of the former airfield was bought in recent years for a major housing and retain development.) War time saw the tragic loss of the crew of two aircraft based at RAF Great Dunmow in aircraft crashes very close to the town 20 March and 21 November 1945.

A recently declassified military nuclear bunker on the outskirts of the town was sold for a reported £22,000 and is now used as a secure data centre for Nuclear weapons research.[5]

The town's history is explained in the Maltings Museum on Mill Lane.

Flitch Trials

The town is well known for its four-yearly ritual of the "Flitch Trials", in which couples must convince a jury of six local bachelors and six local maidens that, for a year and a day, they have never wished themselves unwed. If successful the couple are paraded along the High Street and receive a flitch of bacon.

The flitch trials are scheduled for the summer of each leap year. The custom is ancient, and is mentioned in the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale in Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. It acts as a major plot point in the film Made in Heaven (1952).

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Great Dunmow)